Cinema with couches looks to call Whistlestop Mall home

Mary Muckenhoupt/Staff file photoCape Ann Community Cinema owner and creative director Rob Newton announced Wednesday that he is in the process of reopening at Whistlestop Mall in Rockport, on the second floor of the former IGA building.

ROCKPORT — Just one month after its closure in Gloucester, a sequel to Cape Ann Community Cinema is in the works in Rockport.

The theater’s owner and creative director, Rob Newton, announced Wednesday he is in the process of reopening at Whistlestop Mall, on the second floor of the former IGA building. 

On Aug. 22, Cape Ann Community Cinema, known for its comfy couch seating, officially ended its lease at 21 Main St. in Gloucester after the building owner, Harbor Front Development Inc., put the space up for sale. 

Newton, who has been interested in moving locations for some time now, said the Whistlestop Mall space is “half the rent and up to twice the space (from the old location).” 

Another perk is that the theater will be able to use the mall’s 200 parking spaces.

“(Finding) parking in downtown Gloucester can take 15 to 20 minutes on a Saturday night,” said Newtown. “The drive to Rockport is less than 10, and you can arrive stress-free knowing that there’s parking when you arrive.” 

The plan right now is to reopen with two 30- and 50-seat screening areas. Down the line, Newton hopes to open a third screening space with 100 seats. And yes, the theater’s iconic sofa seating will return as well.

Whistlestop Mall owner Jay Smith thinks the theater will fit in well with the “fun group of small businesses” at the complex, and that Cape Ann Community Cinema attracts a “nice clientele.”

“It’s good to have something that not just benefits Rockport but the Cape Ann community as a whole,” he continued.

Before Newton can move in, however, he’ll need to get approval from the Rockport Zoning Board of Appeals. The area around Whistlestop Mall is zoned as a “semi-regional district.” According to town by-law, “indoor theatres” are not allowed to be constructed there.

Newton has filed a zoning exemption application, and it will be considered by the board at its meeting Wednesday, Oct. 30. Newton is asking fans and members of the theater to reach out to the board members about what Cape Ann Community Cinema means to them. If all goes well, the cinema could return by the beginning of next year.

Movie-lovers can support the theater by attending a series of “pop-up” screenings across Cape Ann next month. Accompanist Peter Kranski will score a series of silent movies live next month, and recent releases will be screened at Rogers Street Theatre in Gloucester. Details are available at

“(The series of screenings) lets us stay in the public eye and keep contact with our audience,” said Newton.

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or

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