Madison Art Cinemas Owner Creates 'Aura of Mystique' around Film

By Norton, Sam | New Haven Register (New Haven, CT), November 26, 2016 | Go to article overview

Madison Art Cinemas Owner Creates 'Aura of Mystique' around Film


Norton, Sam, New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)


MADISON » In a suburb of 18,000, tucked away on downtown Boston Post Road, is Madison Art Cinemas. For the past 17 years, the two- screen theater has catered to a specific demographic of moviegoers to introduce them to films driven by strong screenwriting, character and plot development. Cast at the center of the theater's success is owner Arnold Gorlick.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, in the shadow of Ebbets Field, Gorlick first got his start in the film industry as the manager of Cheshire Cinema in 1970 after graduating from Southampton College of Long Island University. At the time, his employers were building York Square Cinemas in New Haven, where Campus Clothing currently resides.

"That became, for a long time, the dominant art cinema of the state. It started with one screen and 542 seats. It opened in December of 1970 and I became the managing director in March of 1973 and that lasted until May 1997," Gorlick said.

But it wasn't until 1999 that Gorlick owned his own theater.

In 1912, the 761 Boston Post Road property operated as the Madison Theatre as a single screen theater. But after the Australian- based Hoyts Theatres purchased the property from its local owner and operator, the theater was twinned.

In April 1998, Hoyts Theatres closed the Madison Twin Cinemas. Since purchasing the property in 1999, Gorlick's Madison Art Cinemas has become a sought out venue along Connecticut's Shoreline.

"When the theater became available, I did some quick demographic studies and found inspiration from R.J. Julia Booksellers. Knowing that it was right across the street, I realized that there was no dedicated art cinema or a theater that played art pictures, which is all I know how to do and all I want to do," Gorlick said.

The theater opened on May 21, 1999, showing "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Central Station." Since then, films such as "Brooklyn," "Spotlight," "American Beauty," "Chocolat" and "Billy Elliot" have graced Gorlick's two screens.

"I believe that based on the success of R.J. Julia Booksellers -- right in Madison -- a high volume bookstore catering to a population that is well-read and heavily involved in the arts, that that was the perfect place to put an art cinema," Gorlick said.

And his belief has been met with success.

"If you can provide (moviegoers) with a personalized, humanized experience, they will go farther and they pay more -- even though I don't charge more -- for that experience," Gorlick said.

Nearly 110,000 moviegoers travel near and far each year to see a film at Gorlick's theater -- from neighboring Shoreline communities, to western Rhode Island, West Hartford and Fairfield County residents. But no matter the distance, Gorlick's success is founded on providing an experience that is unique to the industry, he said.

"Our movies tend to be driven by great writing, character development, by plot development and themes that appeal to the well- read, mature or adult mind," Gorlick said.

Unlike mainstream multiplexes that cater to a demographic of 17- to 21-year-olds, weighted toward men, Madison Art Cinemas serves an audience of ages 40 and older, targeted toward women.

Each year, Gorlick screens between 90 and 110 films in search of the next picture to showcase at his theater. While he attends the Toronto Film Festival every year, Gorlick works closely with a film buyer to select motion pictures that are best-suited for his customers.

"A film buyer with whom I have a very close relationship with -- his name is Rob Lawinski and he owns the company called Brielle Cinemas -- represents about 300 screens, about 25 to 30 percent of them are dedicated art cinemas, the rest are mainstream theaters," Gorlick said. …

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