Metro Cinema

258 Commercial Street ,
Provincetown, MA 02657

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Previous Names: Art Cinema, Club Euro

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Craig Russell premiers

Theater operator George I. Shafir had big plans for 258 Commercial Street. In 1954, he renovated the main worship space of what had been the White Oak Meeting House. Services were conducted here for more than a century until the dwindling congregation sold off the building in 1947.

George I. Shafir renovated this into what The Provincetown Advocate called a “modern, comfortable and well-equipped motion picture theater” and opened it as the Art Cinema — with deliberately discriminating bills featuring “fine, imported motion pictures and selected short subjects of cultural and art interest.” One of the first was “The Little World of Don Camillo”, starring the French comedian Fernandel. When the Art Cinema reopened for the 1955 season, The Advocate said its policy of catering “to the more discriminating class of moviegoers” had “proved that most people prefer the best in movies, whether foreign or domestic". By the mid-1960’s, George Shafir was sharing the duties of running the Art Cinema with his son, Bill Shafir.

Very early in his career, John Waters convinced Bill Shafir to show ‘Mondo Trasho’ on the midnight program at the Art Cinema. “I four-walled the theater", Waters recalled in Shock Value, “agreeing to pay a set amount for each seat, whether they were filled or not. I did all the publicity and advertising and the cast hit the streets to give out flyers. All three shows were sold out". Subsequently, “Pink Flamingos” and “Desperate Living” had their Provincetown premiers at the Art Cinema.

In the late-1970’s, the theater was known as the Metro Cinema and was run by Monte Rome, who also operated The Movies across the street, at 237 Commercial Street, in the Provincetown Theatre building. When Provincetown had its obligatory midnight screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, they took place at the Metro Cinema.

The next significant reincarnation of the auditorium space — this time as a restaurant — occurred in the early-1990’s with the opening of Theodore Tine’s Euro Island Grill and Café and Club Euro. Fodor’s described the interior as “an eerie ocean dreamscape, with oceanic sea-green walls with a half-submerged three-dimensional mermaid spouting fish, and a black ceiling high above".

Early in his career, Jonathan Morrill convinced Theodore Tine to premiere his Provincetown feature, “Johnny in Monsterland” at Club Euro, on Friday, June 15th, 1990. It was a huge success, standing room only, with crowds turned away to the extent that a second screening was added the following evening, on Saturday, June 16th, 1990. Jonathan Morrill would continue to generate great success premiering to sold-out events for two other Provincetown movies; “The Brides of Johnny in Monsterland”, which premiered at Club Euro on Friday, June 5th, 1992,and “Jailbait Summer”, premiering on Saturday, August 8th, 1992.

In 2008, the operating license was transferred to Steven Schnitzer, who reopened the place as Saki, an “eclectic Asian” restaurant, in 2009. Schnitzer toned down the space considerably, leaving it closer to the original than it had been for more than 50 years. “The original church architecture survived the whims of business owners over the years", Saki’s Web site says, “and it now bestows a refined air over the dining room". The bar top and tables were made from original floorboards and beams that were salvaged during the renovation. The restaurant even prides itself on being the home of the ghost of the last pastor, identified as the Rev. John Ladd Sewall. On the outdoor balcony overlooking Commercial Street, Schnitzer opened a second restaurant, John Dough’s. This pizzeria occupies the most prominent space in a jumbled complex of small commercial buildings that were constructed in the ample church yard beginning in the 1950’s.

It was known as the First Congregational Church when it was constructed in 1843 with some of the timbers from its predecessor, the White Oak Meeting House. Your first reaction on standing in front of this building may well be: “So where’s the church?” It’s hard to make out, what with all structural additions that have grown by accretion — and like topsy — in what used to be the church’s ample front yard. But if you step across Commercial Street for a slightly better perspective, you’ll quickly recognize the shape and volume of a 19th-century house of worship. Better yet, swing around to Bradford Street and all will become plain. This really is a stripped-down incarnation of the Congregational Church of the Pilgrims, the [second?] oldest house of worship still standing in town.

It was here that Napoleon Eugene “Gene” Poyant opened Gene’s Pastry Shoppe in the 1950’s. Poyant was a leading figure of Provincetown life. After several years spent at his brother’s Cape Cod Bakery in Hyannis, Poyant went into business for himself in 1953 in a small building at 249 Commercial Street; about where the Crown & Anchor box office now stands. He was soon operating at the old church building across the way, which he and his wife, Lillian, purchased in 1958.

The outdoor Café Poyant opened in front of the bakery in 1960 and the artist Harvey Dodd (b 1933) soon became a fixture here, with an impromptu gallery set up on the sidewalk where he undertook portraits of passersby.

Around the time that Poyant sold this property, in 1983, he was named Town Crier. (The first dynasty of genuine, year-round criers ended in 1927. The second dynasty, Pilgrim-clad criers who were sent out by the Chamber of Commerce as a publicity gimmick, began in 1935.) “I once saw him picking up his Pilgrim costume from the cleaners", John Waters recalled. “It was a Diane Arbus moment". Accused of making disparaging remarks about gays and lesbians and of steering tourists away from restaurants with gay waiters — statements he denied making — Poyant lost his municipal insignia in 1987.

He did appear in “The Brides of Johnny in Monsterland” in full Town Crier regalia, which, as previously noted, was premiered at Club Euro, in 1992.

Contributed by JohnnyM
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