In December 1918, Winfield Scott Rogers, Chairman of the Bantam Ball Bearing Company, opened a movie theater in his factory; free movies were shown twice a week to employees and their families. In 1927, Dominic Evangelisti, a grocer, opened The Rivoli (as Bantam Cinema was originally called) just down the road, buying the projectors from Rogers. The Rivoli began as a silent theater and switched to sound a few years later.
In the 1940s, he sold the Rivoli to Joe Reed, a local businessman, who renamed it “Bantam Theatre.” In the 1960s, Reed sold it to the Duvall family, who also owned the restaurant next door (now Wood's Pit BBQ). In 1968, the Duvall sold the Cinema to Michael Mabry (former head of the Ford Foundation's Theater Communications Group and Intern Program) and his wife Patricia, an artist's agent. They remodeled the building inside and out, renamed it "Cinema IV Bantam" and began showing foreign, independent and classic films. Pat opened an art gallery, "The Images Gallery," in the lobby. Their projectionist, George Shaunessy, had been with the theater since it opened in 1927.
In 1985, the Mabrys sold the Cinema to Jim Bohnen, a stage director (Hartford's TheatreWorks, Seattle's Repertory Theater, among others). Jim continued the Cinema as an art house and remodeled the lobby, adding the concession stand.
In 1990, Jim sold the Cinema to Lisa Hedley, an entertainment lawyer. Lisa renamed it "Bantam Cinema" and modernized the projection equipment, as well as adding a second screen in 1997. Lisa started the "Meet-The-Film-Maker" series, in which writers, producers, directors and actors, including Arthur Miller, William Styron, Maureen Stapleton, Campbell Scott, Liza Minelli and Mia Farrow, appeared to discuss their films.
On January 2, 2007 Lisa Hedley sold the Bantam Cinema to David Koch, Sidney Koch, and Elizabeth Merz. They continued the "Meet the Film-Marker" series with such notables as Rebecca Miller, Joan Rivers, Daniel Day-Lewis and Dolores Hart.
In 2013, the Cinema completely modernized the projection and sound systems, replacing 35mm film projectors (from the 1930s!) with a state-of-art digital system.
Bantam Cinema Manager, 1984 - Present