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In downtown Lancaster, dinner and a movie under one roof


Get ready for a new incarnation of Zoetropolis, Lancaster City’s beloved independent movie house. Coming attractions include a downtown location, an onsite restaurant, a micro-distillery and expanded programming.

The bigger, better (and rebranded) Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse will soon share a long-vacant furniture store on Water Street with a second restaurant and a tasting room from brewpub Columbia Kettle Works (read more about them in our recent feature on Columbia, PA).

According to owner and developer Patrick Tell of Tell Capital, the concept for the 16,000-square-foot building “is that customers will be able to enjoy all the food and drink from the different businesses, and then see a movie (or enjoy the courtyard.)” 

“I love downtown and wanted to contribute to its overall growth as an entertainment center and destination,” he adds. “People need to see how cool it is — the more venues we have, the more people will be attracted to it.”  

The five managing partners of Zoetropolis inside the future site on North Water Street; clockwise from left: Leigh Lindsay, Todd Smith, Chelia Huettner, Matt Hostetter and Nate Boring.

“The advantage of being downtown is that we will be in the center of the arts district,” explains Cheila Huettner, one of five Zoetropolis owners and managing partners. “The overall arts scene in Lancaster continues to flourish. We consider ourselves a hub for arts, music and culture, and feel we’ll bring even more to the already vibrant scene.” 

The original Zoetropolis (the name is an amalgam of the vintage film Metropolis and Zoetrope, a pre-film animation device) opened in Lancaster 20 years ago, but closed six years later. In 2013, Zoetropolis was reborn on the city’s north side as an indie movie house and event space.

“The process of this expansion has been like a puzzle where all the pieces came together like fate,” says Huettner. “The theater programming was changing, growing and reaching more people, making our brand even stronger. I think all our hard work and dedication to the arts made us a desirable company to believe in and invest in. Putting together the model and having the team to bring it to fruition with the help of our investors and financiers made everything a possibility.”

One of those investors is Lancaster native Taylor Kinney, star of TV’s Chicago Fire.

The overall art scene in Lancaster continues to flourish. We consider ourselves a hub for arts, music and culture, and feel we’ll bring even more to the already vibrant scene.Cheila Huettner

Huettner and her partners want to keep doing what they’ve been doing, while propelling Zoetropolis to an enhanced role in Lancaster’s cultural community.

“Zoetropolis has been the home for alternative film programming in the city and we are very proud of the films that we bring to Lancaster,” she says. “Art house films — including indie, documentary and foreign — are our thing, and we definitely want to keep that vibe going.”

In addition to showing films, Zoetropolis plans host concerts in its theater, and partner with local businesses, organizations and restaurants on discussion panels, special events, dinner-and-a-movie parties and more.

The future home of Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse

“We’re discussing how to blend the aspects of the business by pairing the food and drinks we serve with the films we show,” explains Huettner. “For example, if we are showing a foreign film, we may highlight food from that country in a dish on the restaurant side.”

The new theater space will open temporarily for the Lancaster Roots & Blues Festival (March 9-11), with an official launch date to be determined. Zoetropolis’ restaurant and distillery will open later this spring, possibly in April. Nate Boring, another Zoetropolis co-owner, will run the distillery, producing rum, vodka and gin, with whiskey to come later.

Elsewhere in the building, Tell has leased space to Columbia Kettle Works — it will be an off-site tasting room for the Columbia brewpub — and another restaurant is planned for the one-time furniture sales floor.

Huettner expects the dinner-and-a-movie combo to be huge for the new Zoetropolis.

“We really want to emphasize that going to the movies isn’t just staring at a screen,” she says. “It’s coming to our welcoming space, seeing interesting, thought-provoking films, having a delicious creative meal — and a killer cocktail from spirits distilled onsite — and sharing that experience with someone. It’s definitely my idea of the perfect day or night out.”

ELISE VIDER is news editor of Keystone Edge.

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Region: South Central

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