Cape Cinema In Dennis Approved For Nonprofit Status

Filed Under: Non Profit News

The iconic, 92-year-old Cape Cinema has been achieved a 501c3 non-profit status that will enable the organization to seek more grants and raise tax-exempt funds and ensure its sustainability.

Executive Director Josh Mason announced that the Cinema, 35 Hope Lane in Dennis, was approved for nonprofit status as of Jan. 1, 2023. 

The status will also give the Cinema more protection as a public and historic institution and will allow it to bring in volunteers instead of paid labor, keeping the financial focus on the infrastructure and restoration of the cinema itself.

Cape Cinema opened its doors in 1930 and has always been a renowned and unique art house cinema.  The Cinema is known for its spectacular ceiling painting by artist Rockwell Kent, as for being the first theater to world premiere “The Wizard of Oz” in August 1939.

Mason, who worked at the Cinema as a high schooler and kept a close relationship with former owner Eric Hart for more than 25 years, began conversations with Hart a few years ago about purchasing the Cinema. Other interested buyers approached Hart, but he felt Mason would be the best fit based on the fact that Mason grew up in Dennis, has sat on various boards and committees and ran for public office, but most importantly, his deep understanding for what Cape Cinema represents to cinematic and local communities. 

Eric Hart and Josh Mason

“For me, it’s an honor,” said Mason. “I had always had the intent to move it to a 501c3 if I had purchased it and I would have had it not been for covid. When the pandemic hit it upended our business and gave me pause to making the purchase with uncertainty hanging over everything.  Ultimately in the end, we made a mutual decision to allow me to come on as an executive director and work towards a non-profit in 2023.”

Prior to the pandemic closure in 2019, Hart and his son Hugh raised more than $200,000 from individual members of the community for the successful restoration of the theater seats. In 2020 and 2021, Mason spent a large portion of his time applying and acquiring over $500,000 in state and federal aid and grants to keep the doors open during the pandemic, to make considerable improvements to the lobby and backstage, and install a Merv 16 hospital grade air filtration system to make the theater safer for patrons. In the past three months the Harts and Mason have spent a considerable amount of time working with the Cape Center for the Arts, which owns the building, to transfer the lease to the nonprofit and to maintain their strong relationship so that both institutions will continue to thrive.

As a nonprofit, a board of directors has already been organized, Hart and his son Hugh will serve as Board President and Vice President respectively. Other board members include Robert Harding and Muska Yousuf. Hart will no longer be employed by the Cinema, but will continue to co-program as a volunteer.  Mason will continue to handle all operations and be the official Executive Director.

As for programming, Mason plans to keep the current content of first run films, HD’s of theatre, opera and other art series, but he also intends to introduce expanded programming such as a new series, “Splatterday Nights” which will feature cult/horror/b-movies at 9 p.m. on Saturday nights. Plus, he’s hoping to host at least five live concerts this year including Glen Hansard of “Once” fame this May.  Also in the works is a collaboration with the Cape Playhouse on a long-range restoration plan for the Cinema which will dovetail with the Playhouse’s future plans.

The Cinema will be accepting donations through the mail at: Cape Cinema Inc., P.O. Box 1111 Dennis, MA 02638.  Online donations will be accepted in the next coming weeks. For more information about the Cinema, visit or email Josh Mason at