The latest movie theater news and updates

  • January 14, 2017

    Staten Island, NY – UA movie theater and Toys R Us to close in Hylan Plaza

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    From SIlive.com: After more than 25 years in operation, the UA Hylan Plaza and Toys R Us/Babies R Us will be closing by Jan. 31 to make way for the new $150 million Boulevard shopping mall.

    Both stores are among several that have leases expiring this month, said Joshua Weinkranz, president, northeast region of Kimco Realty, the owner of the shopping center.

    Stores in Hylan Plaza will be closing as leases expire to make way for the summer construction start of the 356,000-square-foot shopping center that will house 60 retailers in a multi-level “Main Street” format.

    While both Toys R Us/Babies R Us and the movie theater have announced the closures, several retailers may opt for short-term leases until construction commences, said Weinkranz.

    “We are in the process of working out short-term extensions with them because we don’t have the entitlements yet. If some of these tenants want to stay for four or five months, we’ll work that out with them,” he said.

    TOYS R US CLOSURE

    Said Candace Disler, a Toys R Us spokeswoman: “We have enjoyed serving the Staten Island community and will continue to operate a number of stores in the area, throughout the state of New York, including a Toys R Us located at 2845 Richmond Ave. in Staten Island,”

    In addition, a Toys R Us outlets store will be opening in Empire Outlets, when New York City’s first outlet mall opens in St. George in November.

    Regal Entertainment didn’t respond to queries for comment regarding the movie theater closure.

    ALWAYS A MOVIE THEATER

    For most of Hylan Plaza’s existence since the mid-1960s, it has housed a movie theater. It was formerly Fox Plaza before Regal Entertainment opened the UA in the 1990s.

    And once the Boulevard is up and running, there will be a new movie theater.

    “The Boulevard will have a great theater, along with a fitness center, a great mix of other general merchandise retailers, restaurants and service tenants,” said Weinkranz.

    “Over the next several weeks and months we will be able to announce the tenants.”

    APPROVAL PROCESS

    After filing plans with the City Planning Department in 2015, Kimco Realty Corp. began the mandated Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) for the shopping mall in September.

    Part of that process is an Environmental Impact Statement, which will need to be certified before construction starts.

  • Brooklyn Heights, NY – Catching Up With Kenn Lowy: The Last Owner of Brooklyn Heights Cinemas

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    From Brooklyn Heights Blog: Brooklyn Heights Cinemas, at the end of its 42-year run, was the oldest independently-owned cinema in all of New York City. When the cinema shut off its projectors for good in 2014, the neighborhood collectively mourned the loss of yet another community sanctuary. A place where neighbors and visitors gathered for shared experiences. A place where you walked in and the owner and employees knew your name and what you liked without asking. If you were a regular customer, you probably miss the last owner, Kenn Lowy, as much as the cinema itself. When the neighborhood thinks of the old cinema, we think of Kenn, although he only owned it for its last three years. In the interview below, Kenn tells his story of his one-man mission to save the cinema, a labor of love that was life-altering in both good and bad ways.

    BHB: How did you become the last owner of Brooklyn Heights Cinemas?

    KL: I had been going to the cinema off and on since I was 17 years old. My family had moved from Philadelphia to Cobble Hill in the late 70’s and that was the only cinema around. I lived for a time in Brooklyn Heights, Vinegar Hill, and Park Slope, and then I moved away for a few years. And when I moved back 20 years ago, it became my cinema again. I used to go there all the time. Then, in late 2010, there was an article in one of the local papers about the owner being indicted for wire fraud. There had been several times before when the cinema almost went out of business. I wondered what was going to happen to the cinema. So I went and saw Amy, the Manager there. She knew me as someone who saw almost every movie they played. I asked her what was going to happen and she half-jokingly said, “Do you want to buy the place?” Like an idiot, I said, “Yeah, maybe.” She said, “I don’t know if he wants to sell it or not, but I’ll ask.” Literally, a week later, I was sitting down with the owner and we started talking about how I could buy the place. That’s what led to it. It would have gone under unless someone bought it. The cinema had been losing money for years. The owner had other cinemas, one that was making money and another one that was going nowhere. It took about six months of negotiating. I had no money, so I cashed in my IRA’s and maxed out my credit cards. And that’s how I bought the place.

    BHB: What led you to take such a risk?

    KL: {Laughs} I thought at the time that I could make it work. I didn’t think they were getting the best movies. They were getting good ones, but not the ones enough people wanted to see to make it viable. But I wanted to keep it as an independent cinema. I thought I could make it work. I never thought I would make money from it. But as long as I could break even, I was going to be happy, just to keep it going. Personally, it was an important place to me. It had been my local movie theater, like for many in Brooklyn Heights. This was our hometown movie theater.

    BHB: At the time, were you making a living with a day job?

    KL: Yes. I was a computer consultant, mostly Apple computer stuff. I had been doing that pretty much most of my life. Until my early 30’s, I was a journalist and a musician. I’m still a musician, but that’s how I used to make a living. Then the music industry changed and journalism changed, where I really couldn’t make a full time living at it. That’s when I got into computers and I’ve been doing that for the last 25 years.

    BHB: When you bought the cinema, did you think, “If I break even I’ll be okay because I could support myself with the computer consulting?”

    KL: No, when I said “break even,” I meant to be able to support myself, where maybe I wouldn’t be saving a lot, but I wouldn’t be losing money. I tried doing the consulting half the time and the cinema the other half, but that just wasn’t working. The first couple of months, I was at the cinema on the weekends and just hanging out. But after that, I was pretty much there full-time, along with my manager and the projectionist. After a few months, I wanted to be more hands-on and not being there didn’t make much sense.

  • January 13, 2017

    Stamford, CT – Stamford’s 90-year-old Palace Theatre gets plaster treatment

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    From the Stamford Advocate: Rather than settling in to a front-row seat, Randy Thomas found a perch in the mezzanine to catch the show going on at the Palace Theatre earlier this week. As he looked out across the expanse to a wooden platform more than 50 feet above the stage, he watched as workers in hard hats and safety vests moved carefully to restore and replace plaster where ceiling meets walls. Drills whirred, buckets were lowered and the work continued apace. “There is some really intricate work up there,” said Thomas, the theater’s director of production and facilities since 2006. He’s not as old as the plaster – which went up when the theater was built 90 years ago – but he’s been working here since 1991. “They don’t build them like this anymore. It would be way too expensive.” The Palace opened its doors on Atlantic Street on June 2, 1927. Designed by Thomas Lamb, a leader in his fieldwhose works include the Palace Theater in Waterbury, the performance venue rose from the wreckage of the Grand Opera House following a devastating fire in 1904. The site was purchased in the mid-1920s by Stamford residents Mary C. Vuono and her husband Charles and in its early days featured vaudeville acts. It then became a movie house, and, later, a stage for repertory work by the Hartman Theater company. Most recently, it has been host to musicians, comedians, dancers and other live acts on tour.

  • Mission, KS – Historic Mission movie theater reopens as event space

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    From Fox4KC.com: A historic movie theater in Mission is being given new life.

    The new owners of the Mission Theatre at 5909 Johnson Drive in Mission, Kan., are Kip and Kris Unruh. They have gutted the inside of the building to transform this former theater into a wedding event space.

    The building first opened in 1938 by Glen Wood Dickinson, founder of the Dickinson Theatre chain. It was the first all-concrete movie theater in the area meant to withstand fires, tornadoes and other natural disasters. But over the years, the theater fell into disrepair.

    The new owners loved the location and spent many months renovating it.

    “It just had so much potential,” Kris Unruh said. “It was just waiting for somebody to come in and get a new life.”

    They believe this is a unique place to hold weddings and receptions.

    “Venues are something Kansas City needs more of,” Unruh said. “We married our own daughters and realized that there is a demand for venues. You have to sometimes wait 18 months to rent a place.”

    They are now booking weddings, receptions and corporate events.

  • Cleveland, OH – With demolition permit, it looks like curtains for long-vacant Center Mayfield Theatre

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    From Cleveland.com: Closing credits are rolling for the long-vacant Center Mayfield Theatre, with a demolition permit for the entire complex recently obtained by the owner.

    City Council learned of the plans Monday (Jan. 9) from Housing Programs Manager Allan Butler, who said that crews were already on site taking up the asphalt parking lot at the corner of Mayfield Road and Vandemar Street.

    Reached Tuesday, property owner Art Treuhaft said he’d driven by the complex the day before, but had “no idea where they are with the demolition.”

    Plans call for clearing the 1.5-to-2-acre site and putting it back on the market in February or March, Treuhaft said.

    The theater showed its last movie in 1996, although there were a succession of tenants since then, including a video rental shop and then briefly a liquor store.

    “Up to two or three years ago, it was fully occupied, with the exception of the auditorium,” Treuhaft said, adding that tenants have been vacating ever since.

    Councilwoman Mary Dunbar asked about architectural merits for the theater, opened in 1936, with the other storefronts being built in stages beginning in 1917.

    City preservation officials, who are working on a historic inventory of local commercial buildings, have toured the theater.

    While the Master Plan being drafted by the city with Cuyahoga County officials mentions continuing efforts to slow down the demolition process that has already been discussed for over a year.

  • Sardis, MS – Panola Playhouse ‘going back to its roots’ in celebrating 55 years

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    From The Oxford Eagle: Panola Playhouse has been a venue for live community theatre since 1962, but from the 1920s to 1958, it was a first-run movie theater.

    This weekend, the Playhouse goes back to its roots.

    On Saturday, Jan. 14, beginning at 7 p.m., the venue will be hosting a double feature of horror films. “Fright Night” will consist of two horror throwbacks: 1960’s “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Night of the Living Dead” which will begin at 9 p.m.

  • January 11, 2017

    Washington, IA – This Iowa movie theater is the oldest of its kind in the entire world

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    From The Des Moines Register: When’s the last time you saw a movie in a theater?

    Take a drive east from Des Moines to Altoona and your experience at just one of many state-of-the-art theaters will consist of ultra high-definition picture quality, surround sound, reclining lounge chairs, self-service concessions and even alcohol.

    But if you continue the drive another two hours in that direction, you’ll find yourself in Washington, Ia. — home of the world’s oldest continuously operating movie theater in a town of 7,000 people.

  • San Antonio, TX – Can a New Partnership Jumpstart the Alameda Theater’s Revival?

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    From The Rivard Report: The iconic Alameda Theater hasn’t hosted large crowds for Spanish-language films and performers in decades, but the storied Latino performing arts venue which now sits in disrepair may soon get the facelift it desperately needs – and with it a chance of revival.

    The City of San Antonio and Bexar County are finalizing an agreement with Texas Public Radio (TPR) that will allow the nonprofit to move its headquarters from its longtime offices on Datapoint Drive near the Medical Center into the space behind the Alameda Theater, located at 318 W. Houston St., and will include investments from both entities to help renovate the historic structure.

  • Westerly, RI – Team transforming Westerly theater into arts ‘epicenter’

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    From The Day: After making significant investments in Watch Hill and downtown Westerly, Charles “Chuck” Royce is now part of a team focusing on the transformation of the old United Theater into a culture and arts education center where students will be able to learn, artists will display their work or perform and the public will come to be entertained. “Of all my downtown projects, this is real and symbolic. It’s smack in the middle,” Royce said in an interview. The newly named Ocean Community United Theatre at 5 Canal St. was acquired in 2006 by the Westerly Land Trust as part of its urban initiative and is now the centerpiece of the estimated $15 million arts and education center. The onetime vaudeville theater, opened in 1926 and later converted to a single-screen cinema, was closed in 1986 and shuttered for two decades before it was acquired by the land trust. Three years after buying the theater, the land trust bought the former Montgomery Ward building next door, and the two structures will be married together for the project that will include a music school, spaces for rehearsals, workshops and master classes, and studios for teaching and producing film and video, live performances and fine arts. There will also be a performing arts center, cinema and art gallery — all with a focus on educating and entertaining. Royce and others on the United Theatre board, who have been meeting monthly to move the multimillion-dollar project forward, foresee the arts complex as a downtown magnet that will draw artists and performers, students and audiences for the shows, concerts, exhibits and classes. “We believe it will be an epicenter of entertainment,” said Bill McKendree, president of the board. “Our vision is not just that it will be a facility, but that it will be a regional mechanism to facilitate the arts.” McKendree said the group envisions year-round classes, events and activities, and maybe a Spoleto-like festival similar to the famed 17-day event held in Charleston, S.C., each spring. Spoleto packs crowds into performance spaces around the city to see and hear both well-known and lesser-known performers doing everything from dance and opera to symphony and jazz music. “Our picture is bigger than the building itself,” he said. “Like could we have an opera festival or taste of Italy for the month of June?”

  • January 7, 2017

    Jersey City, NJ – An Inside Look At The Stanley Theater’s Celestial Restoration

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    From Jersey Digs: When it opened in 1928, The Stanley Theater in Journal Square was one of the greatest old movie palaces and the second-largest on the East Coast, next to Radio City. Presenting both orchestral and stage shows plus Hollywood new releases, it quickly became a cultural hub in the bustling Journal Square neighborhood.

    “This was a refuge for the people of Jersey City,” notes historian Richard Polton. Designed by architect Fred Wesley Wentworth in a grand Venetian theme, the theater continued to thrive into the 1960s, with entertainers ranging from The Three Stooges, Jimmy Durante, Tony Bennett, Janis Joplin and Dolly Parton, to The Grateful Dead. By the 1970s, however, the theater, like many of its kind, suffered from disrepair and became a grindhouse.