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Headline: Old Babylon Village theater inspires dreams for father, son
The father and son in contract to buy the closed Babylon Village cinema say they will reopen next spring with a slate of professional shows cast with Broadway players, along with concerts and other acts.
Seaford residents Mark and Dylan Perlman expect to close this summer on the former Bow Tie Cinemas’ building on Main Street, paying $1 million to the chain that owns the moviehouse and renaming it the Argyle Theater at Babylon Village. The Argyle would be Long Island’s second year-round professional theater, joining the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport.
The Perlmans said in an interview last week that they will invest about $1.5 million to build a stage, sound and lighting systems and drastically reconfigure the building’s interior. Contractors will tear down walls that now divide the space into three movie theaters.
About 100 seats will be removed, leaving 450. Part of the snack bar will be repurposed as a bar. Outside, the vertical sign over the marquee, spelling out “Babylon” in fluorescent blue letters but dark for years, will be fixed and relit.
Stagecraft classes for children and young people will be offered. They may even show a movie or two, continuing a business that sustained the house from 1922 to 2014, when it closed.
But the focus will be live performances of the caliber found 40 miles to the west in Manhattan, they said.
“This will be the closest thing to Broadway on Long Island,” said Dylan Perlman, 22, a Hofstra University graduate who started acting professionally as a child and has appeared in independent movies and TV’s “The Good Wife.”
He and his father, 62, a psychologist with a practice in Wantagh, plan six main-stage shows a season with Actors Equity casts.
The two began talks last week with the union. A contract would mean high-level players from Broadway stages, but also higher production costs.
The Argyle schedule will include classics in the vein of “West Side Story” and “The Music Man,” but not “Hamilton.” While many of the current hits tour nationally, licensing rules forbid productions close to New York City, Mark Perlman said.
Babylon Village Mayor Ralph Scordino this year called the deal “a home run for the village” that could anchor an already strong downtown business district with about two dozen bars and restaurants.
The Perlmans are making their move at a boom time for Broadway, which had $1.4 billion in ticket sales and drew an audience of 13.4 million this season, according to The Broadway League, the industry’s national trade association.
Long Islanders bought just fewer than 1 million tickets last season for Broadway shows according to the league, suggesting strong regional demand across Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Babylon’s Main Street will never be confused with the Great White Way, but the Perlmans are betting that can work in their favor. Argyle tickets will cost from $25 to $75, lower than the $103 average for Broadway.
Many of the village’s bars and restaurants are open late for a post-show supper or drink, minus the Manhattan crowds. Most municipal parking is free, and the Long Island Rail Road station is a quick walk from the theater.
Industry veterans say that the Perlmans, who are newcomers to the business, are entering a difficult but potentially rich market.
“We have an incredibly supportive audience who seem to support the work we do, but we are still in the middle of a recession, and theater is not the easiest business,” said Richard Dolce, producing artistic director of the Engeman Theater, now in its 10th year. “We survive on ticket sales. We have to pick the right shows and produce them as well as we possibly can
and hold our breath.”
Alan Inkles, director of the Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University, said that after 34 years in the business, he is working harder than ever to make season subscription sales, competing less with other theaters than a sea change in entertainment consumption, with much of the potential audience staying home and “binge-watching Netflix, watching the new season of ‘Game of Thrones.’ ”
The Perlmans admit that lenders initially responded to their plans with what Mark Perlman called a “healthy skepticism.” That changed, he said, “when they met with us, looked at our histories and we explained our vision, the people we’re putting together.”
They are convinced that they are selling something streaming entertainment can never offer: “People still yearn for social interaction, for face-to-face contact, to go out for the night,” Dylan said.
I wonder if slow sales can be partially attributed to the title — in seems “New York Summer Spectacular” is more catchy than “New York Spectacular” which sounds a bit generic…
The description from their website:
Located in the heart of Chelsea, Cinepolis Chelsea offers the latest films with offers state-of-the-art digital projection and sound. Cinepolis Chelsea is also home to “HEDDA PRESENTS THE CLASSICS” Film Series, weekly Rocky Horror Picture Show screenings and numerous film festivals, including the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival. The nine screen theater features reserved seating in a traditional environment and offers all your concessions favorites.
(Hedda wasn’t sure the series would continue, but it looks like it will…! Yay)
I think it’s Cinepolis, a Mexican exhibitor with eight US houses; details to follow…
Bow-tie has sold the theater; new owners take over July 1st, 2016.
I heard the name but can’t remember it; details to follow.
Passed by last night, stage house almost completely demolished since Friday…
Looking gorgeous on tonight’s Tony Awards…
Walked by today, got a good look at the proscenium and stagehouse through a gap in the fence netting. You can see the arch above the stage area and the cinder blocks they used to create the wall for a new screening room.
Ed, post your pics…!
I just read the article about the renovations. I can’t tell from the photos if the concession area has been redesigned, etc…
It seems weird (and a little sad) to hear about “both” Times Square theaters…
Of course between them there are 38 screens, but still…:(
You’ve gotta have glorious Technicolor,
Breathtaking Cinemascope or
Cinerama, Vista Vision, Superscope or
And Stereophonic sound.
But maybe they could delete some of their comments every now and then…
It did seem wide…
Saw my first James Bond movie here — Live and Let Die — and have been a lifelong fan ever since. My sweetheart and I (ah, young love) took the HART bus from Northport, and I had no idea what to expect. In a word, wow! I remember the theater was big and square, with no balcony, but I did return here many times in the ensuing years.
After you few have your private conversations about Dolby at the Paramus and heaven knows what else, can you please delete your comments? They are cluttering up this page with, imho, irrelevant and tedious chatter that is of little interest to the rest if us.
Intro should mention that The Sunrise Multiplex Cinemas was closed January 19, 2015.
I wonder if the Showplace was significant enough to warrant a full list… The single-screens Ziegfeld and Astor Plaza often had exclusive engagements and very long bookings, while the Showplace (if I recall correctly) was more of a neighborhood house playing day-and-date with many other theaters
Jumping Jehosaphat, who the hell cares.
Go and find out. And make sure you report back here. Not.
The last time I passed by the marquee was in lousy condition — bulbs out, crawl not working…
That is an amazing list. I am astounded at how many movies I remember seeing at this house. Damn, what a loss…
How about reposting it now? So we don’t have to dig through the archives….
I guess you would choose the version you’d want to see based on how long a nap you needed…
On its website Regal says a new multiplex coming here in 2017. link