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Awesome news – the Coliseum is reopening! I stopped by yesterday and saw the words ‘Opening Soon’ on the marquee and something in Spanish beneath those words. If my Espagnol-translating abilities were something more than south of rudimentary, I would have been able to make sense of them but, fortunately, two men were sitting on a bench in the lobby and when I knocked on the door, one of them opened it and told me that the Coliseum would be open for business again in about 30 days, with new seats and other improvements. The guy was really friendly and I suspect – and I certainly may be wrong about this – that the older man was Jesus Nova and the younger one who answered my knocks (and my questions) was his son. No matter who they are, they seem to have a real love for the theatre and for the neighborhood as well; on those two basis alone, let’s hope they succeed!
To answer my own question – yes, the Nova has indeed been converted into a 99-cent store. All that remains within the interior is the downward slope which greeted patrons as they entered the theatre, an odd cement formation in the ceiling where at least one or two of the cinemas were (I spent a moment or two staring at it, trying to figure out what it was, but to no avail), a small counter to one’s left as they enter the theatre (it’s too battered to have been installed during the recent renovation) and what appears to be either the fire exit (although it isn’t marked as such) or the entranceway to a storage room. (Walking around, I couldn’t imagine how three auditoriums were fit within that space or what the precise layout was; at least one or two of them must have been relatively tiny.) Of the exterior, the box office and marquee are gone, as are the one-sheet display cases shown in the above photo; the tiles beneath those one-sheet cases remain and the exterior otherwise has been painted tan.
I distinctly remember ‘Bull Durham’ playing at the Murray Hill in the summer of 1988 and the theatre being closed for a long while shortly thereafter until it reopened as a quad during the 1990 holiday season (counting the Sean Connery-Michelle Pfeiffer starrer, ‘The Russia House’, among its offerings), so perhaps the ceiling collapse you referred to, Jamal, occurred sometime around then.
Quite frankly, when the Murray Hill closed in the summer of 2002, I was a bit surprised as it seemed to be subsisting pretty well on Fox releases (a direct byproduct of the then-standoff between Loews Theatres and 20th Century Fox/Fox Searchlight, which kept product from those studios off Loews screens in Manhattan for just over three years, through the summer of 2002), foreign, independent, and dependent films whose runs within the five boroughs were being widened out (‘In the Mood for Love’ and ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ seemed to have particularly strong runs at the Murray Hill), and the scattered move-over from the Loews Kips Bay. A real loss for NY filmgoers who prefer to catch their flicks in smaller, intimate venues.
Clearview Cinemas ran the 34th Street Showplace in its final months of operation, from late 1998 through the theatre’s closing in August of the following year. Indeed, the theatre – which had been a strictly, first-run, major Hollywood product house – suffered (as much did the Murray Hill Cinemas, which stood one block west on 34th, near 3rd Avenue until its demolition in the early fall of 2002) in the wake of the opening of the Loews Kips Bay Theatre at 2nd and 32nd in the summer of ‘99, with its bookings suddenly concentrated on move-overs from the Kips Bay, independent, dependent, and art-house films, and the rare, first-run, major studio film – the last one being “Lake Placid”, a direct result of the boycott 20th Century Fox (and its dependent offshoot, Fox Searchlight) established against Loews Theatres when Loews refused to meet Fox’s terms for booking 'Star Wars, Episode One’ into Loews' Manhattan theatres, a stand-off which ultimately extended to all Fox releases through the summer of 2002.
My second comment is a mild revision of the first one – the reference in the first to the IFC Center opening this past spring was changed (at least within the context of the point it made reference to) this upcoming spring.
The Waverly is indeed a shell inside, Robert – or least it was when I last peeked through its boarded-up entrance in late November. However, I read a reference in an article published sometime last month (wish I could remember where) to the IFC Center opening at the site this past spring. That, unless the construction crew hired for the renovation worked 14-hour days starting this past December, seems like a long shot, but perhaps we’ll finally see films flickering at the Waverly site sometime this summer – or, heaven forbid, a new Chase branch or something similar within the next 6-12 months.
Unfortunately, Jesus didn’t own the building which housed the Nova. When the theatre closed in August of 2002 it was due to the landlord raising the rent to a level Jesus couldn’t afford but one which was amenable to the proprietor of a 99-cent store. I’m not sure what condition the orchestra is in but I imagine it’s probably a safe guess that anyone who reopens the Coliseum will be working with the existing theatre space.
Ismael Leyva – a sense of decorum — as well as the desire to post additional messages on this site in the future — restrain me from offering my exact opinion of you as a human being but I’m sure everyone associated with this site one way or another (or anyone who otherwise loves movie theatres or appreciates architecture in general) shares in my unspoken sentiments. If there’s any legal action that can be taken against you and/or the Clarett Group, I sincerely hope it’s pursued (and hope as well that the Sutton Theatre is both restored and remains open).
Does anyone have any photos of the Esquire’s interior – classic or relatively recent – that they’d be willing to post on the site or know of where one can find them on the Web?
I had read in the NY Times earlier this past spring that Jesus Nova (the former proprietor of the eponymous Nova Cinemas at Broadway and 147th Street) was trying to organize a group of investors who would renovate and reopen the Coliseum – does anyone know of any word of progress or what the current state of the theatre site is?
Does anyone know if the Nova’s heartbreaking conversion into a 99-cent store has been completed?