Lincoln Plaza Cinemas

1886 Broadway,
New York, NY 10023

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Giles
Giles on December 16, 2019 at 6:26 pm

Recent New York Times / By Alex Vadukul (article about Lincoln Plaza Cinema and New Plaza theater)

Published Dec. 13, 2019 Updated Dec. 16, 2019, 8:47 a.m. ET

During a recent screening of “Mr. Klein,” the 1976 World War II psychological thriller starring Alain Delon, volunteers at New Plaza Cinema scrambled to operate their upstart independent movie theater on the Upper West Side.

Ann Logan, 71, yelled directions to customers as she sat in her walker; Norma Levy, 76, sold tickets from rolls of red paper stubs and stashed money into a little metal box; Rita Lee, 88, helped sell refreshments at a foldout table. When the movie ended, ushers hurried to wheel walkers and rollators back to older guests waiting in their seats.

It wasn’t a sellout, but it was a decent showing for a 43-year-old French film on a chilly Saturday night.

New Plaza is a newcomer to the city’s independent cinema scene, and it’s trying to establish itself at a time when independent theaters are in a death struggle with streaming video and a generation of moviegoers demanding in-theater craft brews and plush recliner seats.

New Plaza also has something of a chip on its shoulder.

Two years ago, Upper West Siders mourned the closing of Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, the dingy art house theater where New Yorkers came to worship Federico Fellini, Jean-Luc Godard, and Satyajit Ray. A cultural institution from the early 1980s, its concessions stand sold lox sandwiches, water leaked from its ceilings, and quarrels broke out among hard-of-hearing customers during foreign movies.

And ever since its landlord, Milstein Properties, declined to renew its lease, the theater has sat in a ghostly state on 63rd Street and Broadway with a blank marquee.

But as the city marched on with cold indifference, a band of seniors and retirees who live in the neighborhood refused to accept its demise and founded New Plaza Cinema just across the street.

They operate their nonprofit theater in a generic auditorium that they rent out twice a month from the New York Institute of Technology. A sandwich board on 62nd Street announces their presence. On weekends, they set up a volunteer recruitment table on Broadway beside a handwritten board that reads, “Do You Miss Lincoln Plaza Cinemas?”

Barry Schulman, 72, a retired television executive who helped found the Sci-Fi Channel, was selling candy bars from a wicker basket at the “Mr. Klein” screening. He explained why he joined the cause. “After I retired, I didn’t move to the Upper West Side just so I’d have to get on the subway and go to the Angelika,” he said.

The ultimate goal is lofty: unsatisfied with New Plaza merely being a pop-up cinema, the organizers want a full-time theater of their own, but securing such a space would probably cost millions. A strategy meeting was recently held over banana bread at the New Plaza president Norma Levy’s apartment in Lincoln Towers. Their big hope is that wealthy donors will bankroll their movie house.

“This city is full of wealth,” said Ms. Levy, a retired lawyer. “Three million dollars is nothing to some people. We only need one of those people. Maybe two. We’ll let them name the place. ‘The Mike Bloomberg Theater.’ Whatever. All we need is the theater, and we’ll do the rest.”

It won’t be easy. The city’s old art houses and independent theaters have been vanishing. Recent closures include the Sunshine Cinema on the Lower East Side, the Beekman Theater on the Upper East Side, City Cinemas on 86th Street, and the stately Paris opposite the Plaza Hotel. They close because of high rents, expired leases, and shifts in modern moviegoer habits.

Tellingly, as of a few weeks ago, the Paris will now be getting a second life, but only because Netflix leased the refined single-screen theater as a showcase address for its prestige releases.

As the old guard institutions fade, a slick new era of art houses is rising. The revitalized Quad Cinema in Greenwich Village sells organic wine at its bar, and the Metrograph on Ludlow Street has a restaurant that serves koginut squash salad. Last year, possibly sensing change in the air, the longstanding Film Forum on Houston Street underwent a $5 million dollar face-lift.

New Plaza’s single-screen auditorium seats 259 people. Recent screenings have included “Pavarotti” and “Tel Aviv on Fire,” and they’ve shown classics like “My Dinner With Andre” and “The Conformist.” After Philip Roth died, they ran a marathon of movies adapted from his books.

Ms. Levy declined to detail the operating costs and revenue of New Plaza, but she said they break even with their ticket sales, and that senior tickets make up the bulk of their revenue.

“Do we need younger faces?” she asked. “Yes, we do. But right now, we have an army of bright and dedicated people who have life experience. It might be time as a society to look at older people differently in terms of what they’re capable of and can create for society.”

In this brutal environment, they have one idea that might get them attention.

Woody Allen’s new film, “A Rainy Day in New York,” hasn’t had a New York premiere, and there are no current plans for its release in the United States. (It opened in September in Paris to lines spilling down the street.)

“No one in town wants to touch it,” said Gary Palmucci, 64, New Plaza’s film curator. “We did a show of hands here, and about 85 percent of people were in favor. I think we’ve decided we’re not so worried about picketers and we think it would be worthwhile to show.” He added: “We’re all over 50. We’ve lived in this world a lot. We view certain transgressions differently than college students.”

As the second anniversary of Lincoln Plaza Cinemas’ closing approaches, there lingers the thorny and awkward matter of the shuttered art house itself, which seems tantalizingly available.

Lincoln Plaza Cinemas was opened in 1981 by Dan and Toby Talbot. The pioneering couple is credited with helping start the art-house-revival movement in the 1960s with their bold programming at the The New Yorker Theater on 89th Street and Broadway (Woody Allen and Diane Keaton argue in its lobby in “Annie Hall”).

Lincoln Plaza Cinemas was the fourth and last theater the Talbots operated, and the first film to play there was Federico Fellini’s “City of Women.”

For years, Howard Milstein, who owns 30 Lincoln Plaza, has been the landlord of the cinema. Mr. Milstein, who is the chief executive of Emigrant Savings Bank, is a member of a New York real-estate dynasty that Forbes once ranked the 90th wealthiest family in America.

In December 2017, Milstein Properties declined to renew Lincoln Plaza’s lease, saying that the theater required vital repairs. In a statement the company suggested that it would reopen the space again as a cinema, although it said little else.

Outrage quickly spread through condominiums on the Upper West Side. Critics and journalists wrote odes to the cinema’s leaky ceilings and stiff seats. But the closing date held firm. Mr. Talbot, who had been ill for some time, died later that month at 91. Lincoln Plaza Cinemas’ last day of operation was Jan. 28.

“We initially called him and asked to rent the space and keep running the cinema on our own,” Ms. Levy said. “A couple days later, a lawyer called us up and said, ‘Mr. Milstein is a very generous man. But not when it comes to money.’ He explained we’d need to come to the table with lots of money for anything to happen.”

A spokeswoman for Milstein Properties said that the company is still searching for a new tenant and that its “vision is still to reopen the space as a cinema.”

These days, Toby Talbot, 91, has been busy finishing her husband’s memoirs at their sunlit apartment on Riverside Drive, which is filled with posters of movies by directors like Bernardo Bertolucci and Claude Chabrol that once premiered in their theaters.

The closing of Lincoln Plaza Cinemas remains a sore spot. “He keeps our name on the marquee,” she said. “What nerve.”

She’s rooting for New Plaza. “I give them my blessing,” she said. “I want them to succeed. This was our life’s work. Dan and I were educating people, and why should that education have to stop?”

If a recent Saturday night at New Plaza was any indication, word about the cinema was getting around. An eager crowd entered to see “Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles,” a documentary about “Fiddler on the Roof.” Two ushers, Naomi Rossabi, 83, and Ruth Mucatel, 91, took tickets. During their downtime, they groused about going to the movies today.

“We hate reserved seating,” Ms. Rossabi said. “What if we’re stuck behind a tall person?”

“Young people are used to getting everything easy,” Ms. Mucatel said. “We know what it means to have to wait for things.”

But a gloomy note soon entered their conversation.

“I heard the New York Institute of Technology is selling off their property in the area,” Ms. Rossabi said. “We don’t know if this space will always be here for us. Some of us are worried.”

In fact, the school recently put a 12-story campus building on 61st and Broadway up for sale, just down the street from New Plaza’s auditorium. But a spokesman for the university said there’s no cause for alarm: those plans don’t involve their space, and New Plaza’s arrangement is secure at least until May.

But considering the travails of New Plaza Cinema, perhaps it still felt like too close a call.

“I hope this isn’t all just a pipe dream,” Ms. Rossabi said. “Because something magic still happens when you go to the movies.”

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on August 29, 2019 at 11:50 am

Hello-

this theater closed the end of Jan. 2018 after 30? years in business. the building management company
said it would reopen after necessary structural building renovations were completed. basically wasn’t that one big fib?

AguirreMedia
AguirreMedia on August 29, 2019 at 11:02 am

LINCOLN PLAZA CINEMA MEMORIES, A DOCUMENTARY VIDEO BY JONATHAN C. AGUIRRE.
Link To Watch Video Below Enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scGnfMDpR4M

AguirreMedia
AguirreMedia on August 29, 2019 at 10:57 am

Former MGR Dan Stern On The New Documentary Film Lincoln Plaza Cinema Memories. Continued
Link To Video Below

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0xaxwTnZ2g

AguirreMedia
AguirreMedia on August 29, 2019 at 10:55 am

Former MGR Dan Stern On The New Documentary Film Lincoln Plaza Cinema Memories.
Link To Video Below

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g62Tm1iiOh8

moviebuff82
moviebuff82 on June 24, 2019 at 12:21 pm

Back in the days, this was an art house multiplex before the Angelika became one.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on April 11, 2019 at 2:22 pm

Hello-

to HowardBHaas- unless you have a vested interest in Milstein Properties(the owner of the building complex Lincoln Plaza was a part of) I thought your comment was a tad to frank. I suppose I should have said this- the fact that the Lincoln Plaza never reopened is by an large proof that MP’s comment about the theater reopening after structural work was completed was a big fib. I by no means meant to interpret Al A. and MarkNYLA’s comment comments as providing evidence.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on April 9, 2019 at 2:41 pm

THEY were NOT saying that anybody lied! Be careful with accusations. All that was said above was that this theater never reopened & you were confusing theaters.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on April 9, 2019 at 2:24 pm

Hello-

thanks to Al A. and MarkNYLA for the info. so are your responses a discreet way of saying when the Lincoln Plaza closed end Jan. 2018 and the management company said “the theater will reopen when the necessary structural work is completed” it was one big fat lie?

MarkNYLA
MarkNYLA on April 8, 2019 at 5:34 pm

bigjoe59: I believe you are a bit confused, the Lincoln Plaza never reopened. You are seeing ads for the New Plaza Cinema, located across the street at the NYIT auditorium. This is a non-profit cinema guild that used to operate uptown at a Jewish Community Center. They are floating around the west side looking for a permanent home.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 8, 2019 at 5:33 pm

bigjoe, the ads you’re seeing are for the New Plaza.

http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/7894

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on April 8, 2019 at 4:26 pm

Hello-

is this theater ever going to be a regular 1st run house again. the ads I’ve seen in the Times makes it appear to only show films after they’ve exhausted they original 1st run engagements.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on January 24, 2018 at 3:04 pm

Hello-

in my Jan. 16 comment i meant to say i found “no
evidence”.

ahmilne
ahmilne on January 18, 2018 at 4:35 pm

According to an article in West Side Rag (online) today, Frank Rowley has been with Lincoln Plaza for 20 years.

I was at the Regency reading the paper, the day The NY Times announced its closing, people were weeping and soon, so was I.

Frank Rowley, I followed you to other revival houses including the Biograph and Gramercy but did not realize you were behind the scenes at Lincoln Plaza as well. So many of us (I went today) will miss this theatre and what we could count on. There is nothing like seeing a film in a theatre with an audience who wants to see a film, not look at phones.

vindanpar
vindanpar on January 16, 2018 at 8:31 pm

Is Frank Rowley still around? I can’t say enough good things about this man. Cinema going in New York was such a pleasure because of him.

xbs2034
xbs2034 on January 16, 2018 at 7:58 pm

Yeah, I saw Hostiles here last weekend as well. The credit card kiosk was broken so one needed to use the box office window, the screen (theater 4) was absolutely tiny, yet due to older, cheaper projection equipment still had some visible pixelization (whereas a new 4K projector will look gorgeously sharp even on far bigger screens), the showing was done in a closed caption format (perhaps to fit the older audience, but I found it kinda distracting and as far as I could tell was not readily advertised for that format when I was looking up showtimes). As well as usual issues with uncomfortable seats in a well over two hour movie, and patrons who snore or have loud cell phone rings during the movie.

I’ve seen a lot of great films here, and certainly feel bad for people who are going to be out of a job, but it was a good last screening as it reinforced idea I already had that in many ways it’s time for this place to close.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on January 16, 2018 at 1:10 pm

Hello-

in reference to cmbussmann’s Dec. 20 comment. I saw Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool last weekend and found evidence of said dinginess, musty and uncomfortable ambiance.

moviebuff82
moviebuff82 on December 30, 2017 at 11:15 am

I didn’t know that gaumont owns this place. Very sad that Mr. Talbot died.

RickB
RickB on December 30, 2017 at 7:50 am

Daniel Talbot died yesterday (12/29/17). He was in his early 90s and had been married to Toby Talbot for 68 years. Variety obit here.

cmbussmann
cmbussmann on December 20, 2017 at 9:36 am

While the Talbot name is legendary in NYC cinema history, I am not sad to see this theater go. It was dingy, musty, uncomfortable, and full of snoring patrons. They also don’t show anything not screening elsewhere, despite the hype they get for their indie screenings. While it is sad to see another theater close, and I doubt the owners will re-open it after construction, this one was past due, imo.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on December 19, 2017 at 12:17 pm

Hello-

anyone who actually believes the owners will re-open it as a cinema once the alleged necessary construction is done are fooling themselves.

fred1
fred1 on December 19, 2017 at 4:23 am

Perhaps with new operators

RickB
RickB on December 19, 2017 at 3:10 am

Follow-up article says that the landlord needs to close the theater to do structural work on the plaza around the building. They claim that it will reopen as a cinema at some point.

edblank
edblank on December 18, 2017 at 4:44 pm

Is Frank Rowley (sp?), formerly the manager of the late, much-missed Regency, still (a) manager of Lincoln Plaza?

SethLewis
SethLewis on December 18, 2017 at 3:35 pm

Neighbourhoods change…cinemas wear out It’s a shame and can only hope that when the building works are done they bring in a new and updated theatre. All the construction on the far West Side is likely to create new destinations and reasons to visit the Landmark Manhattan still seems underscreened…particularly the UES where the 86th St East if half mainstream half arthouse