Long Beach Cinemas, closed since Sandy, expected to reopen before July Fourth
Updated June 10, 2015 9:57 PM
By JOHN ASBURY
In the lobby of the Long Beach Cinemas, a poster of the Oscar winning movie "Argo" sits in the same case from when the theater was flooded nearly three years ago by superstorm Sandy.
The poster is one of the few relics remaining from the shuttered independent theater, which is expected to finally reopen this summer.
Long Beach's only movie theater, at 179 E. Park Ave. is set to reopen by the end of June, in time for July Fourth weekend, property owner Seth Pilevsky said.
City leaders have lauded the theater's reopening since Sandy and see its rebirth as another sign of the city bouncing back after a devastating storm. Officials are hoping the theater may be able to house the annual Long Beach Film Festival in September, which in the past has had to be shown in part at a Rockville Centre theater.
"This has been a long time coming," City Councilman Scott J. Mandel said in an emailed statement. "Having our movie theater back is a real boost to the community and a great symbol of Long Beach's comeback."
Pilevsky, co-president of the Manhattan-based real estate firm Philips International, said he would not reveal the cost of the rebuilding. He has owned the theater for about 15 years and resisted selling it to a movie chain after Sandy.
"This is a labor of love and we're looking forward to giving the theater back to the residents," Pilevsky said. "Residents can expect to have their old movie back and welcome back the movie magic."
Reopening the theater was also a contingency of the Superblock settlement with the city before iStar Corp. took over the Superblock property from Philips last year. He retained ownership of the theater. The theater's reopening is unrelated to iStar's proposal to build luxury apartments on the boardwalk property or a tax exemption proposal submitted to the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency.
The theater has been completely revamped with new digital and 3-D projectors on each of the four screens. About 436 leather, cushioned seats have been added after construction workers tore out about 100 seats to make room for the larger ones.
Workers have removed the "Look 4 Grand Reopening" sign that stood for the past year and added a new marquee where the theater's marquee advertised a hiring fair last week. The theater's manager, Paula Lewis, has already hired about a dozen projectionists, concessionists, ushers and box office tellers.
Floodwaters inundated each of the four theaters during the 2012 storm, which sent water sloping down to the screens.
Seawater flooded through every entry and also caused the roof to collapse. Screens had to be removed and most of the ground floor of the theater had to be rebuilt.
Walls were ripped out and electrical, gas and heating was replaced. Replacing the chairs was the major delay in reopening. Pilevsky put off reopening for a year when he saw larger chains like Regal and AMC adding more luxury seats. He said he watched similar independent theaters in the region close as he revamped the project.
A new reservation system will allow visitors to select their seats in advance through a ticketing service available through brokers like Fandango.com.
The lineup of films has not been set, but Pilevsky said they want to add a children's movie for opening weekend. The theater will show first-run films and will try to mix mainstream blockbusters with some independent films.
The city is planning a grand opening ceremony once an opening date has been set. "We're going to open strong and stay open strong," Pilevsky said.