metro theater7

The historic Metro Theater on Broadway between 99th and 100th streets has been rented to Planet Fitness, a low-cost gym chain, according to Councilman Mark Levine. This is the second time we’ve heard Planet Fitness is coming — the first time, a few months ago, Levine told us that the deal fell through.

The Metro opened in 1933 and was one of the city’s best known moviehouses, but it closed in 2005 and has been vacant ever since. In 2012, the Alamo Drafthouse, a Texas-based theater chain, announced it would open in the space, but gave up when the work got too costly. Once that fell through, Levine tried to convince the landlord to turn the space into an arts center.

Alas, it didn’t pan out.

“After working on this for more than a year, we’re extremely disappointed that Metro Theater will not come back to life as an arts space. However, I’m relieved that the building façade will be restored in an historically sensitive way and that this space will not continue to sit vacant,” Levine said.

The councilman’s statement makes it sound like the fitness center is a done deal. But we won’t consider it a sure thing until sweaty people are actually lifting metal objects and running on moving hamster machines.

A Planet Fitness rep hasn’t responded to requests for comment.

NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 54 comments | permalink
    1. Sean says:

      Can’t we get a Food Emporium in here?

      • Jay says:

        They wouldn’t be able to compete with Whole Foods or West Side Market which are only a five minute walk away.

        Plus, I think Food Emporium as a business is going the way of the dodo.

      • Steven says:

        Might be a little difficult, since A&P (owner of Food Emporium) is bankrupt and is in the process of liquidating. Food Emporium will soon be taking its place in the roster of vanished stores, alongside Gimbels, B. Altman, and so many others.

      • Joe says:

        Food Emporium is absolutely the worst choice for any food store(hopefully, the company and the name will die a lonely death!).

        Plus you’ve got a delivery problem: bus stop right in front of the Metro. Where would a large truck park for unloading?

        Actually, for a long while I had hoped that the huge retail space in the Ariel West, which was vacant for about two years, would be home to a Trader Joe’s.

        Instead, they chose the building then going up at 72nd/B’way. They got the MTA to move the bus stop on the south side of 72nd back about a 100 feet, so the trucks could park by the freight entrance.

        TJ’s 72nd gets four to five 18-wheelers EACH DAY! Can you imagine that activity on B’way/100th?

    2. robert says:

      I just checked DOB site as of now no permits issued to do any new work at the site.
      Also I don’t see any notice of a lease being signed.
      Considering all of the plans for this site which have imploded I’ll believe it when I see it

    3. Bishop says:

      The ten-year vacancy of this beautiful theater is so distressing, but the notion of a “low cost fitness chain” in that gorgeous art deco interior is almost worse. I like to see any business succeed, but if it is only going to desecrate one of the last (formerly) single screen movie houses remaining in the city, I’m wondering what’s the point of even salvaging the exterior. It’s too painful, especially after the tantalizing notion of Alamo Drafthouse was dashed. It amazes me that a cinema in this part of town, so close to the subway and not far from Columbia University, can’t succeed. I never thought I’d say this, but I’d almost rather see it put out of its misery.

      • Nick says:

        Sadly the interior was completely gutted years is just a concrete box on the inside right now.

      • Joe says:

        Yes, the “gorgeous art deco interior” has long since receded to our memories.

        I remember it in it’s full glory after I first moved back to the city 40 years ago (this month, in fact), when the Metro was a porn house (yes… I went then).

        I also went quite a bit after the theater morphed to two screens and showed first run films. Some drew big crowds, btw.

        I didn’t attend when some years later the Metro was run by people showing art and foreign films (not my thing).

        The movie business has changed dramatically over the years and combined with perhaps poor management here is what primarily made the Metro vacant.

        But the trashing of the interior — making it virtually impossible for anyone to consider using the space as a theater again — is a direct result of the Ariel East scourge!

        I’ve discussed these Ariel buildings (East and West) a number of times before on WSR, but the sordid tale is too significant to be forgotten. (And I also didn’t have a chance to comment when this subject came up last Summer, so I can rant again now.)

        Simply put, these buildings were the end product of a nefarious collusion between “Fat John” Catsimatidis (of Gristede’s shame) and George Brandt (retired rector of St. Michael’s Church) to sell their air rights and acquire more and then hand them to Gary Barnett of Extell (the city’s most notorious mega-needle-tower developer).

        The result is a huge, boxy eyesore on the West Side of Broadway (not entirely unwelcome as it replaced the crumbling and dangerous two-story structure housing a Gristedes) and the East building, at least 20 stories too tall, beyond all reason for this neighborhood.

        Add to this mix the ignorance, incompetence and indifference of city bureaucrats (most of the official paperwork for the Ariel East was rife with errors) and hot air politicians feigning ignorance until construction began… and look what resulted.

        The oligarchs, hedge-funders and other indulgent people who live in those overpriced condos surely don’t give a rat’s ass about the sorry state of the Metro Theater (or the rest of the pathetic retail space below their apartments).

        From some of the comments already posted here, it seems that there may never be a fitness club in the Metro space. If there were, I would never join. Although maybe milleniels who don’t have fond memories of the theater wouldn’t give it a second thought.

        I would never patronize any business that opened there. If I were a business owner, and were aware of the possible resentment by many in this area over the destruction of the interior, I would think twice about opening in that space.

        I personally think it should be left as is… a silent memorial to times past and a sad reminder of the avarice that leads a few to build higher and higher to fill their pockets with riches!

        • Steven says:

          I understand that someone is planning to open a bookstore in that space, one that will only sell books about how much better the Upper West Side used to be before all these young whippersnappers moved in. That’s going to present you with a dilemma.

    4. Jay says:

      That’s lame…

    5. Mark says:

      I miss the old Metro. I lived at 98 and Bway back in the mid-’80s and would go see double features old old movies and foreign films. I always had a poster of upcoming screenings hanging on my refrigerator.

      • 2 Handicap says:

        Cool story.

      • Tee says:

        Mark, I believe you are thinking of the Thalia on 95th between Broadway and West End. It did indeed show a mixture of silents, old classics, art and foreign films.

        The Metro showed mostly 2nd run films released a few weeks or months before. It was nice to be able to catch up in the neighborhood films you missed when they first came out.

        • Joe says:

          Mark is actually correct!

          In it’s third incarnation (in my 40 years here), the Metro did indeed show art and foreign films.

        • Mark says:

          I lived just around the corner so I remember going to the Metro very well.
          I do also remember the Thalia. Spent a lot of time there – bizarre sight lines and uncomfortable place but I loved it there nevertheless.

          • Joe says:

            Symphony Space took over what was the Thalia. Renamed it something else.

            Do they show foreign/art films there?

            • Jeff Berger says:

              Yes, it was named for Leonard Nimoy and it shows a full slate of classic and foreign film films


    6. ScooterStan says:

      Re: “…sweaty people are actually lifting metal objects and running on moving hamster machines…”

      Remember this valuable maxim:
      “Don’t sweat the petty stuff; and never pet the sweaty stuff!”


    7. Chuck VanD says:

      Alamo would’ve been perfect there. Big mistake not bringing that in. The owners seem to be insane people who let that property sit for 10 years.

    8. Chuck VanD says:

      Also, Planet Fitness is a scam fitness center.

    9. Michael Milken says:

      I’ll believe it when I see it.

    10. PGNYC says:

      I was wishing that Symphony Space would have taken it on as an additional venue. Alas.

    11. It would be better to restore the movie house but if that is not possible, how about combining the gym with a decent florist shop? Overcome sweaty odors with beautiful scents.

      • Joe says:

        No… restoring the theater will never happen. Would cost millions, probably. Plus the movie biz has changed so much. Look at the pictures they make these days: dumb and stupid (think Adam Sandler, Jen Aniston), violent, CG-laden jumk — all for teens who fill the seats only to talk or text on their phones. With the screens at 84th and 63rd, there’s probably enough.

        As for a floral shop, did you notice a while back that Academy Florists moved from their long, long-time location at 107th into the long-vacant retail space in the eyesore known as Ariel East?

        Moved in, only to be evicted a few months later for non-payment of rent.

        The retail history of these Ariel monstrosities is pathetic. What’s in the large space across B’way in the Ariel West? An Urban Mausoleum (oops, meant Outfitters) and a Sleepy’s (snooooze).

    12. Mark says:

      The theater used to show porn back in the early 1980s

    13. Lisa says:

      It really is a shame that the Alamo deal fell through. Not looking forward to yet another gym. At least it’s not a bank. Sigh.

    14. John.. says:

      Brilliant!!! Planet Fitness is a fantastic business and I’m thrilled that the space will finally be rented!!

    15. IF says:

      Can’t say that a Planet Fitness is my idea of a great use for this space, but it’s better than having it sit empty! As it currently stands, the lack of a tenant on such a large swath of the block has made for one of the jankiest stretches on Broadway in these parts!

      • John says:

        Speaking of empty properties and “jankiest stretches” (love that), cf. the southwest corner of 96th and Broadway where the vacant Rite Aid and tanning salon used to dwell. How long have those spaces been empty now — five, six, seven years? Pathetic. Everything around those storefronts is bedraggled, neglected, misbegotten or depressed.

        • BMAC says:

          Couldn’t agree more about the SW corner of 96th and Broadway, what a dump. That McDonald’s can barely keep its front door glass from being cracked every week.

    16. Eric says:

      Have a little imagination … al least the space will have plenty of screens … have a ‘fitness movie night’ where you can stair climb to “Gone With The Wind”

      • Steven says:

        Not a bad idea, but they should do it with movies that tie in to what the customers are doing — e.g., run on a treadmill while watching Chariots of Fire.

    17. Lynn says:

      When I see actual construction going on then I will believe it. It’s going to be a fortune to reno that property for a gym or for anything else. I’m not that optimistic. I just wish if for some reason the deal falls through please get rid of the ugly structure already. It’s disgusting.

    18. adam says:

      what disappointing news

    19. Jazz27 says:

      If this happens, i cant wait to see how quickly the neighborhood gyms lower their crazy membership prices.

    20. Jo says:

      It would be better to lay empty than have Planet Fitness. So sad the Alamo deal didn’t work out – would be great to have an smaller enterprise there rather than another large chain.

    21. Catherine says:

      Disappointing news. I really wish Alamo could have made it work – that would have been an amazing addition to the neighborhood.

    22. robert says:

      If you really want to be conspiracy minded, mull this over.

      It has been nothing but brick walls a sagging wooden roof.

      All of which have water infiltration through.

      Watch the company bring in an engineering firm to supposedly redo

      it and they find it is unstable and/or unsafe.

      Guess what that means-Demolition

    23. Jodi says:

      What is so bad about Planet Fitness? More healthy people in the area? Oh no?! The NYSC on 94th could use some competition. It is so expensive and poorly run.

    24. Jayson Washington says:

      If you are truly a west sider, then you know that supermarkets don’t open on the west side of Broadway.

      The Food emporium closed and it was the only one that opened in the 60 years that I have walked these streets.

      • Nathan says:

        Do you mean east? I can count at least 7 grocery stores on the west side of Broadway.

        • Joe says:

          And a few from the dustbin of history…

          A Sloan’s between 97th/98th where the West Side Market now sits (and a Duane Reade before that). Sloan’s was a great family owned chain, bought out by Grocery-Gonif Catsimatidis.

          There was a Shopwell (which may have changed its name to Food Emporium before it closed) between 102nd/103rd, where the Duane Reade now stands. Anyone old enough to remember the manager… big round guy in his raised office, barking during the evening rush, “Send ’em home… send ’em home!”? [How is that I remember stuff like that, but forgot what I did five minutes ago?]

          There’s been a general perception that any retail business does not do as well on the East Side of Broadway as those on the West. But I’m sure there have been/are exceptions.

          And lastly, the aforementioned Gristedes torn down for the Ariel West was relocated to the EAST side of Broadway between 103rd/10th. Easy to miss because it doesn’t occupy too much frontage. I have to admit I actually go in once a month since they have a few things I can’t find anywhere else. And the staff there is mostly friendly to customers — Catsimatidis must have been on vacation when they were hired!

          Oh… (and yes, I know this isn’t a shopping thread), Gristedes has a 10%, no minimum discount for seniors on Tuesdays — much better than other food stores. Maybe Fat John is getting mellow?

      • Jodi says:

        Isn’t there a d agastinos on 110 and Eden market on 107. All on the west side of Broadway.

        • Joe says:

          You mean the east side.

          East = downtown

          West = uptown

          • dannyboy says:

            East = Crosstown in easterly direction

            West = Crosstown in westerly direction

          • Jodi says:

            Yes, I stand corrected. The Dagastinos on 110 and Garden of Eden on 107 are on the east side. But there are some on the west side too (West Side Market, Gristedes, Barzinis). I would say supermarkets are pretty equally represented on both sides. Most are just too small, overpriced and junky to compete with Whole Foods and TJs.

            • dannyboy says:

              “Most are just too small, overpriced and junky to compete with Whole Foods and TJs.”

              The greengrocers on Broadway are pushed out by Whole Foods and TJs. That’s the result of shortsightedness of shoppers. The end-game is all big-box food stores.

    25. 9d8b7988045e4953a882 says:

      Why was this space vacant for so long? Is that related to its facade being landmarked?

      I am glad that it is finally being occupied by a business.

    26. Neighbor says:

      Too bad it’s not a Blink Fitness. I’ve been waiting for years for one to open on the UWS.

    27. sailingsam says:

      I don;t see any renovation going on…planet fitness is nice but a gym with a nice spa facility would be nice like spa castle!