Heartbroken Employees Plan Sendoff for Lincoln Plaza Cinemas: ‘I Care About How Things End’


Iberto Placido, ticket-taker at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

By Carol Tannenhauser

People went about their usual business at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas on the morning after Martin Luther King Day. The ticket-seller sold tickets and the ticket-taker took them. The customers came — mostly seniors, all bundled up — for the 11:30 show. The candy lady offered candy, pastries, and popcorn.

In his tiny, triangular office, the manager did his business — but here is where it veered from usual. Instead of scheduling films for the future, Ewnetu Admassu was figuring out how to stage a fitting farewell to the theater — which will close on January 28th — and to the man who co-founded it, 37 years ago.


Ewnetu Admassu.

“I’ve been here since the beginning,” said Admassu, 56, who is from Ethiopia. “I care about how things end. It’s important to me that whatever has to be done is done properly. Mainly, I respect and love the people I work for.”

He was speaking of Dan and Toby Talbot, who together turned Lincoln Plaza Cinemas into an influential and beloved institution, not just on the Upper West Side, but throughout the city. Dan Talbot died in his early 90s, on December 22nd. Toby Talbot, 89, is left grieving for her husband and partner of 70 years, and unsettled about the future of the theater. Since learning last year that their lease would not be renewed, she has heard nothing from the landlord, Howard Milstein. As the 11th hour approaches, hope of a reprieve is fading.


Frank Rowley.

“I’m afraid I have no hope,” said Frank Rowley, 86, who gave himself the title of “administrator.” He handled the payroll and publicity, but, more important, in his 20 years at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, he sat beside Dan Talbot, screening films. “All the years, all the time, I watched movies with him. I didn’t go to the film festivals, but when we got DVDs and DCPs, we’d look at them together, discuss things, and come to an understanding. Our tastes were very similar. He was a kind and gentle man.”


Rowshan Chowdhury.

“Mr. Talbot, he was so nice person,” said Rowshan Chowdhury, standing inside the ticket booth, on Broadway between 62nd and 63rd Streets. “He doesn’t treat us as employees, but as a family member. He knows us by face and name; how many children we have. I’ve been here since 2000. I’m from Bangladesh. We have people from Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, all over. Everybody is like family. And we have so many regular customers who we know. Now, every day they come and they are so sad.”

Iberto Placido, the ticket-taker, is mournful. “I feel emotional very bad because I spent here all my life. I was very young when I came, and now I’m 62. We have 30 people who work here. About five have two jobs. The other 25 people, this is the only job we have. I don’t know why they closing. If Milstein let the people know here two years before, we could get another location and maybe get another job. But it was all done at the last minute.”

Susan and Steven Schneider (forgive any misspellings) are long-time customers of the theater. They had this to say:

Susan: “I’m devastated!”

Steven: “Well, we’re upset, because this place has good art movies, good movies that are not widely distributed.”

Susan: “Pleasant atmosphere, it’s lovely, it’s fine. It doesn’t have the hype; it doesn’t assault you when you come in; it’s just a place to go to see films.”

Steven: “And the service at the counter is fabulous.”


Emiye Mitiku.

Emiye Mitiku has run the concession stand for 14 years. She, too, is from Ethiopia. “I feel very bad, very sad,”she said. “I started at age 15, part-time. I have green card. I like it. I like people here. Movie people is, like, different people, unique. I don’t want to find another job. I’m comfortable here.”

The farewell tribute will be held on Sunday, January 28th, at 11 a.m. and will be open to the public. Mrs. Talbot has not yet released the names of those from the film industry who will be attending — filmmakers, distributors, directors, actors — or who will be speaking about the theater and Dan Talbot. The program will also include “a highlight of films that were shown in our theater and distributed by the Talbots,” Admassu said. “Afterward, we’ll have a little reception in the lobby. And then, after two o’clock, we’ll do our regularly scheduled movies.”

What will be the last movie shown at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas?

“Darkest Hour is a safe bet,” Admassu said.


Dan Talbot’s desk.

We’ll keep you posted on the details of the farewell tribute as it draws near.

Photos By Carol Tannenhauser.

ART, NEWS | 55 comments | permalink
    1. Lisa says:

      I don’t mind admitting I’ve got a little something in my eye after reading this. 🙁

    2. Sid says:

      Has there been any comment from Howard Milstein?

    3. Christine says:

      Does anyone have a personal connection to Lin Manuel Miranda? If he can (miraculously) save Coogans in the Heights maybe he can save Lincoln Plaza Cinemas as well? Surely he’s been and knows the value of this place for culture’s sake and for our neighborhood? Help!

      • Sue Llewellyn says:

        I second the motion! And/or can’t help wishing that some of the “magnates” and corporate or private donors who’re so happy to have their names emblazoned on halls across the LC plaza could step up to ensure the life of this landmark: Not just another “art house,” that’s what it’ll remain in our hearts and minds!

    4. Doug Garr says:

      Well, if the Bogie statue is for sale, I’m a bidder.

    5. JudIth M Kass says:

      Bye bye folks. You will be missed

      JudIth

    6. for shame Howard Milstein

    7. Catherine says:

      My husband and I have been part time residents of the UWS for 8 years and have enjoyed many wonderful films at Lincoln Plaza. We are devastated to lose this gem that seems to be such an important part of the neighborhood. Another casualty. It’s sad.

    8. Jackie Pitts says:

      You will be missed! I have spent countless hours over the years, seeing great films there. Movies that were not shown elsewhere in the city. I hope that somehow, you will find your way back. The AMC 84th street has nice, comfortable seats, but the Lincoln Plaza Cinema satisfies something else in me.
      Thank you!

    9. superf88 says:

      Films I saw here in the early and mid 90s, mostly about far away lands by people from them, but also about layers of NYC that were otherwise hidden (thinking firstly of “Kids”), sparked not a few real-life and meaningful adventures around our globe in the years since. To this great place and its singularly, voraciously open-minded audiences, I thank thee.

    10. Alice says:

      Disgraceful that Howard Milstein has not had the decency to reach out to Mrs. Talbot. Sadly this is not surprising. A landmark is leaving and I am deeply saddened.

    11. Catherine says:

      My husband and I have been part time residents of the UWS for 8 years and have enjoyed many wonderful films at Lincoln Plaza. We are devastated to lose this gem that seemed to be such an important part of the neighborhood. Another casualty. It’s sad.

    12. Tim says:

      Am so sad that Lincoln Cinemas is closing. Is one of the treasures of this city and will be sorely missed. So many years attending and wonderful team. I only wish all the very best! 🌿

    13. simone says:

      This was my “home away from home.” I am a movie freak, and I often came to the last show after a hard day’s work. It was a piece of heaven on the Upper West Side. It was an anchor in the storm, and I am devastated to see it close. I keep hoping for a last minute miracle to save what is for many of us a “Refuge.” Thank you to the staff for always making the viewers feel welcome and thank you for bringing very important movies to the screen amongst which was THE SHOA.

    14. JOAN LUFRANO says:

      This is so sad – another piece of culture taken away, We will miss LPC greatly,

    15. Larry says:

      Excellent coverage of what is really an emotional closing of a very important part of the “old” West Side.

    16. Eleanor Haray says:

      A terrible loss!

    17. sharon says:

      Hi

      So sorry Let me kno details

    18. Jean says:

      Dan Talbot was my boss when I worked at the New Yorker so many years ago.

    19. Lin says:

      I love the ambience from the moment I step on the down escalator to the moment I go back up: the reviews and the waterfall outside in the warm weather; the concession stand with its delicious offerings;the seats for our comfort when waiting; the waiting lines——and most important the movies. Yes you will
      be greatly missed. (I hope everyone finds a job.)

    20. I’m so saddened, that this movie theater is closing. So many years have i enjoyed watching amazing movies there- many Films that one could only watch there, including foreign films have inspired me to become a filmmaker myself. This is such a shame. The rents have become so high in this neighborhood that only big chains will survive. Without this beautiful theater, the upper West side won’t be the same anymore. I am be a raft. Thank you to everyone who ran the theater.

    21. Dr. Michele Kstz says:

      Please let us know how to get tkts to the farewell

    22. Dixie says:

      I’ve been going to this theater forever and will really miss it! I feel so sorry for the staff and Mrs. Talbot. It has been a faithful and fantastic part of the UWS which seems to disappear everyday. But I guess change is the only constant in life. Someday young people who grow old will feel the same way about cherished things from their life that disappear. We don’t much remember the mediocre. Its the passing of whats unique special that we mourn.

    23. Mary Clooney says:

      I will SOOOO miss this theatre!

    24. SA says:

      Oh man, a crushing blow, this is my all-time favorite cinema, anywhere. I’d say about 90% of the times I went to the cinema was right here. I just loved the whole approach Lincoln Plaza had. It shall certainly be missed!!

    25. Joan Barron says:

      Very sad – one of the finest places to see films that are not mainstream.

    26. Barbara Mintz says:

      One of the saddest days in NYC’s cultural history. Many many of us as sophisticated movie goers of both the east and west side of this city are losing a critical theater and the Milstein organization is getting s basement. Shame on them. The employees and patrons of this theater are the real losers.

    27. Lenore says:

      I appreciated reading about the staff, how long they have been working at the theater and their many different backgrounds–very interesting, very poignant!

    28. Sonia says:

      My late husband spent many, many hours at the Lincoln Plaza after his gym regimen. I sometimes was with him, but he saw many more movies. I’m sorry he is gone, but glad he isn’t here to suffer the loss of this great movie theater.

    29. Grace Woodard says:

      Many a fine film experience over many years. Farewell.

    30. Marlene says:

      I cannot accept the closing of the best movie house in the city. The only one with no commercials to sit through, cheaper than other theaters, and the most interesting films around. And a rare experience to see the same people working year after year. It was always a comforting environment to come to. I had no idea of The Talbots and am sorry to hear of Dan’s passing. I wish we could do something

    31. Ground Control says:

      An utter disgrace. I’d suggest calling Howard Milstein’s office all day long. Mr. Milstein got rich from the residents on the UWS. But like most developers he has absolutely no heart. If he had a brand, he’s destroying it. No such thing as good will anymore. What goes around comes around.

    32. Jeff says:

      I doubt the people who work here would have passed a “merit” test, but our city wouldn’t be the same without them and others like them.

    33. Some Westsider says:

      Exec Director Monica Blum from the alleged Lincoln Center BID have nothing to say about this. Time to look at this organization and demand some accountability.

    34. Marilyn Pasekoff says:

      I think we should organize a Milstein protest!

    35. Christine says:

      I just tweeted Lin Manuel. Can the West Side Rag and others tweet him and also post this on Facebook?

    36. Karen Reich says:

      Devastated. An icon in the neighborhood. I have been going there for decades.
      The theatre, the quality of the films and the staff will be sorely missed.

      • Lois Traub says:

        I feel like I lost a lifeboat and lifestyle. Aside from losing a great iconic theatre and devoted staff, my activity of movie watching and afterwards or before frequenting and enjoying the neighborhood restaurants and businesses is gone. This profound loss should not take place!!!

    37. Sherman says:

      I think a bunch of these posters already suffer from some form of depression and they’re already “sad” and “devastated” regardless of the status of LPC.

      I’m sorry LPC is leaving as I see films there myself with my family. I’m also sorry about these good people losing their jobs.

      But business is business. Milstein is not running a philanthropy. If he can find a tenant who can pay him more than LPC so be it.

      There’s no politician or celebrity or community organization who will force Milstein to keep LPC as a tenant.

      The neighborhood changes. That’s life. Get over it and stop crying.

    38. Leslie Getz says:

      The demise of Lincoln Plaza Cinemas will be a great loss to the cultural life of New York City. Anyone who loves film owes this institution a huge debt of gratitude. Thank you to the Talbots and their wonderful staff for making Lincoln Plaza Cinemas what it has been all these years.

    39. Irena says:

      Aside from celebrating it’s role in the community and as a venue that provided what others did not, this is the closing of what may be one of the most diversely staffed small businesses.

      How many businesses of any size can boast employees with this many years invested in it?

      Aside from wanting to save it, could we not provide what is needed if it cannot be saved: Jobs for those devoted and committed workers who will want or need jobs now?

      If I had a business, I’d hire any one of these individuals. You just cannot find that kind of loyalty and stability today, no matter the job.

      The Talbots and their family of employees (because that is what it is) put a lifetime of effort and love into Lincoln Cinemas. It’s one thing to retire and leave the workings to others, but to have your life’s work yanked out from you. Again, all about greed and real estate.

      Life in a city is about a lot more than real estate, chain stores, banks…

      It’s about the people behind the places and the relationships created from year after year of engagement.

      We still have a huge need for this type of theater on the UWS and it will be missed. Not just for the movies, but for all the folks behind it that made it more than a trip to some big-name chain cinema (mostly awful experiences in terms of “staff”) but rather like spending an evening with like-minded friends enjoying shared interests.

      If this really is the end, good-bye, thank you and farewell. You will all be missed.

    40. Leslie Rupert says:

      It is terribly sad losing such a wonderful New York institution and Lincoln Plaza Cinema is definitely a New York institution. It’s a very big loss that will leave a very big hole

    41. Mignon Reik says:

      The Lincoln Plaza added much to the quality of my life. I was hoping it would continue through my very old age. Together with all other fans I am greatly saddened. I greatly appreciated the way I was treated by all who have worked there. I wish them much luck.

    42. Janet Fried says:

      The Lincoln Plaza was an oasis of civility in our city and they showed great films as well. The theatre felt almost zen like in its soothing ambience and you always came out of the theater relaxed but entertained. You felt as if you had seen something worthwhile. In the frantic pace of the city something worthwhile will have been lost.

    43. A T Weiss says:

      SHAME on Milstein for not communicating his intention to not renew LPC’s lease!!!!! This what GREEDY business looks like now? No integrity, respect for others time, and lives, no commitment to renters who have paid their rent on time for 37 years, and no commitment to the UWS community that deserves a quality film center that shows intelligent, thought provoking films that elevate a person’s knowledge of the world around them! SHAMFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!

    44. Lucy Kuemmerle says:

      So sad. New York used to be a cultural center. Now we’re a money center.I will miss good, important movies in a human setting.

    45. Kathy Segall says:

      It has been the most wonderful venue since I moved tothe uws.I will miss the theatre,and the loyal and respectful employees. I hope some decent person buys the property and it reopens.kathy was

    46. Heather Gerson says:

      I am heartbroken about the loss of the best cinema in NYC
      It makes the Lincoln Center area special a does the ballet, opera and symphony.

    47. Marcia Raff says:

      O MY, HOW DISAPPOINTING. I moved to Texas but when I come to NYC I love going to the movie in Lincoln Center. I wonder why the landlord would not renew the lease?

    48. OMG SOMEONE PLEASE START A GO FUND ME PAGE ASAP!!! :,(