The Return of Indie Theater? New Group Looks to Fill Void Left By Lincoln Plaza Closing; Philip Roth Retrospective Coming

The closure of Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in January was a devastating blow to film lovers on the Upper West Side and throughout the city.

But a new group is looking to harness the energy and money of all those film fans. The Coalition for a New Plaza Cinema wants to screen some of the same films that would have been shown at Lincoln Plaza, and to eventually open a new theater in the old location or a new spot.

“We’re working to find a more permanent venue which will offer first run and independent films,” said Norma Levy, founder of the Coalition for a New Plaza Cinema, in a statement sent out by the JCC.

First things first. Starting this month, the group is partnering with the JCC on 76th and Amsterdam to screen first run and independent films this summer, starting on June 24. The following week, they plan to showcase films based on the work of Philip Roth. The JCC has a 250-seat theater that it is allowing the group to use for screenings.

Toby Talbot, who co-founded Lincoln Plaza Cinema with her late husband, Dan Talbot, is supportive of the new group. “Dan and I worked together for more than 30 years to develop a cinema devoted to the highest quality independent films in the U.S. and around the world,” said Talbot in the statement. “Although Dan is no longer with us, I’m sure he would have been heartened—as am I—that a band of devoted theater goers have taken upon themselves the arduous task of creating similar cinema anew. I fully support their effort and look forward to their ultimate success.”

We’ve reached out to New Plaza Cinema to see how far along they are in the process of finding a permanent home, and whether they’ve made progress with Milstein Properties on leasing the former home of Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.  The Milstein company had said they plan to renovate the space and eventually lease it to a new theater.

The New Plaza Cinema website is here. The JCC Film site is here.

ART, NEWS | 51 comments | permalink
    1. Karen says:

      Can only hope that this is true… desperately missing Lincoln Plaza Cinema – we are hoping it’s possible to find a new home.

    2. Fay Barrows says:

      We miss openthis theatre and wish it would re-

    3. ann bluestein says:

      use the old Metro on Broadway

      • Camille says:

        I agree with all the posters who suggested the Metro at 99th and Broadway. It has space for multiple screens and is just sitting there empty.

      • Drew Stone says:

        That space is a disaster. MILLIONS would have to be put into it for just a basic screening. The Alamo tried but couldn’t get a liquor license.

    4. Jerry says:

      Kudos to all involved in restoring a proper cinema for independent films to the West Side to fill the void.

      Please note, however, that the JCC is not a substitute for the loss of Lincoln Plaza and it’s five screens.

      For one, we should be able to go to a movie when we want and anytime for the duration of its run.

      For another, I am concerned that an arrangement with the JCC will not serve West Siders with deafness and hearing loss. I personally worked with Linc Plaza’s manager Ewnetu on the introduction of closed captioning systems in each of its auditoriums and lauded the cinema for providing open captions on screen at the first show time of the day,

      In contrast, the JCC has shown little interest in the needs of people with hearing loss – refusing, for example, for years to install a hearing loop in its auditorium.

    5. uwsider says:

      What about the abandoned movie theater on 99th and Broadway?

    6. Lin says:

      Hopeful news for a change. Thanks to those working on this.

    7. reed says:

      Why not re-locate to the wonderful Metro Theater on Broadway and West 99 Street? It has been an abandoned eyesore for years and certainly it would be a welcomed cultural gem above West 96 Street.

      • Minx says:

        From everything I have read on here the Metro has been gutted. Moreover, the Alamo Draft house attempted to set up shop here a few years ago and ran into permitting issues with the city – which is a real shame as it would have been a great boon to the neighborhood and really brightened up this stretch of Broadway.

    8. BillyNYC says:

      Still not going there.

    9. Roger Wolfe says:

      The loss of Plaza Cinema has left a considerable void both in the community and individually. I hope that this endeavor succeeds.

    10. Joan says:

      The Metro theatre on Broadway & 99th would be such a great spot. It has been vacant for years.

      • Richard says:

        If the Metro – an obvious choice – is not in the plans, there must be a good reason. The owner of the property – or a prospective new owner – must have other plans that don’t involve a cinema. Duh.

      • Debbie says:

        Hi Joan,

        I have been working with Al Bialek (the Metro Movie Theater) for months, along with investors, actors and architects and Mark Levine.
        I have been trying to reach out to your group for months.
        Please contact me:
        Debbie.rosenberg@gmail.com/917-319-1379

      • metro neighbor says:

        the Metro was gutted inside years ago. Would take millions to renovate it and recreate a theater, which is just not going to happen, it seems.

    11. GLADYS NUSSENBAUM says:

      This is the best news to come in a grim UWS, with no first-rate cinema replacing Lincoln Plaza. We are overcrowded,traffic-jammed–almost unlivable. Some good films would help!!
      Dr. G.

    12. F. Ames says:

      The Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Elinor Bunin Film Center Theatre has taken up the loss of the Lincoln Plaza
      with outstanding art films.
      If you don’t know about this resource, please check it out.

      • Jay says:

        The metro theater is only a facade. There is no theater behind the sign, so it’s unlikey that another theater will move in.

        • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

          Jay said:

          “The metro theater is only a facade. There is no theater behind the sign, so it’s unlikly that another theater will move in.”

          tell that to the owner:

          https://www.gofundme.com/bring-back-the-metro-movie-theater?member=276284

          it’s worth a try. most UWers are tired of endless ultra-high priced condos.

          • Jay says:

            If the owner couldn’t work something out with Alamo Drafthouse, what makes you think that this proposal (which is pretty threadbare as far as business plans go) will change anything?

            How about you stop pretending you speak for the Upper West Side while you are at it?

            • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

              Jay said:

              “How about you stop pretending you speak for the Upper West Side while you are at it?”

              Jay was objecting to my statement that “most UWers are tired of endless ultra-high priced condos.”

              First of all, i notice that you seem to be speaking for the owner of the Metro Theater property, ironically. All i said was that we should give what Deborah Rosenberg is trying to do a chance. More power to her. At least she is trying to do something with development on the UWS that benefits the residents… more than endless ultra-luxury condos.

              As to whether “most” UWSers are tired of “endless ultra-high priced luxury condos”, there is plenty of evidence for this. First of all, there have been no candidates, even on the Republican side, who have run on a platform of “more luxury condos.” And the candidates who want to slow down over-development, such as Gale Brewer and Helen Rosenthal, win by overwhelming numbers. The turnout at hearings from UWSers has overwhelmingly been against ultra-luxory development.

              But, if you feel like your own pro-luxury high rise position represents a majority, by all means run candidates and speak out. Enter the debate. We’ll see what sort of support that has.

            • Jay says:

              You are so thoroughly predictable, Bruce. Why don’t you point out precisely where I spoke for the Metro owner? Pointing out that the owner has not come to an agreement with organizations where the owner would make more money seems to be a bit relevant, to most people.

              Secondly, you repeatedly confuse the election by a small minority of people, who vote on a wide variety of topics, on the UWS is akin to a scientific poll. Logic and reasoning is not a strength in the NIMBY crowd and these sort of comments and refusals to answer a simple question, just reinforces that.

            • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

              Jay said:

              “If the owner couldn’t work something out with Alamo Drafthouse, what makes you think that this proposal (which is pretty threadbare as far as business plans go) will change anything?”

              first of all, i’m glad you know the private details of the failure of the Alamo Draft House deal. or at least that is how it seems.

              second, you are stating that the owner has no interest in Deborah’s project. i don’t know how you would know that.

              Sure, what Deborah is doing is a long shot. But why poo-poo it? Maybe you would prefer that more luxury condos go there?

              Jay said:

              “Secondly, you repeatedly confuse the election by a small minority of people, who vote on a wide variety of topics, on the UWS is akin to a scientific poll. Logic and reasoning is not a strength in the NIMBY crowd and these sort of comments and refusals to answer a simple question, just reinforces that.”

              I’m glad you are a master of “logic and reasoning.”

              Overdevelopment, luxury vs. affordable housing, the driving out of mom and pop stores: these have been the main issueson the UWS the past few years. And yet the “more luxury condos” crowd has failed to even field a candidate.

              Get out there, boys!! You are so confident you represent a majority. Watch the masses flock to your side!

              Your platform:

              1) upzone and allow more luxury high rises. No requirements for affordable housing.

              2) fast track all permits for luxury development.

              3) phase out all rent regulations — all rent stabilization — as quickly as possible.

              4) get rid of supportive housing.

              5) and while we’re at it, privatize public housing.

              do you REALLY think that West Siders would vote for that sort of platform?

              or maybe you don’t have confidence in your own belief system?

            • Jay says:

              Ugh… same old tired rhetoric from bruce…

              You sure do like to talk for other people.

              Why can’t you answer a simple question? Why would the Metro Theater owner put their money behind Debbie’s proposal when they have rejected several other actual business proposals over the years, especially when Symphony Space is a short walk away?

              It’s not a hard question. You’d be helping Debbie out with her business plan (she needs help, anyway).

            • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

              Jay continues to make ad hominem attacks (“same old tired rhetoric.”) I notice you didn’t dispute any of my “platform items” for the luxury condo fans’ mythical candidate. what the Real Estate crowd has been advocating is pretty clear… and pretty brutal to tens of thousands of West Siders.

              You may consider it “tired rhetoric” — nice that you have that luxury, as it apparently doesn’t affect you — but as we speak, hundreds and even thousands of West Siders who live in rent stabilized apartments are being harassed by their landlords, who want to make the spaces market rate.

              Jay said:

              “Why would the Metro Theater owner put their money behind Debbie’s proposal when they have rejected several other actual business proposals over the years, especially when Symphony Space is a short walk away?”

              Symphony Space rarely features movies, in the Thalia space. It is a live theater, not a movie theater.

              anyhow, the neighborhood can clearly support both Deborah’s plan and Symphony Space.

              why would the landlord reach a deal with her? first of all, i don’t know if she has a real proposal just yet. Second, unlike you, i don’t know what happened with Alamo Draft Housea and the other a”actual business plans.” Maybe you are a Real Estate guy with inside info, or maybe you are just bluffing. I have no way of knowing.

              Maybe Alamo pulled out, not the landlord. Maybe they figured the neighborhood could not support fancy high end stuff. Third, Deborah might have serious tax advantages, including for the landlord, by putting a not for profit there. Fourth, the landlord might be tired of it standing empty for years. How many years now since Alamo Draft House was going to go in? 3 or 4?

              But i have little idea of what the landlord thinks. And i assume neither do you. So why pooh-pooh Deborah’s initiative? Unless you WANT her to fail?

              More power to her. Go Deborah!

          • Sherman says:

            Hi Bruce

            “Most UWSers are tired of ultra-high priced luxury condos”

            Yawn.

            I guess you know this because you took a poll according to the strictest scientific methods.

            The folks who buy these allegedly “ultra-high priced luxury condos” are the people who support and subsidize NYC’s cultural institutions for all NYC residents. The folks living here off entitlements are likely not big charitable donors to the cultural scene.

            Sherm

            • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

              Sherman says:

              “The folks who buy these allegedly “ultra-high priced luxury condos” are the people who support and subsidize NYC’s cultural institutions for all NYC residents. The folks living here off entitlements are likely not big charitable donors to the cultural scene.”

              this is a totally obtuse comment.

              First of all, you don’t seem to understand what an “entitlement program” is. I assume you are talking about rent-stabilized tenants. This is not an “entitlement program.” Entitlement programs are Social Security, medicare, Medicaid, various types of veterans benefits, food stamps… government benefits.

              So since many of these rich donors are seniors, presumably they get Medicare and thus ARE indeed “entitlement” recipients. yes, even the rich can and do use Medicare!

              But i think you are referring to rent-stabilization. This is a price regulation system, not an “entitlement”. Another price regulation system you might be familiar with is electricity. Electrical rates are regulated. And there are many other types of price regulation systems that are used in the US.

              I am continually surprised by how so many “expert” commenters on WSR don’t understand the simplest economic concepts, such as what an “entitlement program” is. They don’t seem to understand how most housing in NYC is provided.

              Second, it is ironic that you seem to be bemoaning the lack of contribution of rent stabilized tenants to cultural institutions in NYC.

              Who do you think the PERFORMERS are? Before my building went condo, it was a haven for performers, artists, and musicians of all types. We have an opera singer, many actors, a working comedian, a working professional clown(!), and on and on, including painters. When it went condo, the number of performers and artists went down — they were priced out. Most cultural worker are not millionaires.

              You seem to only have eyes for the contributions to NY of the very rich.

      • dannyboy says:

        Thanks. I am off to see a film there today.

    13. Charlie Bates says:

      “The following week, they plan to showcase films based on the work of Philip Roth.”

      That should be appreciated by those nostalgic for the old Times Sq….

    14. Phil Hall says:

      So glad!

    15. FilmBuff says:

      I miss Lincoln Plaza terribly and I encourage the establishment of a New Lincoln Plaza. I look forward to supporting this endeavor. I hope the selection of future films will be on a par with the sensitivity,intelligence and artistry that Toby and Dan Talbot exhibited.

    16. robert miller says:

      The Metro theater on the inside has completely Gutted many years ago & nothing is left for the use of movie theater. Only the outside was not destroyed.

    17. DEBORAH ROSENBERG says:

      https://www.gofundme.com/bring-back-the-metro-movie-theater?sharetype=teams&member=276284&rcid=r01-152841193461-027312b8a3184ea2&pc=em_co_campmgmt_w

      HI,
      I HAVE BEEN WORKING WITH THE OWNER OF THE METRO MOVIE THEATER AND MANY OTHERS INCLUDING WELL KNOWN PERFORMERS WHO LIVE IN THE AREA TO MAKE THE METRO HAPPEN. AND I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO REACH OUT TO YOUR FOR AGES BUT NOBODY HAS RESPONDED TO MY TEXTS.
      PLEASE CONTACT ME AT: DEBBIE.ROSENBERG@GMAIL.COM OR: 917-319-1379. WE CAN DO THIS TOGETHER!

      • Sean says:

        What a bunch of absolute nonsense? The UWS isn’t dying. Get a big screen TV and Netflix and invite a few friends over.

    18. I have been working with Al Bialek and the Metro Movie Theater as well as the likes of Mandy Patinkin and investors for months and have been trying to reach out to all of you without any success.

      Please contact me: Debbie.rosenberg@gmail.com/917-319-1379

    19. I have been working with Al Bialek, actors in the area and investors and have gotten farther than anyone expected and I have been trying and trying to combine efforts with the Lincoln Plaza Group, but to no avail.

      Can someone PLEASE contact me.
      We can really to this together.

    20. Gretchen says:

      The new Landmark Theater at 657 W. 57th St. (between 11th & 12th Ave.) is also a great place for indie films. Even though it’s a little further away, it’s easy to get there via the M-57 bus.

    21. Hi,

      I have been working with Al Bialek for months in the hopes of resurrecting the Metro Movie Theater. The hope is to have an indie theater and performance space
      that will reinvigorate the UWS and be the very theater the Lincoln Plaza was and more. In this case, we have the support of the owner and the community is strong. I am hoping we can pool our resources, but have had a hard time reaching the group. The Metro Movie theater even has architectural plans in place and a few investors. Can we get together on this? Can someone reach me? Debbie Rosenberg 917-319-1379

    22. Harriet Feldman says:

      I have friends in the neighborhood and others spread throughout the city, we all greatly miss our “Lincoln Plaza “. We hope we will soon have a theatre that will provide us with comparable joy.

    23. Carol Brier says:

      I’m all in for this. The loss of the Lincoln Plaza theater was devastating.

    24. Mignon Reik says:

      Waiting to hear from you as to how I can help.

    25. dannyboy says:

      The West Side Rag (“Online neighborhood news sites constantly pass on rumors about what the Metro is likely to become, but nothing has materialized.”) and Jerry get’s quoted (“‘I was really hoping for another bank or chain drug store, or a combination bank/chain drug store,’ read one reply to the latest conjecture.” here: https://harpers.org/archive/2018/07/the-death-of-new-york-city-gentrification/