‘Something Big’ Is Coming to the Historic Metro Theater as Owner Files New Permits

The Metro Theater on Broadway between 99th and 100th Streets has sat empty for more than a decade, but a new permit filing with the city Department of Buildings hints at changes ahead.

The permit is to turn the movie theater, which opened in 1933 as the Midtown Theater, into a retail space. But the exact nature of the retail wasn’t specified.

When reached by phone, owner Albert Bialek offered a tantalizing promise with limited details.

“Something big is happening at the Metro Theater,” Bialek told West Side Rag. “I can’t give you details, but we’re in advance talks, working very intensely on it…celebrities involved…and it fits right in with the new zoning regulations – we have no zoning issues. It will be a very special use for the theater, not a theater but something tangential…you’ll like it.”

Bialek has considered doing this before, and the last time plans were discussed they were to turn the theater into a gym run by Blink Fitness. But those plans never came to fruition.

Before that, the Metro was supposed to become a new Alamo Drafthouse, run by a theater chain from Texas that serves food. But those plans also petered out in 2013 after the Alamo had done significant renovation work. The Metro was the last survivor of the old Upper West Side moviehouses. But it hasn’t shown movies since 2005.

Thanks to our tipster Upper West Sider.

The Metro back when it played movies.

NEWS | 49 comments | permalink
    1. Alex says:

      do not tease me about this

    2. Molly says:

      Retail? No! Bring back the movie theater!!

    3. UWSHebrew says:

      “celebrities involved”…please no Planet Hollywood or Nobu!

    4. Native Upper West Sider says:

      Retail? This is sad. I don’t want the UWS to continue to morph into a suburban strip mall. It would be nice to have an actual movie theatre in the neighborhood. It could be used to screen films post covid-19. Don’t let it become another retail store! It’s a shame it closed in the first place. Erosion of the arts & cultural institutions on the UWS. Community board should note this.

    5. Jim says:

      Yeah, sure

    6. Mark Moore says:

      I’ll believe it when I see it.

    7. Emile Barrios says:

      You had me at “celebrities involved.” 🙂

    8. woodcider says:

      After the Alamo deal fell through, I’ve stopped caring. So incredibly disappointed about that one.

    9. mkmuws says:

      Alamo would have been amazing. I’m skeptical and can’t imagine anything good enough to get too hopeful about, but fingers crossed. It definitely shouldn’t stay idle. Thanks for the update.

    10. Pat Harbison says:

      I sincerely hope & pray that they bring back all the wonderful movies which our Upper West Side needs and deserves since the Cinema at Lincoln Square has been closed down for such a long time & we really miss it!!!
      I have been a long time, very active resident of the Upper West Side since 1972 & I miss all the benefits of living and successfully selling real estate on the UWS.

    11. No reason the owner would do anything positive for a neighborhood he’s neglected for so long says:

      The theater has been a blight in the neighborhood for years and years. No reason the owner would do anything positive for a neighborhood he’s neglected for so long. Don’t get your hopes up!

    12. Louisa Cabot says:

      How about a Black Box Theatre as part of the plan!

    13. Retail Skeptic says:

      While this is a landmark sort of building, and I hope for the best, it’s hard for me to believe that a retail business can survive around here, given all the empty, boarded up storefronts – many of which will stay vacant in the current retail apocalypse.

    14. Jean Siegel says:

      Would make a nice classy DECO themed restaurant.

    15. CityGirl57 says:

      why can’t we have a decent movie house ? I heard the Extel towers have their screening rooms in the glass building ..sort of obnoxious as the public movie theater has sat empty for so long…please something for a cross section of this community and not something just to cater to the mall ambiance that is taking over …we will see, many rumors in the past never came to fruition ..

    16. Suzanne Bonser says:

      I never understood why Columbia U. did not buy the METRO and turn it into a venue where students could show their films! Students could run it and show art films and rent it out for movie premiers, the way SVA did with the theatre on West 23rd St.

    17. Bob Leonard says:

      I’m thinking that a trendy food court would make a ton of sense for the neighborhood. Of course, this dude could screw the pooch. Again.

    18. lex says:

      this shouldn’t be a retail place, there isn’t much business for that in the area, take a look at stores across the street that have all closed (urban outfitters, mandee, etc.) It would be great if it was turned into a movie theatre or a venue.

    19. Ark says:

      The comments on zoning are mysterious if not suspect. What are the new regulations the landlord referred to?

    20. dp says:

      Was kind of hoping that this would become a second location of the Metrograph (even the marquee would be easy to change) though that was a total pipe dream. Bummed that it won’t remain a theater, in any event.

    21. Robert W. says:

      I was just saying yesterday, as I walked past, “I’d love to buy that place, renovate, and turn it into a live theater house. There are literally hundreds of small to mid-sized theater companies that would kill for another venue to perform at…and they could actually say they literally performed on Broadway!

    22. Abe Goteiner says:

      I grew up on 99th between Broadway and Amsterdam in the 60s and saw this building every day of my young life. Went through a lot of transitions. Am very interested to see what’s in store for it in the future.

    23. ben says:

      I wouldn’t get my hopes up on this being a theater again soon. Certainly not a great business idea in today’s corona-environment.

    24. David Ochoa says:

      Lost me @ ‘celebrities involved.’ Unless shown on the silver screen.

    25. Maxine Spector says:

      I loved the metro theater, and hope it would emerge again. Fond memories remembering eating at the Metro Diner and then going over to the movie theater to see “Master and Commander”. Fun

    26. Gabriel Distler says:

      It would be a waisted opportunity if this just became more retail spaces especially with so much empty retail space in the area. It would be better if this was used as some kind of theater whether it be a movie theater or a live performance venue.

    27. ST says:

      Hope it is a theater. Maybe Netflix or Amazon need a place to show their product so they can be eligible for Oscar contention.

      • geoff says:

        Netflix leased, and by doing so, saved, The Paris on 59th Street, by the Plaza Hotel. It is now their showcase, qualifying films for Oscar nomination.

    28. Stu says:

      Lol. Don’t believe a word Bialik spews. Nothing is happening there. Celebrities. Im still laughing.

    29. chuck d says:

      Blink Baulked. Alamo said “forget it.”

      No way anything will open there. The new tenant will get in there and see how badly this decrepit eyesore has deteriorated and walk away from the expense.

      This building should’ve been raised years ago.

    30. Carole Tain Soskin says:

      Truth is we need a movie theater, not Bloomingde’s or such. A theater could show .movies for kids early on a Saturday or Sunday and movies for the rest of us other times. Many families would appreciate that in this neighborhood.

    31. tim says:

      I saw the last movie screened there, was around mid-2005, some supernatural thriller. With the scaffolding from the condo construction next door, the theater couldn’t survive and shut down (remember the gristedes across the street, when the brick wall tumbled down onto the sidewalk…?!). Lots of false starts over the years, including Alamo project, gym, etc. Ironic that admist the corona devastation something might actually happen. Movie or multipurpose theater would be great, we’ll see.

    32. Alex says:

      lincoln square cinema was getting overpriced and seedy no great loss. uws side needs alamo drafthouse type theater badly

      • lynn says:

        Of course Lincoln Square Theater was a great loss. What does one have to do with the other? It would benefit everyone to have a new film or theater venue in both of those spaces.

    33. Gary Dennis says:

      The exterior was landmarked,the interior wasn’t. To make sure that landmarking of the interior did not happen, the space was gutted. The gutting of the space compromised the structure. Before they opened (and now closed) directly across Broadway, Urban Outfitters looked at the space. So did Sephora as well as Alamo. Everyone found the status of the structure to be an expensive fix.

      The Metro,the last of an era,was not the greatest theater in this town. But it was the last theater on Broadway north of the Beacon until Loew’s 175th

      • Jimmy says:

        The only solution is to have the city take it by eminent domain and make it performance space to be shared by the local schools and colleges to showcase young talent. The building has no value once its air rights were sold to extell to build next door.

    34. Omar says:

      Does anyone have any pictures of the old movie theater, I use to work at the small electronic repair store right by the theater. I would love to see more pictures. Or even the store I worked in. 🙂

    35. rita gazarik says:

      wonderful news. As a long term westsider I have actually gone to movies at the Metro! It has a beautiful facade and I hope that is retained

    36. jd says:

      It would be nice if someone could turn this into a local playhouse/ movie theater.

    37. grandmasterbeta says:

      Look if it’s going to be retail, an open market would be pretty cool. Even an Urban Space food hall would be nice.

    38. Laurence P. Mitchell says:

      It’s sad to say but I don’t think a movie theatre is feasible right now. First of all this is a small space and movie-goers don’t want to be cramped in next to possible carriers of the virus. Don’t wax poetic about the old theatre- it had wooden seats and was beyond uncomfortable. It was one theatre that was divided into two. That said I did see some incredible movies there. “Freaks” gave me nightmares for months!

      In my dreams, it would be a great night club a la Studio 54. We need more fun in this neighborhood!

    39. az says:

      The “renovation” that was started is heartbreaking. There are no vestiges of a theater inside – it looks like a demolition site. Making it into a theater again is not likely.

    40. Jay says:

      I…am not feeling tantalized.

    41. K8 says:

      Still heartbroken Alamo Drafthouse fell through. Retail is hardly an exciting substitute.

    42. Ira Gershenhorn says:

      Would be useful as a bike parking lot.

    43. Carolyn says:

      If I had the money I would have loved to have converted it to a little opera/ballet house for small little opera companies and dance companies which used to be plentiful years ago, and who performed in church basements, store fronts, parking lots. It could have been a “home” for them with room for props, dressing rooms, and a small enough venue to encourage up coming artists – remember Amato Opera????