Friday, November 10, 2017

The end is nearing for the Sunshine Cinema


[EVG photo from August]

It's getting closer for the end credits to roll at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema on East Houston.

As The Lo-Down first reported yesterday, the new owners of the building housing the theater have filed demolition permits to take down the three-level structure here between Eldridge and Forsyth.

Back in May, the Post reported that East End Capital and K Property Group bought the building for $31.5 million with plans to convert it to a mixed-use development with retail and upstairs office space. The site includes 20,000 square feet of air rights.

First sign of the impending new development came in August when workers were taking soil samples...


[EVG photo from Aug. 10]

Landmark reportedly had the opportunity to buy the property, but decided against it after CB3 voted down a proposal for a full liquor license for a cafe in the theater in 2012 for pre- and post-movie drinks and dinner.

Landmark instead decided to invest in a state-of-the-art theater (with an adjoining bar-cafe) that recently opened on West 57th Street.

The Sunshine is expected to close in early 2018. No date has been set. As of now, the Sunshine website lists midnight movies scheduled through Jan. 27 with a possible grand finale of "Dog Day Afternoon."

And a little history of the theater/building, via its website:

Opened December 21, 2001. Built in 1898, the Sunshine Cinema building was formerly the Houston Hippodrome motion picture theatre and a Yiddish vaudeville house but for over 50 years it had been shuttered serving as a hardware warehouse. Landmark has restored the theatre back to its artistic roots and now offers the art-house film lover five state-of-the-art screens dedicated to first-run independent and foreign film as well as non-traditional studio programming...

Given the numerous alterations through the years, the building was never deemed landmark-worthy by the city.

Anyway, I've been taking a few photos each time that I visited the theater in recent months, such as when I was the only person in the auditorium for a screening of "Wetlands" in September...













... and one day maybe...


[East End Capital]

The East End Capital website states that "ground breaking is expected in the second quarter of 2018."

For what?

While pursuing tenants interested in utilizing the structure in its current form, work is also underway for a new, best-in-class office building with retail at the base – a first in the rapidly evolving Lower East Side.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

This makes me sick to my stomach :(

Anonymous said...

Ironically the CB3 refuses a full liquor license to a cultural establishment will handing them out to every themed bar and restaurant who's goal is to ensure another generation addicted to alcohol. Besides loses a fantastic building which must be unique in NYC we loose a theatre where people not into comic book heroes could catch a movie.

RJJNY said...

Hope they keep the structure, but sounds more like it'll be another addition to the East Houston corridor of hideousness.

Always post this Salt n'Pepa video when the building gets mentioned, because it's the only glimpse of the pre-cinema insides that I know of - you can see what I guess is the original sun rising logo on the back wall around the 1:20 mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gocu9N6k6as

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why city doesn't do a deal like they did for theater of new city
let developer build a few more floors in exchange for keep the first floors a theater

Downtowner said...

I remember seeing the movie Comedian back here on Halloween in 2002, less than a year after it opened. Was such a joy to have an arthouse theatre in the neighborhood. I saw a number of other films there over the years, and it's sad that a place like this will be lost. Both for the theatre and the historic building itself.

This community board should be ashamed of itself.

Donnie Moder said...

Sunshine art house movies house business plan usurped by Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. It is a pretty and quirky structure, but what makes the $$$$?. Chains. Tourist traps. Banks. Tall boxy structures.

Anonymous said...

Well,Sunshine cinema may be gone, but at least we have Moxie Hotel and multiple new bars whoo

Anonymous said...

This sucks. I've been patronizing this theater since I moved to the EV in 2010. I love this theater. What a loss for our community.

29YearsanEVresident said...

CB 3 is a disaster. They misdirect their anxiety about bars in the area and hold up a cultural asset like this over worries about establishing a new license, all the while they have no strategy about the abuse of existing license. So they do something stupid like this denial in order to give the appearance that they are being responsive to the larger, not dismissible issue.

With the growth of in home streaming, movie theaters will only survive as enriched experiences. That's what is driving the growth of large reserved seats theaters and dining and drinking cinema like at Alamo Drafthouse, IPic, and Metorgraph etc.

When a cheaply constructed utilitarian mediocrity rises on the site, don't forget who is to blame.

"Landmark reportedly had the opportunity to buy the property, but decided against it after CB3 voted down a proposal for a full liquor license for a cafe in the theater in 2012 for pre- and post-movie drinks and dinner."

Tell Gale Brewer to appoint people who realize it's 2017, not 1987.

Anonymous said...

What a shame, this is a huge loss. Sunshine was interesting and useful, only to get replaced by something boring and mind-numbing. Landmark did a great job with the restoration and, sadly, I doubt we'll see a project like this happen again any time soon.

Giovanni said...

I guess I really need to go see one last movie there so I can use that free popcorn coupon from the time the air conditioning broke down in the middle of a heatwave. It is a quirky theater, and that’s what we will miss. The multiplexes are soulless caverns, full of texting teenagers and superhero movies. They don’t show the kind of indie cinema that actually makes you think. I guess that’s the whole point.

Anonymous said...

Thoroughly depressing!!!!

cmarrtyy said...

It just shows how sad and pathetic the community board is when they turn down a liquor license for Sunshine when they(and the SLA) give them out like mints in a coffee shop. This is Gale Brewer in action. This is the level of smarts on the part of the individuals appointed to carry her water and Mayor Bill's bucket of progressive politics. THIS IS POLITICS IN 2017. And we're stuck with these losers for 4 more years. So sad.

Anonymous said...

This theater offers homage to venues who showcase independent features and that cater to the locals. When a gem such as Sunshine is expunged from our community, it places value on greed and commercialism rather than a unique destination like no other. How many fucking office/retail buildings does this city need? This is the LES after all. Sunshine contributes and adds so much to our hood. I am gutted to hear this. Total bullshit. NYC is morphing into something I fail to recognize no longer :(

EV Grieve said...

Giovanni,

I like how a Sunshine staff member will come into the auditoriums and greet theatergoers right before the previews.

The last few times the staffer did NOT say that he or she would return 30 minutes into the movie to check the sound of the film and the temperature in the theater! They haven't been mentioning the midnight movies either... just reminding us to turn off our smartphones.

Anonymous said...

Really gonna miss this joint. Would come in for a late afternoon/early evening show on my weekday days off just before the night's eatin' n' boozin'. Would be moderately low key and didn't have to worry about crowds ruining the watching with their smartphones glaring or going off. Had the best restrooms in the city.

My favorite watch here was Miyazaki's Spirited Away back in the day. It was a full house, but the audience didn't make a peep except to laugh at the funny moments and the seats were so plush. Ambient theater temperature was just right, neither hot nor cold. I was literally taken somewhere else in total comfort and hated to leave at movie's end.

Sayonara, good times.

Anonymous said...

So it was the lack of a liquor license, and not $31.5 million cash, that made them decide to sell? How many movie tickets and drinks would they need to sell to realize $31.5 million net present value profit over an investment horizon of, say, 10 years? How has their competitive position changed with new and refurbished theatres competing for the serious movie crowd, along with the ubiquitous Netflix etc. I am very sorry to lose the Sunshine but tired of liquor licenses (awarded or not awarded) being the excuse for every bad thing that happens in the neighborhood.

Giovanni said...

I think the ushers still do that at a few other theaters, as well as during the Tribeca Film Festival. It’s actaully more effective at calming down the audience than the pre-taped announcements. It’s sad they have to actually tell people to behave themselves, but in a world where Louis C.K. just figured out today that it’s not OK to get naked and frisky in front of random people, and where Kevin Spacey and President WTF think it’s ok to grab people’s private parts, I guess it’s necessary to inform the public about basic manners. The Sunshine was one of the few places where people already seemed to know how to behave themselves.

chris flash said...

This is happening only because the city is giving the owner open-ended zoning variances that allow them to build as high as they want to.

Restrictive zoning would stop this from happening, but that would require non-corrupt city officials and those that gave a SHIT about our community. Unfortunately, they ARE and they DON'T.

May they all rot in hell....

Anonymous said...

It is sad to see this theater go I liked seeing independent films there like The Last Shaman and after the film the director and star of the movie came out to the stage for a question and answer session. It was unexpected and great, we got to ask them all types of questions about the film Where else where you see that? Certainly not in those soulless movie multiplexes playing the same junky horror and action films that are mind numming....this is a real loss to NYC.

Anonymous said...

And on the of the list is DeBlasio.

sophocles said...

I saw Man On A Wire, the story of Philip Petit's incredible 1974 tightrope walk between the World Trade Center Towers when they were being built. Petit fielded questions afterwards. It's one of my favorite documentaries. I agree with annonymous that cocktails wouldn't have saved the Sunshine when 31.5 million is on the table. It's interesting that they didn't present a community support petition when they were initially seeking a license. If you can't get 200 "neighbors" to sign a petition for one more bar you're not trying. So maybe they weren't trying?

Anonymous said...

Had a lovely afternoon two weeks ago with a narrow-release film not found in every cineplex, followed by a stop at Yonah Schimmel for a fresh knish. Isn't that why we live here?

Anonymous said...

I am starting to mourn. So incredibly sad. I feel like a piece of EV's fabric is being torn from us. I guess everything is and will always be about money. Bloody hell.

Anonymous said...

What will the LES/EV be without Sunshine Cinema? Its such a beloved venue that houses better films than the suburban multiplexes in Union and Times Square. Great. Another hit for our hood. This blows.

Anonymous said...

Film Forum, IFC Center, Metrograph, Angelika Theater, Quad Cinemas, Cinema Village, Cinema Village East. All is not lost - support these existing gems!

EV Grieve said...

Agreed, 12:55!

Also, the Anthology Film Archives!

Anonymous said...

Re: 9:19am “Idon't understand why city doesn't do a deal like they did for theater of new city let developer build a few more floors in exchange for keep the first floors a theater”

Because that was a horrible deal for the community. Theatre for the New City got next to nothing for their air rights and the community now has to look at that eyesore forever. Not that anything worthwhile ever came out of them.

Sunshine could have allowed a few stories to be built above and stayed open but they got greedy.

Anonymous said...

So this beautiful, unique (for the area) building is not LANDMARKED???