[EVG photo from December]
After months of speculation, the Post confirmed that the Sunshine Cinema on East Houston between Eldridge and Forsyth will close in January when its lease expires.
The 30,000-square-foot building at 139 E. Houston St. has been sold for $31.5 million to developers East End Capital and K Property Group, which will convert it to a mixed-use development with retail and upstairs office space. The site includes 20,000 square feet of air rights.
There has been speculation about the long-term health of the six-screen theater since it arrived on the market in May 2015.
Perhaps Community Board 3 set in motion this loss. Per the Post:
Landmark had a right of first refusal to buy the building and wanted to serve dinner with its flicks, but that idea was flushed after a full liquor license was rejected in 2012 by the community board.
CB3 would only approve a license for beer and wine. Here's coverage of that 2012 CB3 meeting via The Lo-Down:
Residents in attendance at last night’s meeting expressed serious concerns about the application in an area already teeming with nightlife activity. While most everyone treasures the Sunshine as a community resource, they said the idea of licensing a 700-person venue is more than a little scary. Both the Eldridge Street and East 1st Street block associations would prefer a wine-and-beer-only permit. Lori Greenberg, an Eldridge Street resident, asked what would happen if the Sunshine is sold to a new owner operating a mainstream theater showing action films and other blockbusters?
Given the air rights available here, the speculation is that the property will be developed into more luxury housing. Upon hearing the news, one EVG reader told me, "I find it hard to believe this will not become a huge apartment complex. I can't think of any large retail store that would thrive in this area."
Bill Thompson, senior vice president of theatrical sales at international arthouse distributor Cohen Media Group (who just reopened the Quad Cinema on 13th Street) told IndieWire last December: "I think everyone is expecting that the building itself is going to end up becoming a high rise."
I like the Sunshine Cinema and will be sorry to see it go. Of late, though, I've been going there less and less with the arrival of the Metrograph down on Ludlow and the recent reopening of the Quad Cinema on 13th Street... not to mention the standbys like the Anthology Film Archives on Second Street and Second Avenue plus, a little further away, the Film Forum and the IFC Center. And I always enjoy seeing movies at the Village East Cinema on Second Avenue at 12th Street. (Added: And the Angelika Film Center and Cinema Village.)
As for the Sunshine, it opened in 2001 after Landmark spent $12 million gut renovating the building that dates to 1898 (and 1838 by some estimates).
Here's Cinema Treasures with more history:
The entertainment beginnings of this building came in 1909 when it opened as the Houston Hippodrome, a venue for Yiddish vaudeville acts and films.
In 1917, the theatre’s ownership changed and the 600-seat venue was renamed the Sunshine Theatre. In the late-1930’s it was renamed Chopin Theatre. The theatre closed in 1945 and had been used as a storage warehouse into the mid-1990s.
The building was never landmarked.