The Forum West & South
Thursday, July 15, 2010
On Myrtle Avenue, an iconic landmark sits dark and vacant as it awaits the next chapter of its long and storied history.
The Ridgewood Theatre, considered the longest running theater in the nation before closing in 2008, is now on the market for $3.4 million. The theatre is listed exclusively with Massey Knakal Realty Services.
“Given the location, sheer size and proximity of it makes it desirable for many different uses,” said Thomas Donovan, with Massey Knakal. “The zoning is very flexible and it’s an underserved community with the potential of something special.”
While it is unclear what will happen to the space, one theater enthusiast is weighing in on what he would like to see the theater become. “I would love to see it open as a performing arts center and retaining the cultural and architectural structure,” said Michael Perlman, chairman of Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre. “It would pay tribute to such a gem while serving the outlying community. A performing arts center would also help create much needed jobs in the community.”
The three-story, 53,238-square-foot building first opened in December 1916 and was designed by famed architect Thomas W. Lamb to serve Ridgewood and surrounding neighborhoods. Perlman says that as cinema evolved, the theater served as one of the vehicles through which the evolution of film became visible.
Over the years the theater showed Down To The Sea In Ships (1923) and Lights of New York (1928), the first all-talking movie, among other classic films.
“It was one of the earlier theaters in the state to show movies in Technicolor,” said Perlman.
In 2008, the theater abruptly closed its doors and signs advertising it as retail space were hung across the marquee.
“I was stunned and very disheartened when it closed in 2008,” Perlman said. “I didn’t want another historic theater to shutter and go through demolition.”
Since then, the theater has remained closed. In 2009, the owner announced that theater would re-open, with three screens on the upper level and shops on the first level, according to cinematreasures.org. However, those plans fell through and the cinema has remained vacant.
In January 2010, the Landmark Preservation Commission voted unanimously to designate the outside façade of the building as a landmark. Perlman, who spearheaded that effort, is also working with The Friends of the Ridgewood Theater to have the inside designated as a landmark.
Whatever the outcome, Perlman said he hopes that “traces of history” from the theater won’t be erased.
“It merits preservation, creative adoptive reuse,” he said. “It deserves far better.”