Daily News (New York)
November 26, 2010 Friday
SPORTS FINAL EDITION/ SUBURBAN; Pg. 39
Dilapidated Ridgewood Theatre to hawk food over films
BY NICHOLAS HIRSHON DAILY NEWS WRITER
A LANDMARKED Queens movie theater that opened during World War I and became the longest continuously operated theater in the nation will be transformed into an Associated supermarket, the Daily News has learned.
The Ridgewood Theatre – shuttered since 2008 – will turn from film to food next year, changing its use for the first time since the Myrtle Ave. mainstay opened in 1916, sources said.
"Oy!" exclaimed Orlando Lopes of the Theatre Historical Society of America. "A part of history is lost, and that is really terribly sad."
The movie house earned city landmark status this year, protecting its ornate facade from alterations or demolition. Insiders insist its stage and grand staircase are beyond repair.
Still, the sale raises questions about the site’s future.
Associated can’t change the exterior without city approval, but it can wreck the largely intact lobby and other interior attributes of the two-story venue.
Harry Laufer, president of the Long Island-based chain, estimated the store will open in "maybe six months." But he said he did not know the renovation plans of franchisee Tony Guzman.
Guzman’s attorney did not return calls seeking comment.
The Ridgewood survived the advent of the TV, VCR and DVD during an epic run that began on Dec. 23, 1916. Designed by renowned architect Thomas Lamb, the 2,000-seat theater initially ran films and vaudeville acts.
The theater was expanded into a five-screen multiplex in 1980. It closed in 2008 amid competition from a new multiplex at the Shops at Atlas Park, a mall in nearby Glendale.
When real estate agent Tony Montalbano bought the theater that year, he said he wanted to run films on its second floor and lease the ground level for stores. He later admitted he was struggling to find a movie operator.
The city designated the Beaux-Arts structure a landmark in January, crediting The News for "crusading" reports that had alerted city officials to the building.
Before reaching a deal with Associated, Montalbano fielded poorly financed pitches for housing, a church, a laundermat and a parking facility, sources said.
Laufer said that Guzman runs other local supermarkets. Associated already boasts three stores in Ridgewood and dozens of others in the city, Long Island, upstate New York and New Jersey.