Update on Cinema: Plans for Site Uncertain; BHA Weighs In

Brooklyn Heights Cinema owner Kenn Lowy tells us he has heard that landlord Tom Caruana and his architect, who have withdrawn their appication for a hearing at the upcoming Landmarks Preservation Commission meeting, are evaluating options for the site. Mr. Lowy also said that the Brooklyn Heights Association has taken a strong stand against demolition of the building that houses the Cinema.

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  • Ginny

    Probably won’t happen but It would be great if someone could do a really interesting, maybe retro, renovation (re-do the interior adding some “bling”), in keeping with the landmark codes, of course, but really make it a destination. Are there original, red bricks under the facade? Just a thought.

  • stuart

    fewer and fewer people go to the movies any more. No way an arty film cinema can be financially viable in this location. This one is heavily subsidized by the building owner. It’s done.

  • Curmudgeon

    @Stuart – Are you a real estate magnate or something? It seems you are overly concerned about turning this site into condos and are saying anything you can to denigrate the theater. Your comments always accentuate the negative, making it clear that you have more than just a passing interest in the matter. What’s your real interest in this site?

  • stuart

    curmudgeon, take your medicine, it’s almost bedtime.

  • Knight

    @Curmudgeon: I don’t know Stuart from Adam but to me his remarks show him to be a realist. I love having the theater where it is and I appreciate the kinds of films it showcases, but I rarely patronize it myself. In this economy, a theater like this just isn’t viable. It’s sad but true.

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    Why would the BHA be involved in telling a property owner what he can with his property? Don’t we have a Landmarks Preservation Commission to advise and consent in these matters?

    Anyone who walks by this building has to know that it has little, if any, architectural significance. I have lived in the North Brooklyn Heights section for 32 years and this space along with the Brooklyn Daily Eagle building (finally getting rid of) and the 3 contiguous buildings that make up Fascati’s, Fortune House and the souvlaki place are eye sores. If memory serves me right, this building was built in 1945 and has housed a 99 cents store, a bodega and since the 70’s a movie theater.

    Movie theaters have evolved into spectacles with 3D, large screens, sound systems that transport one to other dimensions. The fact is this theater can’t compete. Of course, I have great admiration for Ken but this is the 21st century and this theater is still offering services that may have been competitive in the early 80’s. Let’s get real.

    The taxes that this site could generate by going condo would be very helpful providing services for many of the poor we all care about. You may call me the optimist but I’m confident a nice structure of 4-5 stories would replace this building and help bring residents that would support our local businesses.

    Really folks, next time you walk pass this building, take a good look and look at the giant ugly air condition/heating system on the roof and tell me this isn’t an eyesore. We can do better. Why Jane and Judy want to get involved in this is beyond me. Can someone with more knowledge than I please explain the historical significance of this building to me? It is not like it is a 19th century clapboard house or the Plymouth Church. If I’m wrong, please correct me. I admit I may be missing something.

  • stuart

    Karl, it doesn’t have to be a clapboard house or Plymouth Church to be of historic significance. You know that.
    The BHA reviews all major proposals that appear at the Landmarks Commission public hearings. They are called “public hearings” because the public is invited to take part. Anyone reading this who can make the time to go to the Municipal Building can make a statement. The BHA does so on behalf of the neighborhood the same way as is done by groups from Greenwich Village, SoHo, Upper East Side, etc etc. The BHA’s statement is not binding, it is merely an opinion meant to inform the eleven landmarks commissioners who are the decision makers.

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    Got ya. Thanks for the clarification.

  • Luke C

    While I agree that the build itself is pretty nondescript, the sight of a theater’s marquee adds value and variety to the commercial strip along Henry Street. While modernization is inevitable, Brooklyn Heights property values trade on (among other things), a feeling of a complete neighborhood. This feeling has been eroded by the ridiculous rents of Montague that have driven out independent merchants. With each loss of business diversity, we’re diminishing the North Height’s quality of life.

    The 10-20 new apartments that a 5-story building will add to the population are insignificant for commerce. By the time the building gets built (2, 3, 8 years later? judging by others in the nabe) the Jehovah Witnesses will easily have turned over as many apartments in the neighborhood.

  • stuart

    the building that houses the cinema was built in the 1890’s, believe it or not. It has been modified numerous times. It will ultimately be up to the landmarks commission to decide whether it is a protected “contributing” building, or just a pile of old bricks.

  • Jorale-man

    @Luke, agreed. It’s not really about the architectural significance of the building. It’s that having a theater for smart indie films should be a point of pride for the neighborhood. I much prefer the quirky experience of BH Cinema over the big multiplexes (i.e. Court Street) where 3D spectacles, romantic comedies and teen-driven flicks are most what you’ll get.

    Yes, there’s still BAM, Angelika and the Sunshine Cinema a few subway stops away, but it’s nice to have a theater in the neighborhood (and it does add some personality to Henry Street). Is it the most attractive building around? Not particularly, but a slick new condo isn’t going to leave space for independent films either.

  • Karl Junkersfeld


    What is your source for the 1890 number? I’d appreciate it. Hard to believe.

    Just found this estimate on Property Shark:


  • Karl Junkersfeld

    Here is another source both agreeing with my 1040 number.


  • Karl Junkersfeld

    Correction 1940, must have taxes on the mind. flickr link mentions Ridgeton Poultry. Does that ring a bell with anyone? Apparently it was a poultry facility at one time. News to me. Even McBrooklyn was perplexed: