Feds: Heights Cinema owner was Ponzi schemer

Little theater to expand
The Brooklyn Paper / Jeff Bachner

The credits may soon roll on the Brooklyn Heights Cinema — the borough’s last twin movie house — now that its owner has been arrested for bilking investors with a series of high stakes scams that would make “The Thomas Crown Affair” seem sophomoric.

Manhattan federal prosecutors say that Norman Adie, 53, took $530,000 from a number of cinema-loving backers for his apparently fake plans to update and expand the Heights moviehouse and two others he owned in Pennsylvania.

Adie promised both but provided neither. Instead, he used the money on personal expenses and to keep his struggling theaters afloat, prosecutors alleged as they took Adie into custody on Tuesday, charging him with securities and wire fraud.

Adie is facing up to 80 years in prison and millions in fines.

Prosecutors say that Adie, a Manhattan resident who owned the Pavilion Theater on Prospect Park West in Park Slope until 2006, had been conning people into investing in his phantom development plans for the Henry street movie house since 2007. He also floated plans of building condominiums on the property. At the same time, he encouraged people to invest into his two Pennsylvania movie theater projects, investigators said.

Some of Adie’s promises were even made to this paper. In 2008, Adie said that was going to add two more movie screens and convert an old bakery in the basement into a wine bar and restaurant, even though his plans had an few zoning obstacles in its way. While the Brooklyn Heights Cinema is not a landmarked building, it is in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District, meaning Adie was limited with what he could do with the property.

Nothing ever happened — and city records show that no construction permits have been requested by the theater since 2001, when some minor interior work was done.

Court papers say that instead of making good on his promises, Adie collected investment capital — $280,000 of which came from one entrepreneur — and then shuffled it between bank accounts used by the Brooklyn Heights Cinema and his two troubled Pennsylvania theaters, one of which Adie abandoned in the middle of its reconstruction in 2009 when he couldn’t make any more lease payments.

Within a short time, the money was gone, prosecutors said. In pure Ponzi scheme fashion, Adie managed to return some of the money to his investors, but those sums were a mere pittance compared to the profits he promised them, prosecutors said.

Calls to the Brooklyn Heights Cinema, which has been in operation since 1971, were not returned.

Attempts to reach Adie’s attorney were also unsuccessful, but the movie theater operator must have known the final reel was coming — federal investigators were questioning his investors as well as business associates in Pennsylvania.

The two flicks playing at the movie house may have also clued him in: The theater’s currently screening a double bill of “Fair Game” and “Conviction.”