A real-estate developer with no history as a movie theater owner has bought Park Slope’s Pavilion multiplex — and the sale has local movie-goers worried that he will convert the much-loved theater into a residential building.
But new owner Abraham J. Hidary — who plunked down $16 million for the building last month — told The Brooklyn Papers that he’s in the movie business to stay.
“The Pavilion is where I go to the movies,” said Hidary, a Midwood resident. “If this was a broken-down building, then we’d think about conversion, but it is a popular movie theater.”
When asked for a guarantee that the building will remain a movie theater, Hidary hedged just a bit, saying, “I highly doubt” it will be converted to residential.
Local concern over the fate of the 80-year-old moviehouse began even before Hidary’s purchase was inked on June 12. Word that a developer had his eye on the property — a 1920s-era building that was a defunct shell for decades until it reopened in the mid-1990s — sparked concerns that the buyer would push for an immediate conversion of the property.
“It’s under contract to be turned into a condo building,” one woman wrote in a widely distributed email blast. “It’s a shame to lose the only movie theater in the neighborhood.”
She and others pointed out that the company that runs the movie theater has a lease through 2022 — but the building is zoned for high-rise residential, making a condo or co-op conversion possible without public review.
And with movie attendance decreasing, some feel the building will inevitably go condo.
“As you might imagine, we received some calls of concern about that,” said Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board 6.
“People were surprised to find out that it could simply be converted to a high-density residential use without a public review.”
The concerns were heightened by the fact that Bay Ridge lost one of its two movie theaters last year — and nearly lost the remaining one until a movie-loving Queens man plunked down $5 million.
The manager of the Pavilion said she understood her customers’ concerns, but is convinced that Hidary does want to keep the projectors rolling in Park Slope.
“I spoke to him and he’s excited about the theater,” said Lauren Goffio, the Pavilion’s general manager. “He knows it’s a cozy, popular neighborhood theater.”
It wasn’t always that way, of course.
There has been a theater at the intersection of Prospect Park West and Bartel Pritchard Circle since 1908, when Harry and Rudolph Sanders opened a nickelodeon there, theater history buffs say.
The current structure — named The Sanders — was built in 1928. It thrived until the late 1970s, when it closed and began a descent into ruin. For two decades, many plans were floated to restore it or turn it into a residential building. At one point, the building was even seized by the feds for non-payment of taxes.
Finally, in 1993, movie exhibitor Norman Adie and some partners restored the building. It reopened in 1996 with three screens. It now has eight.