Heights Cinema Can Stay, Even If Building Goes, Says Owner

February 21, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff

By Raanan Geberer

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — If and when Tom Caruana, owner of the building that contains the Brooklyn Heights Cinema at 70 Henry St., gets the OK to build a new apartment house at the site, he plans to provide space for the well-known cinema within the new building.

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So says Kenn Lowy, owner of the cinema, who bought the theater last year.

“The details still need to be worked out,” he said. “We would have a lobby on the first floor and the cinema in the basement. We do have to find a temporary home later this summer.”

Caruana’s original plans for a new building on the site did not include space for a cinema. However, he and his architect withdrew their plans before they were scheduled to present them at a meeting of the Community Board 2 Land Use Committee.

Because the building is within the Brooklyn Heights Historic District, both its demolition and new construction have to be approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, with the board playing an advisory role.

Lowy told the Eagle yesterday that he met last week with Caruana, who showed him his new plan containing space for a cinema. “I said, `It looks great. All right, let’s see if we can make it work,’” Lowy said. The cinema’s lease is up at the end of June, at which time it would presumably have to find a temporary home.

Interestingly, the new space, said Lowy, only has room for one screen, as opposed to the cinema’s current two screens. Thus, the new Brooklyn Heights Cinema would be one of the city’s few remaining one-screen cinemas – since the 1970s, most movie theaters have been multi-screen.

Lowy added that the theater’s finances and popularity have improved since he bought it from former owner and confessed fraudster Norman Adie, who left it with $50,000 in debt.

“There’s a big difference between the first two or three months and the last two months – it’s like night and day. There are a lot of new people coming in. It’s definitely doing well,” Lowy said.

Owner Caruana’s plans to demolish the building face opposition from neighborhood preservationists and the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA). Earlier this year, Judy Stanton, executive director of the BHA, told the Eagle that the BHA’s Landmarks Committee, which contains three architectural historians, did research on the building’s history and came to the conclusion that it was an integral part of the Brooklyn Heights Landmark District and should not be demolished.

The circa-1895 building was always a commercial building, but had a varied history before it was converted into a cinema around 1970. Stanton said that research has revealed that the building, as originally constructed, was made of fine brick, had cast-iron columns and other details that were consistent with the neighborhood.

Even though many of these details were later covered up or painted over, she told the Eagle, “four-fifths of the original masonry still exists.”


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