Historic Mamaroneck Playhouse to become Condo?

16 Apr, 2014

By Loop Staff

mamaroneck movie theatre

Mamaroneck Village Trustee Andres Hallstrom writes concerning the possible closing of the historic Mamaroneck Playhouse, now a movie theatre run by Bow Tie, and the creation of a condominium:


Representatives from Bow Tie have met with various Village officials, including myself. Bow Tie represented to the Village that they would rather keep the space as a movie theater, but the economics just are not working. The Playhouse has to compete with bigger and more modern movie theaters in Port Chester, White Plains, and New Rochelle, and the Playhouse is losing money every month since Bow Tie bought it. Bow Tie had planned on upgrading the Playhouse, but they could just justify the cost in light of the low use. I went to a movie there last Sunday (before finding out it was closing) and the theater was maybe 1/10 full.

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We suggested turning the Playhouse into something akin to the Jacob Burns Center, and Bow Tie said they had considered that, but it would not be economically feasible due to the proximity to Jacob Burns, and that movie distributors would not distribute the type of art-house movies Jacob Burns shows to two theaters so close together. Upgrading to a deluxe dinner-and-a-movie type of theater was likewise unfeasible. We also suggested bringing back free movie Tuesdays, but in their experience that lost even more money that was not made up for in concessions, etc (people who went to free movies tended to either sneak in candy from other stores, or simply go without).

While I cannot ensure the sentiments were genuine, Bow Tie expressed sadness at having to close down a movie theater, as they are primarily in the movie business and have been so for four generations. Bow Tie also has a real estate division, and it was indicated that division would retain ownership and control of the proposed building. That is to say, the proposed new building would not be “flipped” after it was completed.

The proposed plan is apparently zoning compliant. That said, it would, of course, have to go through the various land use boards and related processes, just like any other proposed development of its type. That process is dictated by State and Village Law, and is not something the Board of Trustees can interfere with. Demolition of the current building is an administrative process that requires various permits from the Building Department.

It is not possible to force Bow Tie to continue operating a movie theater against their will. It is sad to see it close, but businesses come and go, even those that have been open for decades. Village staff have been asked about the possibility of a historical designation, and we are awaiting an answer. As I understand it, such a designation affects mostly the outside of the building, and such a designation would not force the building to be kept as an operating movie theater. I urge you all to think, and discuss, what you would rather have in that space, a shuttered movie theater, or something else. Public input is an important part of the Land Use process, and a time will come for your voices to be heard regarding proposals for this space.

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  • Movie Fan

    Can always come to The Picture House in Pelham for free Senior Tuesday or $2 Tuesday movies!

  • Village Monitor

    It’s just a really bad idea to close the theater being a village and town resident all my life I believe the theater is what brought business to the village …the fact that bow tie claims a dinner with movie would not work is not true currently in Yonkers Almo Drafthouse has open and do dinner with a movie a similar idea would work wonders here on this side of the county. If Bow tie is not interested in being in the movie theater business then they should sell…

  • Sad, Concerned Resident

    There is a good reason this theater does poorly: it is dirty and poorly maintained. Your feet stick to the floor, the seats are nasty and it has been so for years. If Bow Tie truly put some effort into it, they could amp up their attendance. I’d much rather patronize my local theater….but frankly, the choice of sitting in a clean, comfortable seat, where my feet don’t stick to the floor wins out over paying a lot to see a movie locally. I still go, just not as often. It’s not a good an experience as it ought to be. Bow Tie could fix that. Many others have shared the same sentiment with me.

    • Karl

      Face it….the theater at this location has run it’s course. Things change. Get used to it.

  • Nostalgia Fade-Out

    Sad. We need to maintain a sense of pride and nostalgia. That draws people in to visiting a community & spending money. I personally ONLY go to the smaller theaters.
    If they must sell, why not keep the theater and try and sell it to a theater group or do what they did in Port Chester?.
    The old movie theater in Port Chester was converted and business is booming at the Capitol Theater! They’re getting headliners everyone has heard of, feature local groups and all the businesses around have benefited as we’ll because of it. They are the same size they were when they showed movies there!
    Keep us a hometown…PLEASE!!! It’s up to us!! If you don’t want it to close, start going to movies there, tell others to go there. If you’re not happy with the conditions, which have deteriorated in service and cleanliness, complain, don’t go elsewhere. If they get enough complaints they’ll have to clean-up. If they get enough patrons, they can stay, if they make a profit they can renovate!
    We are our village, why give the money to another village?
    Maybe you all like banks, drug stores and condos, but I like Main Street USA. Keep it, bring it back, make it happen!!!

  • MNg

    Are we to believe that they, being in the business of running movie theaters, did not do any research to assure the business was viable and that the site was well attended? So that would mean what,they are the worst investors on the planet? Come on people. Bow Tie Cinemas bought the property with the intention of converting it from the start.

  • xanthe

    Why not make it like the theater I went to in Florida – IPIC (I Think) I heard they are opening one in Greenwich. You sit in recliners and are served your drinks by a waiter . They also have a small menu and serve wine and other drinks . You must make a reservation in advance and they are usually sold out . It was really fun . it attracts regulars and people for special occasions

    • Jimmy

      Alamo Drafthouse Theater on Central Ave does this….not sure they are successful

  • JVM

    Renderings of the proposed apartments (dated 2013, btw) can be found on the architect’s website: omasworks dot com. backslash mamaroneck

    • Mamaroneck Resident

      Holy cow that is awful. It looks like Las Vegas threw up all over it. SO does not fit Mamaroneck AT ALL.

  • Mamk.Histor. Soc. Trustee

    I am it total agreement with “nostalgia fade out”…that there are many profitable uses as a theater for the Playhouse. However, Sunday was the last day it was a movie house….Sadly, it’s now closed.
    I disagree heartily with the argument that we have to understand that the company needs to be profitable (as a justification for the condos) and that “businesses come and go”. This is not just any business! This is a historic part of the center of Mamaroneck’s downtown. It has not been well kept, and it should have been. I’m quite sure the company had other designs on the theater when they bought it, because they have done nothing to fix it up or encourage attendance.
    The residents of our wonderful village have every right to rail loudly against this happening. The Village Board is considering (AND MUST PASS!) a law which would require the Land Use Board’s approval before issuing a demolition permit.
    Please contact all the Village Board members NOW…and demand that this law passes. Then we can buy some time to look into how else we might use the building, and might even find someone who would buy out Bow Tie and save the Playhouse. I think what happened with the Capitol Theater in Port Chester could, as was said, be a wonderful solution for the Playhouse. A Jacob Burns theater would also be successful, I’m sure, in spite of what Bow Tie said about it. Bow Tie doesn’t really know Mamaroneck well. I think with a little encouragement and enthusiasm, this lovely old theater could become very profitable again. (I don’t think Bow Tie actually wanted to find a solution.)
    Let’s all be determined not to let this happen! There are those working to organize an opposition right now. If you want to be kept informed, call:
    (914) 834 – 2983, and give your name and email.

  • Lifelong Mamaronecker

    The Mamaroneck community are movie-goers, but choose to go to other theaters because the Playhouse is so unappealingly dirty. It’s a shame that Bow Tie never cared enough to clean it up. I’m not sure they intended to close it when they bought it, but they did nothing to make it a success. It was one of 42 theaters in the area that they bought from Clearview a year ago. Some of these have been upgraded, but Bow Tie obviously misjudged the potential for the Mamaroneck Playhouse and didn’t bother to do anything to make it an acceptably clean, attractive venue & promote it as such — which wouldn’t really have cost much.
    Bow Tie – if you read this – it’s not too late. You could still clean it up, reopen it, and let the community know you’re trying to make it work better for them. If you care enough to make it a more pleasant experience, we will all come more often. Alternatively, if you choose to continue with your plans to tear it down and build condos, you’ll encounter TONS of opposition & bad press, because we will fight for our historic Playhouse!! With your family’s history, and all the nice things you said about
    the importance of theaters to local communities when you bought the
    Clearview chain, http://www.bowtiecinemas.com/about/press-releases/ — you should understand why we will fight you tooth and claw if you try to take it away from us. Your plan to leave the marquee and lobby means next to nothing — it’s like putting flowers on the patient’s grave instead of trying to save the patient.
    Perhaps someone would like to buy the Playhouse from Bow Tie and turn it into something like the Jacob Burns film center in Pleasantville, or the Alamo Drafthouse Theater in Yonkers. There are lots of people living in the Mamaroneck – Larchmont – Rye – Harrison area, and up the east side of Westchester County – like Armonk, Bedford, Katonah, and in Southeast Connecticut, that won’t attempt the long difficult trek to Pleasantville or Yonkers, but who could easily reach Mamaroneck via 684 & the Hutch, or 95 etc.
    The Playhouse has such a rich history and is so fundamental to our community — glad to see that there’s a group gathering to keep us from losing it. Please everyone join in!

  • Amy

    This is absolutely horrible. My son had his 13th birthday party at the movie theater just this past February. We don’t need more condos — we need our town theater!!! My son is organizing a petition as we speak to distribute at the middle school. He plans to present a copy to the Town office and send one to Bow Tie to let them know that Mamaroneck’s residents are NOT on board with this!

    • Adam Smith

      Then perhaps you should offer to buy it from Bow Tie and see if you can run it in a way that actually turns a profit. Or put more crudely, “Time to put your money where you mouth is.”

  • rubagreta

    It’s already too tough to park in the village. No movie theater means more parking availability for the restaurants. Yes, I hate to see it go, but between the new state-of-the-art theaters, home streaming, and the lack of parking, it is no longer viable.

    • Amy

      No offense, but if you think parking will get better instead of much worse with 30 new condos right on Mamaroneck Avenue, I think you might be mistaken….

      • rubagreta

        The Village will require 1.5 spaces per unit. The owners will not be parking on Mamaroneck Avenue. In contrast, a hot movie can bring in a couple of hundred cars.

      • Amy

        But those 30+ condo owners will all be getting daily deliveries, having friends and families with their own cars and parking needs visiting (also daily), not to mention babysitters, nannies, cleaning people, etc. If you think there will be no negative parking impact with these condos I think you are being way too optimistic.


    “…it would not be economically feasible due to the proximity to Jacob Burns” say the Bow Tie people.
    “Proximity” to Jacob Burns? How many times have we decided not to go to the JB for a movie we wanted to see because of the distance?
    Jacob Burns services northern Westchester; we are in southern Westchester. The educational opportunities afforded by the Burns ‘labs’ would also be welcome in this community. This response by Bow Tie is as disingenuous as the others reported in this letter.
    And as far as movie theaters not always being filled, movie theaters all over the country are experiencing that–have you noticed? and most remain open. Ideas for an expansion such as the one on the Jacob Burns model are excellent.
    Local people do not want the heart of their village, its small town commerce, ripped out for a project which benefits only the profits of a large impersonal corporation.
    We see that sort of development all over the country as small towns are swallowed up by Walmarts.

  • Knows Mamaroneck

    JVM – thank you for digging up the link to the renderings of the condo plan that Bowtie clearly had planned, duping the Village, officials and everyone they met, lying about their real intentions all along. The Bowtie Cinemas and Bowtie Real Estate business have clearly shown they should not be trusted. All other theaters are clearly in danger. Wishing that we all sought to do business with honest business people.

    • Amy

      The fact that Bow Tie outright refuses to respond to anyone about this — whether it be residents or the media — is very telling IMO.