Former Eagle Theater in Jackson Heights Reopens As Food Court

By Smriti Rao on July 27, 2012 1:41pm 

JACKSON HEIGHTS—It’s showtime again at the former Eagle Theater.

The historic Art Deco film palace, a former Bollywood movie theater shuttered for almost three years, is getting a new lease on life starting Friday night as a multi-cultural food court and supermarket.

The dilapidated space at 73-07 37th Rd., which most recently showed Bollywood movies and once served as a porno palace, will be home to the new Jackson Heights Food Court, which will cater to shoppers looking to pick up South Asian groceries or snack on some samosas, momos or even halal tacos, management said.

The curtains came down on the 1930's-era movie mecca in 2009 when a double whammy of high rents and a Bollywood film production strike in Mumbai forced the theater to close after showing flicks from the sub-continent for about 15 years, reports indicated.

Famous as the only place in the neighborhood where one could nibble on samosas while watching Hindi movies, the Eagle was in a state of complete disrepair when it went on the market in 2009, the new operators said.

“Everything was falling apart…it was completely dilapidated,” said Razi Ahmed, 50, a Queens realtor who operates the new food court with his partner Razib Haq.

After working with the property owners for almost a year, the new operators now have a fully renovated space of almost 7,000 square feet that houses a supermarket with South Asian staples like rice, lentils and halal meat.

In the front is a spacious food court where hungry customers can choose from a host of desi staples like Naan, Biryanis and Indian sweets and also snack on tacos, pizzas, burgers and fries, Ahmed said.

There is ample seating on both lower and upper levels, which are adorned with black-and-white collages showing Jackson Heights from the early part of the 20th century.

A lone picture of the old Eagle Theater serves as the only reminder of the movie hall.

However, the food court and supermarket enter a neighborhood already crammed with Indian food joints and dominated by big stores like Patel Brothers, Apna Bazar and smaller grocery stores from the area.

“It’s a competitive market,” Ahmed said. “But anyone opening a business in Jackson Heights knows that.”

Nearby businesses and residents, however, had mixed reactions to the new food court’s opening.

“There are a lot of grocery stores, too many restaurants,” said Zain Ali, 25, a salesperson at the Jackson Heights Music Center at 73-09 37th Rd., right next door to the food court.

“There’s not enough entertainment here," added the Bollywood fan. 

Furniture importer Nasir Irfat, 36, of Elmhurst, said that the market was "saturated," “but I’ll give the place a shot….my wife loves to eat,” the Elmhurst resident said.

Antonio Campos, 24, who sells cars in Bayside, said he was also willing to give the food court a chance.

“It’s near the [74th Street Pedestrian] plaza, near the train…it’s a good idea,” the Woodside resident said.

Opening during the holy month of Ramadan, Ahmed said he was hopeful of getting the business off to a running start.

“It’s a good location, it’s competitive, but we are confident,” he said.

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