By Amy Zimmer
DNAinfo News Editor
UPPER EAST SIDE — It was no Paris or the Ziegfeld. It wasn't even as grand as the old Loews 72nd Street Theater that it replaced.
But Loews Tower East movie theater on Third Avenue and East 71st Street had developed a solid fan base since opening in 1962, and locals were sad to see it go dark last month. The small movie theater, along with three small shops, took the place of the AMC Loews 72nd Street after it was razed for a 42-story condo.
The single-screen theater, which played a mix of art house and mainstream movies, was featured on the cover of Tony Bennett's "Love Story" album nearly 40 years ago, when it was playing the famous Ali McGraw movie of the same name. The crooner is seen posing in a line stretching down the block with the theater's marquee in the background.
"I'll miss it," said Coline Giles, who lives around the corner. "It was close and comfortable."
The theater's final film was the political thriller "Fair Game," according to the website Cinema Treasures.
The theater is the latest installation on Third Avenue near East 71st Street to close down, as the entire block is now nearly vacant. The Victoria's Secret next door to the theater closed as did a Bath and Body Works on the corner of East 72st Street. The only remaining store, Super Runners Shop, will be vacating soon, its manager John Pier said.
But the businesses weren't forced out by the economic downturn. Their leases simply weren't renewed, Pier said.
The owners of the Tower East building want to renovate the storefronts — most likely turning the four spaces into three, Pier said — and get new tenants.
The Department of Buildings approved a permit last month to knock down a wall between the storefronts, at a cost of nearly $275,000, according to records.
Brian Rafferty, who manages Tower East, declined to discuss prospective new tenants since leases were still being negotiated.
Speculating what will replace the theater has been a hot topic among locals.
Pier said he heard that a bank was moving into the former location of Bath & Body Works. A Tower East doorman, who declined to give his name, said he heard it was going to be a TD Bank.
Others heard rumors that the theater and Victoria's Secret space might be replaced by a clothing store. Among the rumored candidates were Urban Outfitters and Scoop, which has a few stores nearby. None of the retailers returned requests for comment.
Cinema Treasures had reported that a supermarket was going to replace the movie theater, but both Pier and the Tower East doorman said that seemed unlikely since residents have opposed food stores ever since they had a rodent problem with the Fay and Allen Foodworks gourmet emporium that moved there in 1979.
Other locals said the area blamed roach problems on the concessions from the movie theater.
Joan Bosotina, 79, who has lived in the neighborhood for 44 years, said she was devastated by the movie theater's closure.
"I don't know what's happening to my city," Bosotina said, "It's all banks and Duane Reades. I keep thinking I'll wake up one morning and there will be a Duane Reade in my bedroom.
"I want my old city back with little stores that have a personal interest in their customers," she said.
Super Runners Shop, which has been on the block for 15 years and has seven other stores in the New York area, will vacate once the building permits are secured, Pier said.
The shop is interested in returning after the renovation, "but like anything else, the rent will go up," Pier said.