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Credits Roll for Decades-Old Movie Theater on Austin Street

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | April 22, 2014 3:30pm
 The Brandon Cinemas closed on Sunday, April 20, 2014.
The Brandon Cinemas closed on Sunday, April 20, 2014.
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

QUEENS — A movie theater that has anchored Austin Street since the 1970s closed Sunday to make way for a new pediatric health facility, the landlord said.

Brandon Cinemas, at 70-20 Austin St., had shown art-house and mainstream films for decades and was once a vital part of social life along the street, locals said.

“I feel very badly that the Brandon closed,” said Leslie Brown, president of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce.

But Brown also said that she wasn't surprised. The space needed an upgrade and it “was empty most of the week," she said.

The two-screen movie theater is set to be replaced by an urgent care facility for children, with construction starting on May 1, said Heskel Elias of the Heskel Group, Inc., which owns the space.

The new center, which Elias said will be operated by PM Pediatrics, is scheduled to open in September.

“I’m sure the neighborhood will be really liking what we are doing there,” Elias said, adding that he plans to spend a “few million dollars” to retrofit and upgrade the building in order to provide a “state-of-the-art medical center.”

“I see this as a great benefit to the local neighborhood."

The growing number of urgent care centers in the area reflects the fact that “there is a lack of hospitals in Queens," Brown noted.

Brandon Cinemas was operated by Regal Entertainment Group, a movie theater chain, which also runs the nearby Midway theater on Queens Boulevard.

“Our business at the Midway remains very strong and will continue to meet the needs of local moviegoers,” Russ Nunley
 Regal Entertainment Group said in a statement. “The Brandon has always served as its little brother as the Midway is able to present movies on a grander scale.”

“We thank our patrons,” Nunley added.

Elias said he has owned the Austin Street theater since 1975. At the time, he said, it was called the Continental theater, but he changed the name to honor his son.

“We had a very successful 40 years there,” he said.

In the '70s, it was one of the few theaters in Queens that played “Star Wars.”

In 1981, Elias said he divided the formerly single-screen space into two separate theaters.

The developer also said that in 1997, he purchased the Midway theater and turned into a multiplex. He no longer owns the property, he said.

Elias said his company has a long history of bringing health facilities to Austin Street, including Queens Medical Imaging and Quest Diagnostics.

“We look forward to opening our doors on Austin Street,” said Dr. Jeffrey Schor of PM Pediatrics. “This new location will mark our second PM Pediatrics practice in Queens, the third in New York City.”

PM Pediatrics has 10 locations, including in Bayside, according to its website.