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See 'American Sniper' for $9 and Help Independent Movie Theater Stay Open

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | January 15, 2015 8:38am
 Cinemart Cinemas, on Metropolitan Avenue, opened in 1927.
Cinemart Cinemas, on Metropolitan Avenue, opened in 1927.
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Cinemart Cinemas

QUEENS — An independently-owned Forest Hills movie theater hopes it won't fade to black and is asking local residents for help.

The five-screen theater, Cinemart Cinemas, at 106-03 Metropolitan Ave., which opened in 1927, has been struggling for several years, just like many other independent theaters in New York, some of which were recently forced to close, the owner said.

Last April, another Forest Hills theater, Brandon Cinemas, closed to make way for a new pediatric health facility, and Sunnyside Center Cinemas will soon be turned into housing.

But Nicolas Nicolaou, 57, whose family has owned Cinemart Cinemas since the mid-1960s, said the movie theater just got another chance, after Warner Bros. decided to license "American Sniper," a major newly-released movie directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller, to the Cinemart.

The last time the theater showed a first-run film was in 2008, when it screened "Sex and the City," the owner said.

"No other theater in the five boroughs was able to stay open not playing first-runs," said Nicolaou, who also owns Theater Cafe next door. "This is a big breakthrough."

Local historian Michael Perlman initiated the Cinemart Cinemas Preservation Campaign, asking local residents to attend the screenings of "American Sniper" to help save the Cinemart.

“Theaters are 'ultimate public institutions' which merge our architectural, cultural, and social history under one roof, and influence the development of many neighborhoods,” said Perlman in an email.

A number of Forest Hills residents said they are mobilizing each other to buy tickets for the movie at the theater, which is located in a quieter portion of the neighbohood, more than a dozen blocks from the nearest subway station and far from the hustle and bustle of Queens Boulevard.

“We already had too many movie theaters here in Forest Hills close and become Duane Reades ... and medical centers. Enough is enough,” said Carlos Pesantes, 41, a resident who said he has been going to the theater since the late 1980s.

“If this movie theater closes it will be because the people of Forest Hills allowed it to be closed," said Pesantes. "It is time to show our love for this great institution.”

Nicolaou also said that, prompted by the Warner Bros.'s decision, he has recently invested in installing four new digital projectors to improve the quality of the screenings.

George Popa, the manager at Cinemart Cinemas, said there will be a preview of the film on Jan. 15. The movie will run from Jan. 16 through Feb. 22 with 8 to 9 daily screenings. General admission for adults is $9, but seniors and children pay $6, Popa said.

"The community deserves to have a local theatre to bring their children to see a movie, like they came there as children," Nicolaou said. “We don’t want to close, so please come, see a great film, see your friends and neighbors and support the theater."

If the sales go well, the owner said he hopes the Cinemart will receive more first-run films.

A representative for Warner Bros. declined to comment.