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Historic 'Coliseum' Movie Theater May Be Replaced by a Shopping Center

 The Coliseum Theater during the 1940s was once a movie house and Vaudeville Theater.
The Coliseum Theater during the 1940s was once a movie house and Vaudeville Theater.
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Facebook/Save the Coliseum

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — An historic former movie theater — where acts including the Marx Brothers and W.C. Fields once performed — may soon be replaced by a shopping center.

The Coliseum at 701 W. 181st St. was Manhattan’s oldest operating movie theater until it closed its doors at the end of 2011. Now the owner of the building, which also houses a supermarket, a nail salon and a clothing store, may be looking to redevelop the site into a 70,000-square-foot shopping hub.

A listing with Zelnick & Company Real Estate for the site, which is also known as 4261 Broadway, shows a rendering of a modern four-story building with space for several retailers and a parking garage.

The listing touts the site as a “prominent Washington Heights corner location” and highlights its proximity to the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal, which is currently undergoing its own transformation into a shopping center.

Pricing information was not listed.

It’s not clear whether the renderings included with the listing show a planned development or simply an example of what could be built on the site.

Neither BLDG Management nor Zelnick & Company responded to requests for comment.

In 2011, Uptown residents who feared the 95-year-old theater would be taken over by a big box retailer formed the “Save the Coliseum” movement with the goal of keeping the site as a theater or turning it into a multi-use arts space.

However, the plan flat-lined when the group was not able to engage the building’s owner, BLDG Management, in discussions about its future use. 

Jeff Hoppa, one of the group’s organizers, said while the plan for the building was disappointing, it wasn't much of a shock.

“I’m not surprised,” he said. “Everything in New York City seems to suffer that fate unless it’s landmarked.”

Hoppa said he hopes that any development at the site will at the least respect its history.

“There’s an opportunity there to preserve something of the history of the site with whatever gets built next,” he said. “If they take advantage of that it will be a much more valuable development to the community.”