Long-abandoned Manhattan cinema becomes boutique theater

After a very long break, this theater is finally back.

Manhattan’s Metro Theater on the Upper West Side has been gathering dust for 17 years. The 82-year-old art deco theater has been vacant since 2005 and is home to nearly numerous tenants — Urban Outfitters, Planet Fitness, the Alamo Drafthouse, a nonprofit arts education organization — who all eventually collapsed.

But now it’s official: A lease has finally been signed and the historic building remains a cinema.

“There have been so many false starts and failed plans at The Metro; I think a lot of us felt like Charlie Brown with football and had given up on being excited,” Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine told The Post. When he heard that another potential company was interested in bringing back the Broadway building, “I decided I wouldn’t celebrate until I heard directly from a tenant that a lease had been signed.”

And now the time has finally come.

“It’s real, I heard it straight from the head of the company: the lease is signed so there’s no turning back,” he continued. “You’re asking for a little anonymity at this point, but I can tell you unequivocally that this is real, it’s happening and it’s a best-case scenario.”

The 10,260-square-foot building will become a “community entertainment” and “multi-screen cinema center with restaurant facilities and community gathering spaces on a rental basis,” longtime owner Albert Bialek told The West Side Rag. Since its construction in the 1930s, the two-story building has housed an art-house cinema, a porn theater and two national film chains, and still features the same Grade II-listed exterior. However, its interior has since been gutted.

Subway theater lease signed 2022
A sign advertising the place in February 2021.
James Keivom for the NY Post
Subway theater lease signed 2022
The Metro Theater at 2626 Broadway, circa 1994.
Museum of the City of New York/Getty Images

“It kind of works for this new format because it’s going to be a large number of smaller screens,” Levine noted optimistically of the blank inner screen.

The as-yet-unnamed company of “famous people” from California is refusing to reveal their identities until they “submit their plans” in the next few weeks, but they are offering moviegoers a booze-fueled dine-in movie experience, Rag reported.

In response to The Post’s inquiry, the Alamo Drafthouse movie chain – which nearly built a five-screen theater in the space before pulling out in 2012 – did not comment on whether it was the clandestine new tenant.

The news is a huge boon for the area, which has lost many businesses during the pandemic and is now littered with empty storefronts.

“It’s been a tough two years,” said Levine, who represented part of the Upper West Side during his tenure on the New York City Council from 2014 to 2021. It would have been better than giving up.”

Indeed, its vacancy was not only sad, but also expensive: Bialek were billed over $840,000 in city property taxes during the time the address was vacant, the Real Deal previously reported.

“It’s going to change this space,” Levine continued enthusiastically. “This is exactly the boost that the neighborhood needs.”

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