In New York City, preservationists join in the dismay of arthouse film patrons mourning the imminent closure of Landmark Sunshine Cinema. The building’s new owners took the first step toward leveling the hallowed structure, submitting Department of Buildings paperwork November 8.
East End Capital and K Property Group requested approval to fully demolish the three-story edifice at 139 E. Houston, which served as home to the Lower East Side’s Landmark outpost for 16 years. The EEC website describes the project and does not explicitly mention demolishing the structure, but says groundbreaking will occur in 2018’s second quarter. The new design comes from Roger Ferris Architecture, which also designed the Morgan Stanley headquarters in New York.
Portions of the building were reportedly erected in 1838. Between 1909 and 1945, three theaters claimed the marquee: the Houston Hippodrome, a Yiddish vaudeville house; the Sunshine Theatre; and the Chopin Theatre. After a half-century spent as a storage facility, restorers made it an indie movies enclave. Landmark Theatres took over the site in 2001, two years before Mark Cuban co-owned 2929 Entertainment bought the chain’s 58 locations.
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When the real estate and investment companies paid $31.5 million for the Landmark Sunshine Cinema (and its coveted air rights) this May, it was announced that the theater’s lease would not be renewed once it expires in January 2018. At the time, reports stated that the owners planned to convert the 30,000-square-foot building into a retail and office complex. That’s no longer the case.
New York will not be Landmark-less, however: In September 2017, an eight-screen location opened at the block-wide base of VIA 57 West, architect Bjarke Ingles’s glassy tetrahedron-shaped residence that rises 34 stories over Manhattan’s Upper West Side.