Plans For Queens
Are Busting Out All Over
It was Saturday night . . . movietime in the borough of
Queens, and a couple from Whitestone decided to take in a 10:30 show to experience the new
College Point Multiplex Cinemas. No need to suffer in the cramped, box-like theaters
shoved in to the shells of what was once the boroughs great movie palaces.
|A 14 screen multiplex, built by Forest City Ratner, nears completion
at its 35th Avenue site.
What they met with was demand without enough supply.
On that August night not only was there a line outside the theater and after a half
hour of circling no place to park, but once at the counter all the 10:30 shows were
sold out. So were the 11 p.m. shows in the 12 screen theater, and the 11:30 shows, and the
midnight shows. There were some seats left for 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning, though.
This week, "additional parking" signs direct
drivers to a lot down the street all to help handle the demand in Queens for big
screens, comfortable chairs, surround sound, and adventure. It is a winning combination
that four more developers hope to take advantage of in the near future.
The developers are planning for a total of over 8
multiplexes (12-15 screens) and mega plexes (15-30 screens) on Queens turf. Plans are
being bandied from Astoria (two multiplexes) to a movie motherload in Jamaica with a 15
screen theater, with the potential for 23-30 retail renters.
Their development race is aimed at raising the ratios:
Manhattan has 169 screens for 1.5 million people and Queens has only 84 screens for a
population that exceeds two million.
And the economic experts are pleased with the interest in
Following 18 months of negotiations, The Mattone
Group will be building an 18 screen multiplex in Elmhurst to be run by Sony/Loews.
"I think its desirable from the
perspective that when developers look at a county and see there is money its a good
thing if no one was looking at us, it would say the economys not very
good," said Seth Bornstein of the Queens Economic Development Committee.
He added that the developments will keep more money within
county borders as residents wont be so inclined to go to Nassau and Manhattan to be
ensconced in the latest flick.
Bornstein added, "I dont think all of [the
proposed projects] will move ahead. [Development] obviously needs to be balanced with the
needs of the communities. Some theaters will be good obviously one on every block
Meanwhile many residents oppose the development, feeling
the potential traffic increases will cost the area far more then the price of a
geographically intimate ticket.
Making Way In Astoria
Currently developer Forest City Ratner is in the end stages
of construction for a 14 screen multiplex to be located at the junction of 35 Avenue, and
38 street in Astoria, one block off of Steinway Street. Set to open by October of this
year, the theater will be owned by Regal Cinema, out of Tennessee.
|Queens first multiplex, located in College Point is playing
regularly to sold out shows and a new sign points attendees to essential additional
There will be free rooftop parking to accommodate
patrons. Though the community board was initially not thrilled with the proposal, they
could do little to alter it as the area is commercially zoned. A compromise was met, after
theater owners agreed to locate the theaters entrance on 38 St., and exit on 37 St.
Though movie goers enter theaters at different times, they tend to exit en masse. By
leaving via 37 St., where there are few residences, there should be less of a traffic
impact on the theaters home-owning neighbors.
A few blocks over, United Artists is considering building a
14-16 screen multiplex near Astorias Bulova watch factory, alongside the Long Island
Expressway and Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Spokesman Charles Fogel said that the company
is still in negotiations with the landlord, and there is no developer yet on board, but if
all is approved, construction could begin in the following two years.
Springing Up In Springfield Gardens
Meanwhile, residents in Springfield Gardens could soon be
joined by Forest City Ratner who plans to build a 14 screen theater by Belknap St., and
Merrick Blvd., owned by Regal Cinema.
The owners also have 50-60,000 square feet of retail space
they hope to fill. Spokesperson Elissa Goldman said the company is looking to use the
space for sit-down restaurants, apparel stores, and a health center. "Things not
already in the neighborhood," she said.
Sony Megaplex For Elmhurst
The Mattone Groups plans to build an 18 screen megaplex in
Elmhurst, owned by Sony/Loews. In process for 18 months, the site is on a municipal lot
adjoining the Long Island Expressway. The theater will sit atop three levels of parking,
one below ground. Parking will be charged, but developer Joseph Mattone Sr., said he
doesnt think it will encourage theater goers to seek parking in the surrounding
neighborhood as the fee will be "nominal.
The site may be ready for "Action!" within the
next year and a half.
Movies & Merchants Gallore In Jamaica
National Amusement will also be setting up in Jamaica,
following construction done by the Mattone Group. Set to break ground in October, the
130,000 square foot theater will be located at Parsons Blvd., and Jamaica Avenue, and be
the largest in South Queens. It will host 15 screens, and 25-30 merchants. There will be
below ground parking at a reduced rate for movie goers.
National Amusements, plans to open its
doors15 of them to Queens residents via its multiplex in Jamaica, to be
located at Parsons Blvd., and Jamaica Avenue. The Structure will also feature 25-30 retail
Developer Joseph Mattone said of the
locations choice. "Its a very hot area for utilization." He said its later
hours will encourage merchants to stay open later, due to fall out benefits from the
He noted of the sudden interest, "Queens has the
opportunity, and the developable area."
Renters also hopping aboard the bandwagon are Gap, Old
Navy, Gap Kids, Walgreens, and a dozen others.
Same Old Theater, Brand New Space
Expansions are also planned for the movie future of Queens.
The United Artists Douglaston theater company plans
to expand from seven to fourteen screens.
Meanwhile, residents in Bayside could find an expanded
United Artists on Bell Blvd. as it works on plans to expand its theater to 9-10 screens.
Forest Hills Movie House Developer Heskal Elias said that seat numbers will remain the
same but the theaters overall quality will be upgraded.
He added that any plans he might have for structure would
"maintain the integrity of the building."
Whats The Future?
As for whether or not the big and beautiful benefits of
movie theater expansions in Queens outweigh the traffic hassles, neighborhood impact and
parking problems they could cause, Community Board 7 District manager Marilyn Bitterman
said. "Thats a good question." The Corporate Park that houses the College
Point Multiplex will soon be undergoing a traffic study because the boom in business has
"created a tremendous amount of traffic problems." CB 7 Chairperson Adrian Joyce
added that the theatre hadnt responded to the boards request for separate,
designated exits and entrances, and that now traffic on Linden Place, "gets pretty
However, he added that overall the board was happy with the
addition, and given the opportunity to keep it or leave it, it would definitely stay.
|Ed Koch On The Issue . . .
Tribune movie reviewer and former New
York City Mayor Edward I. Koch had this to say about the recent buzy of movie activity in
"Everyone knows that I love the movies. The new
multiplex theaters with their state-of-the-art design are just wonderful, but they have to
be carefully sited so as not to destroy residential neighborhoods."