Last year, I wrote a profile of the Mamaroneck Playhouse movie theater for a special edition of the Review. I took some time to get to know the place and some of the people who’d been affected by it. If you’d like to visit the Mamaroneck Playhouse, you may do so, it’s right there in the village at 243 Mamaroneck Ave.
Oh, one thing; it’s a dead hulk now. The last night of operation was Sunday, April 20. The last movie to end there was “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
The Playhouse was owned by Clearview Cinemas when I wrote the piece last year. In June 2013, Clearview sold the playhouse, and several other small theaters in the area, to Bow Tie Cinemas which described plans to renovate its new acquisitions but—in light of the quick sale and condition in which I found the Playhouse when I visited it for the last time on April 17 of this year—does not appear to have had any intention of helping the ailing theater, which was once a palace.
I’m not at all happy the Mamaroneck Playhouse is gone. I think it’s a terrible thing to see an institution that has stood since 1925 reduced to a façade and condominiums which, according to published reports, is Bow Tie’s plan.
Saying that, I think it’s easy to blame Bow Tie for the theater’s passing, and I do to an extent, but let’s look at a couple other factors, too.
While it’s true my wife and I found the Playhouse to be in near condemnable disrepair when we saw Captain America on the 17th, we also saw “Argo” at the theater last year, shortly before my profile ran, and things weren’t much better then. Clearview was apparently only willing to go so far, if any distance at all, to make the Playhouse resemble anything it had once been.
And certainly United Artists, which owned the Playhouse before Clearview and carved it into four screens and two floors, never had the village’s history with Lillian Gish and D.W. Griffith in mind.
That’s all well and good; the almighty dollar reigns. I get that.
What I don’t get is why didn’t any of these companies understand they were tilting at windmills for the last two
Bow Tie, like Clearview before it, owns three other local movie theaters: The Larchmont Playhouse, Bronxville Cinemas and Cinema 100 in White Plains. Let’s examine some schedules.
At press time, the three theaters I just listed are showing, among a few other, more commonplace things, Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Dom Hemmingway,” a British comedy with Jude Law; “Le Week-end,” an English-French dramedy and “The Lunchbox” an Indian romance set in Mumbai.
The plot of that last one sounds good, by the way; have a look.
For its last week of existence, the Mamaroneck Playhouse, an analog to those other theaters in terms of size, physicality and native demographics, showed Captain America, “Rio 2” and “Muppets Most Wanted,” which is fairly
Do you see the point I’m making?
By programming the Larchmont and especially the Bronxville and White Plains theaters counter to the mainstream fare found in the bigger, modern theaters like those found at Ridge Hill in Yonkers and City Center 15 in White Plains, Bow Tie’s other theaters in the area continue to, you know, exist.
Why couldn’t that have been done for Mamaroneck?
Would it have been feasible for the Mamaroneck Playhouse to continue with art and independent programming? Perhaps. Could a nonprofit organization still buy the building, restore it to its single-screen grandeur, and turn it into something like the wonderful Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville? Perhaps.
We’ll likely never know though because to do things like that, you have to love movies. You have to care.
I’ll never say companies, or individuals, don’t have the right to make a profit, but it sure seems like Bow Tie bought at least the Mamaroneck Playhouse with the intention to do violence to its insides. That’s a shame because, once 243 Mamaroneck Ave. is an elegant, 90-year-old false face over little boxes of granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and stand-up showers, a community will lose a keyhole to its past.
Which hurts, because the playhouse could have also been a bridge to broader minds for the future.
Reach Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org and
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