A scandal-marred Dumbo event space could get a second life as the new home of a beloved Brooklyn Heights movie theater.
Brooklyn Heights Cinema is closing by the end of the month, marking the end of 43 years on Henry Street, and is considering moving into part of the former Rebar space, according to Cinema owner Kenn Lowy. The New York Daily News first reported the possibility. Rebar owner Jason Stevens shuttered the gastroub abruptly in May, leaving couples who had booked weddings there in the lurch and employees out of luck. In Brooklyn Heights, the building between Cranberry and Orange streets that houses the two-screen theater has been sold and the new owner wants the sole tenant gone, Lowy said.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen with the building,” he said. “But the cinema is unfortunately not in the plans.”
He is planning to downsize to a single-screen cinema and the Rebar theater space would accommodate 100 seats, down from his current 300, he said. Wherever he goes, leaving the Heights will be hard, he said.
“When I walk by the building a few months from now it’s going to be upsetting,” he said. “It has a lot of history for me and my family.”
The theater opened in 1970 and Lowy said he started catching flicks there when he moved to Cobble Hill at 16. Lowy saved the fledgling film house in 2011 after its owner was arrested for cheating movie-loving investors in a fraud scheme where he raised money for an expansion that never happened. The dramatic downfall was echoed by Stevens’s. The Rebar owner is now serving an up-to-10-year prison sentence for tax fraud and owes couples he fleeced $1.8 million.
The Heights Cinema has remained in danger of closing for most of Lowy’s time at the helm.
Lowy’s landlord Tom Caruana twice pitched tear-down plans for the one-story structure, which was built in 1895 and falls within the Brooklyn Heights Historic District. Both plans for taller, new buildings on the lot included space for the Cinema in the ground floor after an initial bid proposing its eviction prompted outcry. But neither plan could make it past the sticklers at the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Last year, Caruana finally admitted defeat and put the building up for sale. Around the same time, Lowy started raising cash to help buy a digital projector as it became increasingly difficult to find new titles on 35 mm celluloid.
Lowy raised $32,597 online towards the projectors, without which he says he would have been unable to stay operating even if he could remain in place.
“The fact that we have the digital projector allows us to keep going,” Lowy said.
Building sale or no, declining ticket sales would have forced Lowy out by September, he said.
“There just aren’t enough movie-goers in the Heights to support a one-screen cinema,” he said.