A beloved Upper West Side art house movie theater is closing its doors despite the pleas of its loyal customers. For close to 40 years, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas provided film aficionados with rare foreign films and independent films that were seldom shown elsewhere. When the theater opened in 1981 the owners, Dan and Toby Talbot, were eager to share the films they discovered. For Dan Talbot that eagerness continued until his death in December of 2017. Even before he died, Talbot was aware that Lincoln Plaza Cinemas would close. Landlords and developers had their eyes on changing the property.
Milstein Properties owns the building that housed Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. The property’s owners are renovating the building and are reportedly planning to replace Lincoln Plaza Cinemas with a theater complex. The change is an example of an overall shift in consumer viewing habits and Manhattan real estate prices. New York 1 reports that streaming video and high rents are factors behind the recent art house cinema closings in Manhattan. Late last year Sunshine Cinema on Houston Street was shuttered.
Movie buffs are not happy with the closure, telling reporters that the city is losing its personality. Another patron blamed the changing urban landscape on “greedy landlords.”
Lincoln Plaza Cinema employees are also feeling the blow. Many have worked in the theater since it opened. The theater’s general manager has held his position since the early 1980s. The manager, Ewnetu Admassu had believed the theater would be spared and that “somebody will change their mind and will keep it going…”
It seems that loyal patrons and an iconic neighborhood presence were not enough to keep Lincoln Plaza open. New Yorkers insist that independent movies and foreign films will still see the silver screen in New York, but for now, at least, those movies won’t be playing on the Upper West Side.