A March 17 report by Patch reveals that a new building permit application was filed on March 3 (here) at the former home of the Metro Theater, 2626 Broadway between 99th and 100th streets. Gilman Architects are leading the design, according to the permit.
The description of the work reads, “Propose to convert existing motion theatre building to retail use with general construction, structural upgrade as per plan.” Patch also reports that construction began earlier this week.
Fans of the former Metro Theater — which was in operation from 1933 to 2006 — have been trying to revive it for years.
An Upper West Sider launched a GoFundMe campaign in 2018 hoping to raise funds to “cover the cost of an animation (already written and story-boarded) that perfectly incapsulates everything that the Metro Movie Theater could be.” While the campaign goal of $3,600 was exceeded, the organizer decided in January 2019 that she’d be refunding all donations, since “the engineer’s appraisal will cost more than [she] could raise and because it is going to take yet more time to get to the point where Bialek will open his doors to an engineer.”
In March 2021, a change.org petition addressed to former Mayor de Blasio went online, asking the then-mayor to “use the great powers of the Mayor’s Office to bring the Upper West Side’s Art Deco theater back in a beautiful way.” A total of 3,358 people have signed it. The last update posted on this petition page was published on January 12, 2022: “We have updated the Metro Theater Petition addressing it to Manhattan Community Board 7 and Mayor Adams. Rumor has it, there may be a tenant for the theater. Friends of Metro Theater (FoMT) will wait until the end of January to organize the next meeting. Stay tuned!”
In June 2021, the organizers of the change.org petition formed a new group, Friends of Metro Theater. The group’s president, Craig Sumberg, drafted a letter to Mayor de Blasio, requesting his help to turn the building into “something beautiful.” Since forming, the group has set up a website, Instagram page and Facebook group, platforms they’ve used to increase support through campaigns designed to inspire; “Metro Dreams” has featured supportive quotes from notable people involved in the arts.
On March 14 and 15, members of Friends of Metro Theater’s Facebook group shared photos and videos of construction work taking place at the old theater — while asking one another for clues as to what was going on.
After seeing Patch’s update, we reached out to Friends of Metro Theater for comment.
“FoMT has been in touch with the owner, Albert Bialek, who has been saying something is coming but refusing to give any details,” said Jeanne Johnson.
“I haven’t talked to Bialek in over a month,” said Craig Sumberg. “From what I can tell from the internal Friends of the Metro Theatre board today, none of us saw that coming. Some disappointment, but also some recognition that anything is better than a closed, decaying building…”
“We are disappointed by this news,” said Liza Cooper. “Friends of Metro Theater wanted to restore, revitalize and re-open this community treasure with homage to its original form – as a theater, cultural arts venue, film space or concert hall. We would like to partner with the new tenant to identify innovative ways to ensure the community voices are respected and included. In this way, the new space is much more likely to receive a warm community welcome.”
We’ve reached out to the building’s owner, Albert Bialek, to see if he could provide us with some more information. We’ll provide an update once we know more.
Sadly, the multiple empty storefronts in the neighborhood don’t bode well for the future of the theater as a retail site. What a missed opportunity.
I think this is good. Let the retail company fix the interior, then when they go out of business in a couple years, at least it will be in a better state to return it to being a theater again. No retail space will succeed there. Even Urban Outfitters had to pack it in. I still believe that someday, someone will come along and do right by that space. I saw movies there when I first moved here. Oh, to be a billionaire.
The only thing beautiful about this commercial space is the exterior facade and it will be preserved, otherwise let it be a revenue producing retail space or whatever the owner/lesee can do to make it viable. The last thing we need is another non-profit organization to be a drain on public funds. Commercial properties will be viable if you support them.
Probably will be another 15-minute grocery warehouse. These somehow count as “retail uses”.
I saw my first movies here, I am pretty sure one of them was “Duck Soup” with the Marx Brothers.