Updated, 10/2, 3:25 p.m.
A long-anticipated plan to open a new dine-in cinema in a historic Upper West Side theater building has been canceled—but the owners are holding out hope that they’ll find a less costly site.
In 2012, the Alamo Drafthouse, a Texas-based movie theater chain, laid the groundwork to open a new branch in the vacant Metro Theater, located on Broadway between 99th and 100th streets. The opening had been slated for 2014.
A blog post on the Alamo’s site Tuesday morning announced the closure, citing an unperceived rise in construction costs, partly due to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, as the reason for stopping the project.
Alamo Drafthouse CEO and Founder Tim League said in an email Wednesday that the expense of the venture, rather than a lack of money for construction, shut down the project.
“We have construction funds available,” League said. “It is an issue of the construction budget being so high that it makes the long-term viability of the project too risky.”
But League said not to lose all hope for an Alamo in the neighborhood.
“We are still actively pursuing real estate options in Manhattan and would certainly consider a different site on the Upper West Side,” he said.
Doug Bowmen, general manager for the Alamo Drafthouse that opened in Yonkers last month, said that the decision to drop the project didn’t come out of the blue.
“We had been looking at the numbers for a while,” Bowmen said. “But the decision was made this week.”
He acknowledged that fans had expressed disappointment on social media about the closure, and that he shares in it.
“We're just heartbroken that it's not going to happen,” Bowmen said.
The Drafthouse chain aims to create an immersive movie experience by enforcing a no-talking or texting policy and bringing drinks and often-themed meals to viewers’ seats, and developers had worked with Community Board 7 throughout the process. The board—and neighbors—had responded enthusiastically to the cinema chain’s proposal to renovate the theater, which has been empty since 2005.
“The Metro Theater is an individual landmark,” CB7 chair Mark Diller said. He said that of the projects that have been proposed for the vacant theater in recent years, “this is the one that made the most sense to everybody.”
Diller also said the board had been proactive in ensuring that the Alamo Drafthouse obtained the necessary zoning approval and liquor license to build, adding that the board was “100 percent behind the project from a zoning and licensing standpoint.”
“We’ll all be pretty disappointed ... but we move on,” Diller said, adding that he hoped another suitable tenant would occupy the space.
And though the door has closed on the Metro Theater, a Drafthouse location is under construction in Brooklyn.
Bowmen said that the effort to open an Upper West Side branch had been part of the chain’s “grand plan” for expanding in the New York City market.
“The neighborhood response has been similar to ours,” League said. “Disappointment.”