The 581-seat, single-screen venue next to the Plaza Hotel and Berdorf Goodman across from Central Park, posted a sign in its window Thursday that put a knife into the gut of New York cinephiles. “Unfortunately, our lease has ended and the Paris Theatre is now closed,” it read. “We would like to extend our sincere appreciation to all of our guests over the years. Thank you for your patronage and we regret that we cannot continue to serve you.”
Reading International, whose City Cinemas unit runs the theater, did not return a request for comment.
Deadline broke the news in June that the theater would close at the end of August if something drastic didn’t happen to get the Solow real estate family to reconsider. Subsequently, they barely returned the calls of those who tried hard to change their minds to keep open the only single screen prestige film house left in New York after the nearby Ziegfeld Theater closed and became a muti-purpose facility. Many successful platform releases, including films like Best Picture winner The Artist, began at the Paris. Its closing is a major blow to distributors of prestige films in Gotham.
The Paris opened its doors in 1948, with actress Marlene Dietrich cutting the ribbon. The house served up a steady diet of arthouse films, with French fare naturally the priority but other foreign films finding that theater a strong launch point. The Paris is owned by Sheldon Solow, best known for the prestige building 9 West 57th Street. It had been booked for years by Bob Smerling, but the presence of throwback houses like the Paris were always dependent upon the goodwill of the handful of family-owned real estate companies that dominate Manhattan. That theater occupies prime real estate that could most certainly be used for other purposes and draw high rents.
Traditional movie release windows are undergoing dramatic shifts and theaters are feeling the squeeze, especially on the specialty end of the business. Deadline’s Pete Hammond observed as much earlier today when reporting that the Telluride Film Festival lineup includes a number of films from Netflix and Amazon that will appear on streaming platforms after just two weeks in theaters.
The toll has been particularly steep in New York, where the real estate occupied by theaters is highly prized in a booming city of condos and chain stores. In just the past two years alone, the Ziegfeld, the Lincoln Plaza, the Beekman, City Cinemas 86th Street and Landmark’s Sunshine art house multiplex have all shut their doors. While new sites like the Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn and the Metrograph have admirably been swimming against the tide, the trendlines are clearly unfavorable.
The Paris has been a consistent draw for event planners, with recent premiere screenings being held there for Showtime’s The Loudest Voice and FX’s Pose. As with the Ziegfeld through its difficult later years as a commercial house, the convenient location of the Paris on 58th Street kept it in demand as an event venue.
The theater’s most recent commercial booking, Ron Howard’s documentary Pavarotti, attests to its longtime place in the traditional ecosystem. While the opera portrait would go on to play 300 theaters around the country, the largest and most influential grosses from any one theater came from the Paris.
Here’s a look via Twitter at the scene at the theater:
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