Another theater plan falls apart for downtown Riverhead

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Sheldon Gordon (right) of Riverhead Enterprises, which had been in talks with an independent theater company about coming to East Main Street, shown here at a downtown business summit event in 2010.

Regal Cinemas isn’t the only movie company that’s not coming to downtown Riverhead.

Back in December, officials from Riverhead Enterprises, which owns seven buildings on the south side of downtown Riverhead, told the News-Review they were exploring bringing a movie theater to the south side of Main Street. And that they were in talks with an independent theater operator.

But when asked Monday how those plans are going, Riverhead Enterprises principal Sheldon Gordon told the News-Review the theater project “is not on the front burner right now.”

Mr. Gordon, whose company owns the former Sears building, the buildings in between East End Arts Council and the former Swezey’s site, and several other downtown buildings, many of which are vacant, added that the movie theater industry is “a tough business.”

“I’m not certain as to whether they are in expansion mode right now,” he said. “But we would be receptive [to a movie theater] if the right company came along. It certainly is a use that we would welcome.”

Gary Epstein, a Riverhead Enterprises accountant, said in an interview in December that the company had already begun exploring the feasibility of bringing a movie theater to the south side of Main Street and had been in talks with a Long Island-based independent theater operator, though he said he believed the Regal talks were much farther along.

He also said his group would be willing to negotiate with Regal if the effort to build on the north side of the street fell through.

“With 100,000 square feet downtown, on the south side of Main Street, we certainly would be willing and able to accommodate a movie theater,” Mr. Epstein said at the time.

For most of the past two years, Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter has been trying to lure Regal Cinemas, the nation’s largest theater chain, to the former Woolworth building in a three-way deal in which developer Ron Parr would buy the building from Apollo Real Estate Advisors, which had unsuccessfully tried to lure a movie there itself, and Mr. Parr would in turn lease the building to Regal.

But Mr. Walter said last Wednesday that the Regal deal fell apart, but that he would continue to try and lure a movie theater downtown, possibly seeking out independent movie theater companies.

“We do feel good about what’s happening in terms of a new store coming downtown and hopefully, there will be others,” Mr. Gordon said Monday, alluding to Twin Forks Bike, which is moving from Polish Town to one of Riverhead Enterprises’ storefronts on the south side of Main Street.

And what about those site plans applications Riverhead Enterprises filed five years ago, seeking to build apartments downtown?

“Once again. if a developer came by, we would be willing to work very cooperatively with him,” Mr. Gordon said. “We’re still optimistic about a developer coming by and putting up apartments.”

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Read more about downtown theater plans in the March 22 News-Review newspaper.

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