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‘Now is the time’ for a movie theater in Riverhead, residents say

A Calverton man submitted a petition with more than 3,100 signatures in support of a movie theater in Riverhead Town at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting.

About 50 people, many of them senior citizens, also were in attendance at the meeting to lend their support.

There is currently no plan to build a multiplex movie multiplex movie theater in the town, but residents who signed the petition want the town to do whatever it can to lure one to town.

“People in this town deserve a movie theater,” said John Altadonna, who submitted the petitions. “The town is big enough to support one and we deserve a movie theater.”

He said that the more time that passes without a theater will only lead to less space being available.

“Now is the time for the theater to be built in this town,” Mr. Altadonna said.

The town has tried to lure movie theaters in the past and has even granted site plan approvals for multiplex movie theaters, only to see the developer or the movie theater companies back out.

The most recent opportunity came under prior Supervisor Sean Walter, who tried to lure Regal Cinemas to Riverhead, first at the Suffolk Theater site, and then at the former Walmart site on Route 58.

The company that owns the former Walmart site, Phillips International, even submitted a site plan to build a multiplex at that site in hopes of getting Regal to locate there.

While Regal sent architects to town meetings to discuss the plans, the company ultimately dropped out, officials said.

Current Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said the Regal deal was dead before she took office. She said she has tried to contact movie companies and spoke to a few, but they haven’t been interested in coming to Riverhead.

“It’s a lack of interest from the movie company’s part, not on the developers’ part or the Town Board’s part,” she said.

The town has even changed its zoning to make it more appealing for movie theaters, she said.

“What do you think would sweeten the deal for them?” asked Toqui Terchun, the president of the Greater Calverton Civic Association.

“Get rid of Netflix and Hulu and HBO, that’s really what’s killing the movie industry,” Councilman Tim Hubbard said. “Everybody can sit home and watch those movies and it’s hurting theaters.”

Mr. Altadonna isn’t giving up.

“In my opinion, as long as Hollywood is making movies, people are going to want to go out and see movies,” he said.

Board members said they will try to get a movie theater in Riverhead, and they suggested mailing copies of the petitions Mr. Altadonna submitted as well, in order to show movie companies that there is support in Riverhead.

“I think the entire board would like to see a movie theater here,” Councilwoman Catherine Kent said.

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