State Cinema to close
STAMFORD — State Cinema, the city landmark in Springdale that got its start as a vaudeville house in the 1920s, will close at the end of summer amid poor movie attendance and other factors, the theater’s owner said Monday.
The brick cinema will shutter after Labor Day weekend, said Richard Freedman, president of Garden Homes Management. The theater became a neighborhood staple as the only city cinema outside of downtown.
Freedman, in a news release, said a long-term national decline in movie attendance propelled by video on-demand and digital piracy of first-run movies has made the business unsustainable.
“We have always operated the State Cinema as a community asset, and the decision to close was a difficult one that we avoided for as long as possible,” Freedman said. “It has always been difficult for small cinemas to compete against multiplexes, and the larger trend of falling attendance has affected the State sharply.”
Freedman’s family-owned real estate firm has owned the cinema since 1976, and began running the theater a decade later when a previous tenant stopped paying rent and abruptly abandoned it.
In 1987, after searching for a new cinema operator to no avail, the firm “serendipitously” took up operations themselves, the release said.
Before the Freedmans took control, the cinema was known as “friendly but slightly grubby second-run cinema that turned into a kiddie mecca Saturdays and Sundays for its low-priced matinees,” The Advocate reported in 1988. “Sticky floors and broken seats became its hallmarks.”
“Viewing the cinema as a community asset that should be maintained, the Freedmans’ father Joel spent $300,000 on renovations including new seats, new sound, new projection and a restoration of the cinema’s famous painted ceiling,” according to Monday’s news release.
It was then re-opened it to rave reviews and strong attendance.
Garden Homes has invested more than $700,000 in improvements to keep the cinema viable since, the release said, including construction of a second screen in 2004, conversion to digital projection and digital sound in 2011 and lobby renovations in 2015.
But dwindling attendance figures over the last three or four years made the business no longer viable, Freedman said Monday.
National movie attendance hit a 25-year low last year.
Garden Homes will accept proposals from both for-profit and non-profit organizations for the future use of the cinema space, the release said.
The company “will only entertain proposals that maintain the historic integrity of the main auditorium, although continued operation of movie exhibition is not required.”
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