Lincoln Plaza Cinema,the 37-year old iconic art house theater on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, known for screening foreign and independent films, opened to the public in 1981. On Sunday night, the iconic movie theater closed its doors for the last time. Dozens of New Yorkers gathered in front of the theater on Sunday to watch the marquee go dark for the very last time and to bid farewell.
Customers crowded outside at 4 p.m. before show time to take selfies, while photographers snapped photos of the cinema. Loyal customers reminisced about the great films that they’d seen at Lincoln Plaza Cinema through the years and expressed their sadness that a part of New York they had come to love is now gone.
“It is a big deal that this place is closing down. It feels like the old New York is disappearing,” said local resident Christy Robins, who says she has lived in Manhattan for over 20 years and remembers watching the best foreign films here. She says it is depressing for the neighborhood to lose this small, local business.
The Lincoln Plaza is the most recent of a handful of iconic movie houses that have closed in Manhattan. Just last week, the Sunshine Cinema, another independent movie house, closed downtown and last year, the Ziegfeld in midtown stopped showing films. High rents and taxes have made it harder for independent businesses to sustain themselves.
With the news that the theatre was closing, moviegoers have been coming by the cinema to say their goodbyes, said one of the cinema’s workers. “Leading up until today, the line has been packed,” said 17-year ticket vendor Rowshan Chowdhurdy, shaking her head slowly and confessing that she is really going to miss the place. She added though that she is happy she worked there for so many years.
At one point in the afternoon, another older employee quietly removed the lettering from the marquee above the theatre. The crowd outside momentarily stilled and the other workers stood seemingly at attention watching him remove each letter with reverence and then carefully placing them in a large wooden crate. He then invited the surrounding crowd to take a letter or two as a keepsake. Dozens of customers looked through the letters and carried off one or two letters as tightly guarded treasure.
“I had to grab a letter, this is an antique for all of the foreign films me and my kids watched here,” Susan Littlefield, who says that the last 25 years she’s come here almost every weekend to watch a film to clear her mind.
The last film to be shown at Lincoln Plaza Cinema was “Insult,” a Lebanese film that has been nominated for an Oscar for the best Foreign Language Film. The movie was scheduled to start at 10:05 p.m.
Just before the lights dimmed and the movie house cranked out its last film, dozens of people gathered to take their last photos in front of the theatre. Inside, before the lights dimmed, the theatre was packed with customers who laughed, talked and remembered. Some even cried.
Then the theatre went dark, and as audiences have done for the past 37 years, everyone went silent to watch a movie for one last time. At the end of the movie, the crowd applauded and everyone took their final pictures as they exited the theatre for the last time.