Washington Heights theater gets restoration funds, neighborhood hopes to attract visitors

August 22, 2013 10:51AM

The United Palace Theater in Washington Heights, one of few remaining single-screen movie houses from the 1930s, says the show will go on.

The Loew’s theater at 175th Street and Broadway screened movies on its silver screen until 1969, when it was repurposed as Christ United Church. Last year, the space was turned into a nonprofit cultural-arts center although some religious services are still performed, the Wall Street Journal reported. Now, the United Palace of Cultural Arts, as it’s currently called, plans to restore the 3,400-seat venue as a classic movie palace after an online campaign raked in nearly $50,000 —  funds that will go to repairing the grand, 50-foot silver screen and buying a digital projector.

“[The theater] is in the middle of a neighborhood that has been in flux for years and is now in a boom,” Peter Walsh, president of the chamber of commerce serving the neighborhood, told the Journal. “Our [local] industry is social services and institutions, so this becomes more important because it opens up a part of the neighborhood that hasn’t been attractive to outsiders,” he said.

Details of the programming remain in the works, the Journal said.

“We wanted to bring film back in the space because it was made for it,” Mike Fitelson, the venue’s executive director, told the newspaper. However, “this isn’t going to turn into an AMC running first-run movies six times a day; we’re never going to be able to do those economics,” he admitted. [WSJ]Mark Maurer