Sunshine Cinema’s home quietly being marketed for sale

Lower East Side art-house theater is asking north of $35M

The Sunshine Cinema at 139-143 East Houston Street on the Lower East Side
The Sunshine Cinema at 139-143 East Houston Street on the Lower East Side

Here’s something that’s sure to keep fans of midnight screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” up at night: The home of the Lower East Side’s Sunshine Cinema is quietly being shopped around as a development site, The Real Deal has learned.

For more than a decade, art-house movie buffs and devotees of late-night cult flicks have lined up outside the theater’s home at 139-143 East Houston Street. The property is now being quietly marketed to developers with an asking price north of $35 million, according to sources.

Owner Steven Goldman of S & G Houston Realty could not be reached for comment.

The Sunshine Cinema, operated by Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner’s Landmark Theatres, opened its doors to film buffs in 2001, and quickly established itself as one of the city’s premier art houses. But citing a need to keep up with rising rents, the theater’s operators sought a liquor license in 2012 hoping to follow in the footsteps of movie houses such as Williamsburg’s Nitehawk Cinema and the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers that add dinner and booze to the moviegoing experience.

The Lower East Side’s Community Board 3, however, had reservations about granting a full license to the 700-seat venue, instead preferring one that allowed for just beer and wine, according to reports.

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The cinema has a triple-net lease that runs through 2018, for which it pays an annual rent of about $200,000.

The historic 1898 building is on a lot that fronts 62 feet along Houston Street and holds about 44,500 buildable square feet, or roughly 56,000 square feet with an inclusionary housing bonus. One block away from the Lower East Side’s Whole Foods, it sits at the front door of a neighborhood that is picking up steam with residential developers.

New projects such as 50 Clinton Street and the ODA New York-designed 100 Norfolk Street are averaging more than $2,000 per square foot for their in-contract units, a new benchmark for the neighborhood.

Sales launched last week at the 11-unit 204 Forsyth Street, and a number of new projects are in the pipeline, including Magnum Real Estate’s 83-unit building planned for the corner of Houston and Orchard Streets.

The Sunshine is just the latest theater to be eyed for residential development. Last month the owners of Park Slope’s Pavilion Theater filed plans to convert the building to residential use, and in Flushing a number of attempts have been made to redevelop the landmarked RKO Keith’s theater.