Good news, Hell’s Kitchen movie fans! LOOK Dine-In Cinemas is closing a deal to move into the space left vacant by Landmark Theatres on W57th Street — and as well as big screen blockbusters, they’ll serve food and cocktails.
The movie house chain, which boasts locations across the country (including Dobbs Ferry in NY), has filed paperwork with Manhattan Community Board 4 to take over the theater space at the VIA57 building — recently in the news over the closure of anchor restaurant Hudson West and for being converted into a giant Dorito in a Frito-Lay marketing stunt!. With an opening penciled in for spring 2023, the cinema will have eight theaters, a full concession stand, dining area and bar as well as a sidewalk cafe.
Like the Landmark that came before it, LOOK will offer curated cocktails for guests to enjoy like the CineMule (Tito’s vodka, secret mule mix, ginger) and the Car Chase (Longbrand Bourbon, sweet and sour, hint of orange) plus a wide range of sushi rolls, crispy wings, pizzas, sandwiches and desserts.
Brian Schultz, CEO of LOOK Cinemas, previously told press outlets that their focus is on creating a quality moviegoing experience that will tempt viewers away from their couches. For Schultz, who also founded the national franchise Studio Movie Grill, LOOK Cinemas is something of a second act. Pandemic closures forced the team at Studio Movie Grill to file for bankruptcy, and though the brand would eventually recover, Schultz left in April 2021 determined to learn from the challenges of the previous brand.
“People come here to watch a film and they want it to be a great experience. Period,” Schultz said in an interview with the Fort Worth Business Press. “Quality is non-negotiable.” He added that the LOOK Cinemas team was focused on making moviegoing a seamless, stress-free activity, with lower entree prices (between $10-$12) minimal disruptions to food delivery, plates and glassware designed to reduce cumbersome clanking and comfortable reclining seats. The brand is also committed to investing in their local markets, partnering with nonprofits to raise funds for film festivals and loaning out space.
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Should LOOK Cinemas successfully insert itself into the West Side community, it will fill the void left by the abrupt departure of Landmark Cinemas, which moved out of the space in August 2020. Spokespeople from the movie house cited the far west location and a lack of public transit as reason for the closure, something which was contested by property managers at The Durst Organization. Vice President Jordan Barowitz, told W42ST at the time: “Unfortunately, the new operator isn’t competent, and before COVID, ran the business into the ground. It’s a real shame.” Durst would go on to sue Landmark for $48 million in damages, alleging that they owed significant back rent over the term of the lease and stole at least $1.6 million in equipment, including movie seats, from the property upon their departure.
Developer Douglas Durst hoped to bring back a movie theater to the Bjarke Ingels-designed building, which the Danish architecture firm completed in 2016 to much fanfare (and awards) in its first New York project. Durst posted on the West Side Rag upon Landmark’s closure: “I am glad everyone enjoyed the theater. While I cannot promise the knishes will be back, I can promise that the theater will return.”
W42ST reached out to the Durst Organization and LOOK Cinemas for comment. Both parties indicated that they are in the final stages of inking a deal. “LOOK stands to inspire communities, one guest, one movie, one meal at a time. We locate great communities that need a great cinema. More to come soon,” said the movie house in a statement.
For now, West Siders sick of scrolling through their Netflix menus will have a big screen option to look forward to next year. Matt Fox, the co-owner of Fine and Dandy and a former Landmark fan was thrilled to hear that there would be a local movie house on the far west side once more. “The exit of Landmark was a huge loss for the neighborhood,” he said. “Without it, our options are Times Square or the Upper West Side. During those few years it was such a treat to have a movie theater just a few blocks away. Another movie theater taking over that space would be incredible. Now we just need a restaurant to go into the old Hudson West space next door.” Action!