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Flushing theater to reopen as Macy’s outlet center

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Just over a year since its movie screens were silenced and doors were closed to Flushing residents, the United Artists Quartet Theater is being gutted and expected to be reborn as a Macy's outlet center.

Its neighbor, the former home of The Reception House caterers, will apparently be demolished.

On Tuesday afternoon, dust drifted out of the opening in the Quartet's storefront at 160-06 Northern Blvd. and onto the sidewalk, as a small crew used a loader to fill up a dump truck with debris hauled from within the building.

The old marquee was gone.

A worker at the site said the theater was being transformed into a Macy's and the former Reception House next door was going to be knocked down. He could not provide further details, and the Manhattan-based Midwood Co., which managed both properties, was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

The Reception House has relocated a few blocks east to 167-17 Northern Blvd. at the former Villa Bianca site.

Marcello Caira, the owner of The Reception House, said he had tried to purchase the building but was unsuccessful and had to start looking for a new location when his lease ran out a few months ago.

"As I understand they're going to demolish the old Reception House to create a parking lot" and build a Macy's outlet next door in the Quartet, Marcello said.

John Watts, an assistant to City Councilwoman Julia Harrison (D-Flushing), said he had also heard the Quartet was going to be the home of both a Macy's outlet center and a national drugstore chain.

"I think it's wonderful," Watts said of the recent changes at the Quartet. "It's a shame a movie theater had to go to make way for it but it's a national retailer coming to Flushing."

Mary Anderson, president of the East Flushing Civic Association, said she had also heard the theater was going to house a Macy's facility and a drugstore, possibly CVS.

"The neighborhood looks so different without the marquis. It's like a different street," said Anderson, noting that having new tenants was better than an empty shell.

The Quartet was closed during Christmas week in 1998.

Formerly known as the Roosevelt, the Quartet got its name after the theater was converted into a four-screen complex in the early 1970s.

Borough Historian Stanley Cogan said it was the first multiple screen theater in the whole area, long before the 12- and 14-screen multiplexes, such as the one in College Point, began popping up throughout the borough.

"It certainly was a community and neighborhood favorite," Cogan said.

Flushing resident Rose Bruno, also a member of Community Board 11, has lived in the area for 55 years and remembered the Quartet when it was a one-film moviehouse and a favorite destination for neighborhood children.

"They used to go on Saturdays because it was close by," Bruno said. "Some of them walked, some used their bikes."

Bruno said she thought the new tenants would upgrade the area, but she was concerned about parking, as was Anderson.

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) said lack of parking was what kept her and her family from frequenting the Quartet when it was open.

Flushing activist Paul Graziano said the Quartet was another victim of the multiplexes which are changing the face of the borough and moviegoing in general.

Plans are already in the works to open multiplexes in Springfield Gardens, Jamaica and Elmhurst. Besides the College Point theater, which opened last summer, another multiplex was opened over the past few months in Astoria.

Graziano said the Quartet would have been the perfect venue for showing independent films.

"It's a shame they chose to exploit it for its space," he said. "Where once people would go to have a group experience, now all it's going to be is just another shopping center."

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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