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City Councilmember Vincent Gentile wants to keep the projectors at the soon-to-be-shuttered Alpine Theater warm and ready to roll. Hoping to change their minds, the Bay Ridge legislator wrote a letter to Alan Benjamin, Senior Vice President of Loews Cineplex Entertainment, asking him not to sever ties with the property owner at 6817 5th Avenue at Bay Ridge Avenue. Currently, the property is up for sale for $10 million. The decades-old movie house is expected to close sometime in the next few months when their current lease agreement with Loews Cineplex Entertainment expires. At this juncture, no renewals are anticipated. The theater has been in operation since its opening in 1921. With the Fortway Theater also closed, there will be no local theaters for residents of Bay Ridge to go to, said Gentile. It is small-town movie houses like the Alpine that give Bay Ridge the distinctive small-town ambience that makes it such a special place, he said. If we keep losing these local small businesses, we are in danger of losing this close-knit feeling that gives Bay Ridge its character. In his letter, he noted to Benjamin that Loews Cineplex Entertainments own corporate statistics show that the Alpine still draws 300,000 people per year. With the Fortway Theater now nothing more than a fond memory, the Alpine has no competition, and could double its business. The potential for even greater volume exists in the vicinity, Gentile said. As of this writing, Loews has not responded to Gentiles letter. Calls to Loews Cineplex as to why they were not renewing their lease with the Alpine were not returned by press time. Massey Knakal, the realtor which sold the Fortway and is currently shopping the Alpine around, hopes to get $10 million for the 48 by 200 irregular lot that opens on 5th Avenue but takes up most of Bay Ridge Avenue between 5th and 6th avenues. Once the property hit the market, there was a mad scramble to get a buyer who was willing to keep the Alpine a movie theater. Merchants along 5th Avenue, who are planning to become a Business Improvement District (BID) in the near future, want the theater alive so it could be an anchor that will attract pedestrian traffic. I have received much input and contact from neighbors and constituents all expressing the desire to keep the Alpine open and to improve it, Gentile wrote. In an interview back in December, Kari Neering, a spokesperson for Massey Knakal, said that it was too early to say what the future use of the site might be. At this point there are endless possibilities, she said. A lot of ideas are being tossed around. If common business sense doesnt work, Gentile hopes hearing from a movie theater-poor community will. To reach that end, Gentile has started a petition drive demanding to keep the Alpine in operation. The petition gives us the opportunity to raise our collective voice, Gentile said. Anyone wishing to lend their name to the petition can do so by calling Gentiles office at (718) 748-5200.
©2006 Community Newspaper Group
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