AMC Theaters has signed a 15-year lease with the DiNoto Group, the owner of JJ’s Glen Cove Cinema on School Street. Construction is scheduled to begin on May 22 to convert JJ’s into an AMC theater. According to Mayor Reginald Spinello’s office, the renovation is expected to be completed by Labor Day weekend.
Some nearby store owners say they were happy that the prestigious theater chain was coming to the city. Jose Ynes, the owner of Gonzalo’s American Café, said that new theater would attract more people, especially on weekends. But Paul Ferri, who owns La Famiglia Ristorante next door, sounded indifferent. “This one was fine,” he said of Glen Cove Cinema. “It’s irrelevant. New or old — as long as it stays open.”
It is possible that AMC will increase the price of tickets to $16 for adults and $13 for children, which it charges at its other theaters. JJ’s charges $10 for adults and $6 for children.
Glen Cove resident Lucia Sabova said she was willing to pay more for her theater ticket under one condition. “It’s OK as long as it’s comfortable,” she said, adding as she gestured toward her daughter, “and as long as she’s comfortable.”
The details of the renovations
The renovated theater will feature stadium-style seating and reclining leather chairs. “I like [the theater] now, but I think reclining [seats] would be great,” said Toni Dalessandro, of Sea Cliff. “I think at the moment, the closest one is Hicksville, so it’d be nice if they had that here.”
Reclining seats, which are larger, will also mean a reduction in the number of seats by about half. The seating in JJ’s six theaters currently ranges from 161 to 232.
The lobby will be redesigned with the AMC décor, the concession stand and ticket kiosks will be upgraded, and a new sign outside will say AMC Glen Cove 6.
The building permits have already been secured for the $4 million project, and construction will begin when they are approved by the city’s building department. A construction company has not yet been hired.
A rotating construction schedule will allow two theaters to remain open at all times throughout the summer.
The theater’s past
Before it was JJ’s, the theater was part of several large companies, including Cineplex and Loews. In early 2013, the building went into foreclosure and the theater closed. That October, the building was purchased by the DiNoto Group, a Huntington-based commercial real estate company.
Owner Rob DiNoto contacted AMC, which expressed interest in coming to the area, but at the time, renovations would have kept the theater closed for an additional 12 months, a potentially significant hit to the local economy. So, in December 2013, DiNoto leased the space to Jay Levinson, James Kern and Bruce Latten, the current theater operators.
The trio renovated the theater seating, the wall coverings and the restrooms, and made plans to add a waiting area with coffee and a live theater in early 2014, but that did not happen. Nonetheless, residents were excited about the changes: They finally had a functioning theater with comfortable seating and unbeatable prices.
Late last year, DiNoto asked Levinson, Kern and Latten how the theater was doing. Levinson said that because Glen Cove is so small, it was hard to keep filling the theater during the several weeks that films were required to play.
The group decided mutually that it was time to move on. “The people in Glen Cove did support us, but it wasn’t enough,” Levinson said. “The rent and taxes were very expensive. We just thought it was in our best interest to leave, but we are involved in negotiation with other theaters on Long Island.”
DiNoto said he believed the time was right for AMC to come to Glen Cove. Deputy Mayor Barbara Peebles said that the Glen Cove Village Square project will begin while the theater is undergoing renovations, giving the city two brand new places for people to gather. The new theater will also create long-term jobs, Peebles added, and drive traffic to other stores, giving the city an overall boost. “It’s such a great endorsement of our downtown,” she said, “and it’s all coming together.”
As for the disruption that two construction sites may cause, Peebles said that “everything will be contained,” and there should be no impact on parking.
“This is where I live too,” she said. “You want to have vibrancy, and you want to have people walking around. It’s really a signal of true revitalization of [our] downtown, and I’m really excited.”