Jan. 3, 2024 By Iryna Shkurhan
Queens is set to lose one of its few remaining movie theaters this year, and another one appears in jeopardy, amid a nationwide decline in the big screen industry.
The Jamaica Multiplex Cinemas will shut down in June, according to the Mattone Group Jamaica Company, a real estate investment firm that spearheaded bringing the theater to Jamaica, and also managed it over the past two decades.
Meanwhile, the College Point Multiplex Cinemas, just five miles away, looks slated to close, with reports emerging last week that developers are in the process of transforming the cinema site into a distribution center.
The parent company of the two theaters, Showcase Cinemas, notified the owner of the Jamaica property last month that it does not plan on renewing the lease. Showcase initially signed on for a 20-year lease in 2002, and then received a short two-year extension in 2022, which is set to expire in June.
The Jamaica Multiplex Cinemas, a 15-plex cinema located on Jamaica Avenue, opened in May 2002 – the same month that the original Spider-Man movie was released. When the cinema first opened its doors, the operators were still running movies on giant rolls of film.
“We hate to see it go. It’s unfortunate, but a sign of the times,” said Michael Mattone, who recounted breaking ground on the previously vacant lot where Jamaica Center now stands in 2000. “We were hoping that they would stay, but I can’t say it came as a total surprise.”
Showcase Cinemas is owned by National Amusements, which collectively owns 1,500 theaters across the world under a variety of theater brands including Cinema de Lux and Multiplex Cinemas. Its theaters in the United States are almost exclusively in the Northeast.
The company has closed several theaters in the past year but has yet to formally announce the closure of the Jamaica Multiplex Cinemas.
The future of the College Point Multiplex Cinemas Last week, New York YIMBY reported that the real estate development firm, Triangle Equities, secured $50 Million in financing for a logistics facility on the 425,000-square-foot site where the theater on Ulmer St. is currently located.
The current plan is to redevelop the nine-acre area into a multi-story distribution center, given its central location and proximity to major roadways. The site is also home to Party Wow, a party supply store, and used to have a Toys “R” Us before it filed for bankruptcy in 2017.
Meanwhile, other theaters operated by Showcase Cinemas across the state have recently closed.
Tuesday marked the last day that the Linden Boulevard Multiplex Cinemas in East New York was open to moviegoers.
A statement on its website read, “It has been our pleasure to serve the Brooklyn community with great movie-going for many years. Due to a business decision, January 2, 2024 will be our last day of cinema operations. Showcase Cinemas is committed to providing a superior movie-going experience and we hope to see you at our Jamaica Multiplex Cinemas and College Point Multiplex Cinemas locations. Thank you for your patronage.”
But despite the company’s message to encourage moviegoers to visit its other locations, it appears that both Queens locations won’t be open for long.
QNS reached out to National Amusements for comment, but did not hear back by publication time.
The closures are part of a nationwide trend that left the industry scrambling to sell tickets amid a rise in streaming services, and then the pandemic further hurt the industry with temporary closures.
“Whereas other theaters did rebound. I don’t know that Jamaica really rebounded as well as some of the other theaters,” said Mattone. “So I think that may have also been part of some of the decision making.”
Mattone said that his investment group has already held preliminary conversations with other theater companies to explore the possibility of keeping a movie theater in Jamaica. But he couldn’t comment just yet on the specific companies in consideration. They are also considering other types of retailers. But he added that bringing in another theater tenant would be the most seamless option.
“I can’t think of the last new theater that opened in the area,” said Mattone. “There’s really been no new theaters that have opened in Queens in god knows how long.”
Queens residents who are looking to watch a movie on the big screen still have some options.
AMC has locations in Bay Terrace and Fresh Meadows. Regal UA also has theaters in Astoria and Forest Hills. There are also small independent theaters sprinkled throughout the borough such as the Cinemart Cinemas in Forest Hills and Fair Theater in East Elmhurst.