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Buyer could ‘Rite’ a historic wrong at Greenpoint’s movie palace pharmacy

The Brooklyn Paper
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A once-glorious 2,000-seat movie palace that now houses a generic Rite Aid drugstore could return to its former glory now that its owner has put the building on the market.

The pharmacy has occupied the Manhattan Avenue site for 20 years, but its lease is up in January, 2014. Rite Aid could choose to remain for another five years due to an option in its lease — but broker Geoffrey Bailey of TerraCRG believes that the site is ready for a dramatic transformation.

“I’d love to be a part of bringing something like to the neighborhood. It’s definitely not an out-of-the-box use, considering it was a theater,” said Bailey. “It would be a great spot for it, there’s an indie feel in Greenpoint, but I never try to pigeon-hole a property.”

Whether the future of the former Meserole Theater is a Brooklyn branch of the Angelika Theater, Film Forum, Independent Film Channel Center or Landmark Sunshine, or just another pharmacy, the history of the former theater still cause goosebumps on Greenpoint residents who recall the days of seeing triple features for unfathomably low prices.

“That’s where we used to go and watch 25 color cartoons when we were kids,” said Greenpoint resident Rich Mazur. “Picture three hours of cartoons. It was a great way for parents to send their kids for $1 and be occupied for three our four hours.”

The theater was known as the Fox Meserole, named after its owner, William Fox, who built several movie theaters throughout Brooklyn in the 1920s, and one of Greenpoint’s original founding families, the Meseroles.

It featured silent films when it opened, but showed first run films such as “The Pink Panther” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” well into the 1970s until it was converted into a roller disco.

The building’s original disco ball still hangs from a dome in the center of the ceiling.

Rite Aid customers shop under the theater’s original ramps and fading period detail work along the perimeter and ceiling of the pharmacy, but the balcony was long ago blocked off since for storage. And the façade itself once held up a grand movie theater marquis.

With the right investor, the building could return to either of its heydays.

The list price isn’t publicly available according to brokers, but the pharmacy chain is currently paying $250,000 per year — about half the rates what other retailers are paying on Manhattan Avenue.

“Because they’ve been there so long, they’ve been paying below-market rents,” said TerraCRG’s Melissa Rae DiBella. “Any investor can hope that after two years they say goodbye. They’re not going to want Rite Aid to stay.”

That’s music — and moving images — to Greenpointers’ ears.

“To go to a movie theater today, you have to get in the car,” said Greenpoint resident Robert McErlan. “Everything we used to have here in this community we don’t have any more. They should reinvest in this community before they lose the community all together.”

That said, movie theaters seem to be disappearing these days more often than they are opening or being renovated.

It will cost $43.3 million to transform Brownsville’s long-dormant Loew’s Pitkin into a charter school this year and in 2006, Park Slope’s Pavilion theater was sold for $16 million with a lease through 2022, though its owners would not rule out conversion to a condo complex in the future.

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Reader Feedback

Mike from GP says:
"To go to a movie theater today, you have to get in the car."

What, really? Funny, the other day I took the train to the movie theater. I could have just as easily biked there too.
Nov. 23, 2010, 12:44 am
Richard Grayson from Williamsburg says:
There is another Rite-Aid just on the next block (acquired in their takeover of Eckerd Drugs), so it's not clear Rite-Aid even cares to stay.

Starbucks on Manhattan Avenue still has the Chopin Theater's marquee. Other Manhattan Avenue theaters within a couple of blocks were the Garden Theater and the Midway Theater, and the Nassau Theatre was just around the corner between Manhattan Avenue and Lorimer Street.

I went to a lecture last year at the Grand Army Plaza library by Cezar Del Valle, who knows a ton about old Brooklyn movie theaters: http://who-will-kiss-the-pig.blogspot.com/2010/04/wednesday-night-at-grand-army-plaza.html
Nov. 23, 2010, 1:23 pm
Bernadette Hyland from Formerly of Greenpoint says:
It was a beautiful theatre in its day...so great to walk around the corner to see a movie.

Chopin was non descript.

Would be a great for the current residents....such terrific memories....Planet of the Apes Marathon...now that was one way to get rid of your kids.
Nov. 23, 2010, 1:53 pm
Quinn from Greenpoint says:
The Starbucks used to be a theatre too...I'd like to get rid of that eyesore in exchange for a movie theatre.
Nov. 23, 2010, 5:17 pm
pixie hale from greenpoint says:
I would go to the movies every night they could do it UP!
Nov. 23, 2010, 7:04 pm
Jenifer from Greenpoint says:
I heard all the stories of the numerous theatres way back when that linedManhattan ave. I've been here for over a decade how cool it would be to have a movie theatre back in Greenpoint along with our new refurbished pool.
Nov. 23, 2010, 7:04 pm
Tamale from Bolen says:
I say active pastimes are better than passive ones. So, turn it back into a roller rink!
Nov. 23, 2010, 10:25 pm
Greenpoint girl on a stoop from Greenpoint says:
I bet rite aid will op to take the 5yr lease and continue to make money

I have seen many movies at the Meserole I have also fell on my butt when it was a roller rink..

I dont think any of those options are profitable now... The store is making money to cover the rent.
Nov. 23, 2010, 10:45 pm
charlie o from Binghamton NY says:
The Nassau movie house was on Nassau Ave, between Manhattan Ave & Leonard St. It is now a catering hall.
Nov. 24, 2010, 9:15 am
Matt from maspeth says:
Saw the last movie to be shown there Pelham 123
Nov. 24, 2010, 9:20 am
placebo from greenpoint says:
Have you ever walked into that place when it rains really hard? One time i walked in there, and there was literally a waterfall coming down just before the ramp. Seriously, I had to use my umbrella to go under it or i would have gotten soaked. Plus everywhere i walked I would feel raindrops from the ceiling. I wonder if they fixed that.
Nov. 24, 2010, 3:03 pm
John Dereszewski from once a Greenpointer says:
The terrific Cinema Treasure blog has a terrific page on this theater, which I have attached. (Hopefully the link will work.) Enjoy.

Like many old Greenpointers, I had my first date at the - as we all called it - Mezzy.

Since the old theater is, surprisingly, largely intact, a restoration is not out of the question - though, in today's economy, it is certainly a long shot. But this is why hope springs eternal!

Good luck on this - and thanks Aaron for a terrific article.

http://cinematreasures.org/theater/4670/
Nov. 24, 2010, 4:08 pm
B.Harte from GrnPnterof Olde says:
Always Loved the Meserole -And the "Handy" Exits
Always got the rest of the kids in at a Deep Discount!!
Nov. 24, 2010, 10:43 pm
anywho says:
This obsession with old crappy theaters amazes me.
Dec. 12, 2010, 7:29 pm
Lorraine from formerly of Greenpoint says:
I remember the days of movie theaters all over the neighborhood. The Meserole was my favorite. I used to go there all the time with my childhood friends. It would be wonderful to see it renovated and reopened. I think the area needs it!
Dec. 31, 2010, 1:55 pm
zachary bradley says:
need secret investor to open meserole theater back up you to run new and classic movie's again.. cantact me at radioloverx@aol.com...
May 4, 2011, 2:20 pm

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