Night Falls On Lower East Side’s Sunshine Movie Theater

The Landmark Sunshine theater is the latest indie movie house to close in NYC. Many others, though, are holding on.

By Jeff Vasishta May 23, 2017

Another one bites the dust. Independent movie theaters were once part of the artistic and free spirited fabric of New York City. With Amazon, Netflix and a smorgasbord streaming sites also encouraging movie buffs to stay home, and condo and box chain stores eager to take their space, it comes as little surprise that yet another of the dwindling number of indie movie theaters will be rattling the reels of tape through its projector one last time.

The Landmark Sunshine Theater on the Lower East Side will soon be a retail and office development, after being on the market for two years, DNA Info reports. Once a Yiddish vaudeville house in a building dating back to 1898, the Sunshine Theater opened in 2001 but like many other small movie houses around the city, the cost of rising rents and decreasing patrons has resulted its closure. This came despite a spirited attempt for reinvention as a dining destination like Williamsburg’s Nitehawk Cinema. This was opposed by locals and eventually Community Board 3 rejected the theater’s liquor license application.

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Despite the closing, however, some of Manhattan’s art house film centers are still managing to fight the good fight. These include:

Quad Cinema
34 W. 13th St.
The city’s first-ever multiplex, with four screens opened in 1972. It’s been a staple of all that was cool an arty in the Village for years but shut its doors in 2015 when it was bought by the Cohen Media Group, who renovated it. It is now reopened and screening again.

Film Forum
209 West Houston St. west of 6th Ave.

A one-time rival of Quad, fight for the films and the turf in the Village, this theater has 6 screens and opened in 1970 in an area of New York (Hudson Square, Manhattan) which was very different than the city of today. Its current location on (Houston St west of 6th Ave). Its current incarnation is a 3-screen cinema open 365 days a year.

Lincoln Plaza Cinema
1886 Broadway at 63rd Street, New York, NY 10023

Described by the Village Voice as “The Upper West Side’s bastion of middlebrow art cinema”, the below ground movie theater may be a little uninspiring in appearance but it sits almost directly across from the cultural hub of Lincoln Center. As such it’s become a hub of movie addicts in the neighborhood.

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IFC Film Center
323 6th avenue, New York, NY 10014

Formerly the Waverly Theater, the IFC Center is owned by AMC Networks (known until July 1, 2011 as Rainbow Media), the entertainment company that owns the cable channels AMC, IFC, WE tv and Sundance Channel and the film company IFC Films. IFC has converted the historic building, originally built as a church in the early 19th century, into a three-theater facility.

Cinema Village
22 East 12th Street Manhattan, New York, NY 10003

Build in 1963 in the shell of an old firestation, Cinema Village is the oldest continuously operated cinema in Greenwich Village and one of the oldest continuously operated art cinemas in the city. Known for specializing in provocative foreign and independent films.

Angelika Film Center
18 W. Houston St. at Mercer St., New York, NY, 10012

One of the biggest and best known indie film centers in NYC, the Angelika sits in a prime location on Houston St just off Broadway in the frenzied hub on NYU and the New School University plus the foot traffic of workers, shopper and tourists.

Village Cinema East
181-189 2nd Ave. @ 12th St. New York, NY, 10003

Located in of New York’s last remaining Yiddish theatre buildings, it is a New York city designated landmark. Designed in the Moorish Revival style with Judaic references (Yiddish writing outside the lobby and a large Star of David in the ornate dome remain to attest to the building’s origins), the theater was extensively restored in 2015. It shows films which originally opened at the Angelika (they, along with the Paris Theater, Cinemas 123, East 86th St. and Beekman Theater) and are owned by the same company, Reading International) as well as some Hollywood mainstream faire.

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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