Sunshine Cinema Building Sold For $31.5 Million; Theater to Close in January 2018

(Rendering) Sunshine Cinema redevelopment scheme.

(Rendering) Sunshine Cinema redevelopment scheme.

It’s an announcement we’ve been expecting for a few years and one that many neighborhood residents have been dreading. The New York Post reported this afternoon that the building housing the Sunshine Cinema has been sold. The theater will close in January of next year.

The building at 139 East Houston St. is being snatched up by East End Capital and K Property Group for $31.5 million. After booting the theater, they’ll renovate the historic building to accommodate ground floor retail and offices upstairs. The building currently covers 30,000 square feet and there are 20,000 square feet in unused development rights. More from Lois Weiss’s story:

East End’s Jonathon Yormak and David Peretz are very bullish on the Lower East Side – even if they aren’t bullish on movie theaters. “We see the transition from bar and nightlife area to a live/work environment,” Yormak explained of their purchase.Added Rod Kritsberg of K Property, “We are excited about adding to the neighborhood’s rich culture and bright future.”

Back in 2015, reports first surfaced that property owner Steven Goldman was trying to unload the building fore more than $35 million.

The art house cinema, in an historic 1898 building, was opened in 2001 by the Landmark Theatre chain. Portions of the structure reportedly date to 1838, when the German evangelical mission was based there. It then became the Houston Athletic Center (1908) and the Houston Hippodrome (1909). Landmark Theatres spent $12 million on the 2001 restoration.

The Hippodrome was a venue for Yiddish vaudeville acts. According to Cinema Treasures, the property changed hands in 1917 and it was renamed the Sunshine, before becoming the Chopein Theatre in the 1930s. After closing in 1945, the building was used for storage for decades.

The building is not protected as a city landmark.


Sunshine Cinema in No “Imminent Danger” of Closing, But Long-Term Future Still Bleak

Sunshine Cinema. Photo via: Cinema Treasures.

Sunshine Cinema. Photo via: Cinema Treasures.

Our hearts sank in 2015 when it became known that brokers were trying to sell the historic 1898 property currently housing the Sunshine Cinema. The building at 139-143 East Houston St. has not yet attracted a buyer. IndieWire has an update on the situation today, including an interview with Ted Mundorff, president and CEO of Landmark Theaters.

Property owner Steven Goldman reportedly wants $35 million for the development site (the lot could accommodate a 56,000 square foot residential building). Mundoroff said, “It would take years for anyone who’s going to pay the kind of money they’re looking for to demolish [the building] and construct something… At this point I don’t see any imminent danger of us leaving the property.”

Back in 2012, Community Board 3 rejected an application from Landmark Theaters for a liquor license at the Sunshine. The permit would have allowed the Sunshine to offer food and beverage service in the theaters, boosting revenue. Mundorff told IndieWire, “That was pretty shortsighted of folks… It’s not like theaters that have alcohol have people falling down [drunk].”

While the Sunshine appears to be safe for now, most industry insiders believe it’s just a matter of time before the property is sold and the independent cinema is forced from its Lower East Side home. The current lease expires in 2018.


Sunshine Cinema Temporarily Closed Due to Flooding (Updated)

Sunshine Cinema. Photo via: Cinema Treasures.

Sunshine Cinema. Photo via: Cinema Treasures.

You may have seen the following message from the Sunshine Cinema this afternoon:

Managers at the Landmark movie theater at 143 East Houston St. tell us the closure is due to flooding. They hope to reopen this evening or, by the latest, tomorrow morning. Keep an eye on the Sunshine’s Twitter account for updates.

UPDATE 1/7: The Sunshine is back in business:


Report: Sunshine Theatre Building On the Market as Development Site

Springsteen Documentary Premiering at Sunshine Cinema

Look out for long black limousines and pink Cadillacs on East Houston Street this evening: Springsteen & I, a new documentary about the Boss, is making its U.S. debut at the Landmark Sunshine theater at 6 p.m.

Sunshine Cinema Returns to CB3 in Quest For Liquor License Next Month

The Sunshine Cinema is applying for a new liquor permit. Photo via: Cinema Treasures.

Community Board 3 just published the agenda for next month’s liquor license hearing.  There are several interesting items listed, including a return engagement by the management of the Sunshine Cinema, which is transforming the East Houston Street landmark into a “dinner/drinks/and a movie” venue. Back in December, CB3 turned the Sunshine team away, saying their application was incomplete.

Also on the agenda, a business dubbed the “Cow Theater” is seeking a wine and beer permit at 21 Clinton, Currently the home of the Living Theatre (the legendary theater company is moving out of the space after its current production ends).  The new applicant appears to be Tyler Maganzini, who runs the Black Mountain Winehouse in Brooklyn.

Click through for the full agenda.

Delicatessen Returns to the Midnight Movie at The Sunshine

A still from the 1991 film, Delicatessen, by Jeunet & Caro.

The fabulous French film Delicatessen will grace the screen at The Sunshine Cinema this weekend in the midnight time slot on Friday and Saturday.  The film was directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro (creators of The City of Lost Children and Amélie) and is a funky version (in my opinion) of Sweeney Todd.  Told in a totally unique style, which they claim to be a tribute to Terry Gilliam — but nobody makes films like Juenet and Caro — the story is touted as a “wonderfully macabre comedy about an enterprising butcher’s solution to meat shortages” (and is set in a post-apocalyptic France of an ambiguous time period). It’s a timeless classic that I guarantee is even better when viewed on the big screen.

143 East Houston Street // midnight Jan. 11 & 12 // $10.

Sunshine Cinema Says Alcohol Permit is Key to Staying on the LES; CB3 Balks

The Sunshine Cinema is applying for a new liquor permit. Photo via: Cinema Treasures.

Last night, representatives of the Landmark Theatre Company told members of Community Board 3 that their plan to sell alcoholic drinks at the Sunshine Cinema offers the only hope of keeping the art house theater at 143 East Houston Street.  But citing an incomplete application and concerns about the scale of the proposed liquor permit, CB3’s SLA Committee sent them away with a tongue-lashing and the threat of rejection.  Executives from the company withdrew their application for the time being.

Mike Fant, Landmark’s senior vice president for real estate,  said the company will soon be renegotiating its lease in the historic 1898 building on East Houston Street that has served as a center of independent film downtown for more than a decade.  He indicated that the property owner expected to have multiple offers from other theater companies.  In anticipation of a big rent increase,  Fant said, Landmark wants to invest $1 million to transform the Sunshine into an upscale venue for drinks, dinner and film.

Midnight at the Sunshine: Revisiting and Reveling in Film Faves

Photo via: Cinema Treasures.

Editor’s note: The following article first appeared in our June print magazine. It was written by TLD contributor Giacinta Frisillo.

Second-run films are first-rate fodder for a fun, rowdy, happening time Friday, Saturday, and sometimes Sunday nights at the Lower East Side’s Landmark Sunshine Theatre. That’s when the Houston Street cinema turns from independent and experimental to weird and a little bit wacky. The Midnight Movie at Sunshine offers a unique chance to recreate the experience you had while watching the films you loved — or loved to hate — on the big screen the first time around. Re-watching with audiences as caught up in the show as these nighttime moviegoers are keeps the magic of the movies alive.

“The crowd tends to be very different at night,” notes Hanlon Smith-Dorsey, the house manager at Sunshine. “The midnight crowd has to be up for staying up late. They’re usually younger and hipper, and sometimes even nerdier.” Making a case in point, Mitchell Fesh, an usher, recalls when Super Mario Bros. ran. “People came in with the T-shirts on and were really jazzed! The fandom was incredible.”
And since Landmark Theatres opened Sunshine in New York City in 2001, the fan base for the Midnight Movie has been a solid staple. After it began in Los Angeles as a theater playing second-run and cult films, its operators believed there was a market on the East Coast. And they were right. Cas Pineda, who sometimes works in the box office during the late showings, knows of “one guy who comes to every single Midnight Movie there is.”

“Pariah” Opens at the Sunshine Cinema Today

Aasha Davis as Bina and Adepero Oduye as Alike in ``Pariah.''

There’s a noteworthy opening at the Sunshine Cinema today. Pariah is the story of a young black woman from a traditional Brooklyn family coming to terms with the fact that she’s gay.  It debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and is generating quite a bit of “Oscar buzz.” The LA Times says it’s a “street smart story” that, while a little “rough around the edges, ” is believable, subtle and tender.  Click here for tickets and show times.


Sunshine Cinema Joins Zip Card Program

Our new partner, the 10002 Zip Card, is featuring some good deals.  A new participating business, the Sunshine Cinema, is offering two for one movie tickets. Plus Pimps & Pinups, the salon at 101 Stanton Street, has a 10% discount for Zip Card members.  Joining is absolutely free. Head on over to the Zip Card web site for details.

Coming Up Saturday: Formula One Cars Roar onto Forsyth Street

Ayrton Senna, who died in a racing crash 17 years ago.

The Lower East Side isn’t much of a hotbed for auto racing (unless you’re talking Delancey Street). But on Saturday the area around the Sunshine Cinema is the place to be for Formula One fans. In conjunction with the premiere of Senna,” a documentary recounting the life and fiery death of racing champion Ayrton Senna, there be a big display of exotic sports cars – including two historic Formula One cars (from the 1970’s).

Race car driver Alex Roy will be on hand with his BMW M5 (the car he used to set the 31 hour and 4 minute transcontinental LA-NYC record). Senna writer Manish Pandey and ESPN commentator John Bisignano will also be there. The cars will be lined up on Forsyth Street between Stanton and East Houston strating at 11 a.m. You can check out the Senna Facebook page for more info.


Great Prizes Up for Grabs at LES Trivia Night!

A Russ & Daughters Classic Bagel and Lox Sandwich, one of the many great prizes proffered, via gift certificate, at LES Trivia Night with The Lo-Down (photo via Lox Populi at

Did we mention there are some fantastic local prizes to be had at our LES Trivia Night tomorrow evening?  Along with tasty snacks and great drink specials on hand, winners of each round of trivia will be treated to some great LES staples, including free movie passes from the Sunshine Cinema, pickle gift certificates from The Pickle Guys, a book basket brimming with books from the Tenement Museum’s bookstore and to top it all off, Grand Prize winners will garner a Russ & Daughters gift certificate for a bagel sandwich!

Join us with the Tenement Museum at Fontana’s!  We look forward to enjoying a fun evening on the LES.  FREE // 6:30pm // 105 Eldridge Street.

Laughter and Adventure For All in This Week’s Midnight Movie at The Sunshine

Buttercup & Westley prepare to face the Rodents of Unusual Size (ROUS) via

The Midnight Movie at The Sunshine offers up fun for the whole family this weekend with everybody’s favorite fairy tale (and comedy/adventure), The Princess Bride. Perhaps one of the most quoted films of all time, director Rob Reiner expertly mans the helm of the adaptation of William Goldman’s novel. Silliness and swordsmanship abound in the witty screenplay.  The superb cast features a young Carey Elwes and Robin Wright along with comedy and stage veterans Mandy Patinkin, Peter Falk, Wallace Shawn and Christopher Guest, not to mention fantastic cameos from Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, and Peter Cook. $10 // Friday and Saturday at Midnight // 143 East Houston Street.

Clue Comes to the Midnight Movie at the Sunshine

Tim Curry, Eileen Brennan, Martin Mull, Lesley Ann Warren, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean and Madeline Kahn team up in Clue, at the Sunshine this weekend.

When it appeared in theaters in 1985 with three separate endings, the movie version of Clue (based on the popular board game) received mixed reviews.  It has since developed a cult following and big appreciation for the charming performances by the heavy hitting ensemble cast featuring Tim Curry, Eileen Brennan, Martin Mull, Lesley Ann Warren, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Madeline Kahn and Lee Ving.  If you like slapstick served with mystery mayhem and some brilliant deadpan acting, this is a great way to wrap up Spring Break.  $10 // Friday and Saturday at midnight // 143 E. Houston.