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Larchmont Residents Scrambling To Save Town's Historic Movie Theater

LARCHMONT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork)-- Suburban communities across the Tri-State area are scrambling to keep movie theaters in their tiny downtown areas.

On a summer Tuesday, kids arrived for the matinee showing of "Finding Dory" at a quaint throwback of a movie theater, CBS2's Lou Young reported. Outside, adults worried about the continued existence of the place.

"I'm a resident and I'm heartbroken about the potential closing of the theater," Larchmont resident Susan Spencer said.

"The idea that something like our local theater is this vulnerable comes as a real surprise," resident Elizabeth Bradley said.

After 85 years on Palmer Avenue, the Larchmont Playhouse is getting ready to change hands. The lease is up for current operator Bow Tie Cinemas, which is losing money, and the landlord has the place on the market.

It's happened over and over. Sometimes a new business moves in, sometimes it just sits there. When movie theaters close they leave a hole behind, a reminder of a simpler past. No longer viable as commercial operations organizers, some say, at least can be saved by going the non-profit route.

"This theater, which was built in 1921, was going to be turned into a drive-through bank," Laura DeBuys, of Pelham Picture House, said.

That was in 2001. The Pelham Picture House is now a fully functioning nonprofit film center that was saved by local residents. Neighbors in Larchmont want to do the same.

"We want to buy this as a non-profit and save the theater from developers," Jessica Veith, of Save Larchmont Movies, said.

The group has managed to raise $200,000 in a week. They'd like to bid on the $1.5 million property and turn it into something like the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, something that sets the place apart for surrounding suburbs.

"It's important to have a place where kids can walk to and not be driven and have the arts in town. We don't need another office building," resident Tommy Breen said.

The real estate agent handling the property said the owner is open to dealing with the new local group, but wants to wrap up the sale some time this summer.


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