Lincoln Plaza Cinema, the renowned art-house theater that has brought foreign and indie films to audiences in New York since opening in 1981, will shutter in January. Located in the basement of an apartment building on the Upper West Side, the theater is operated as a partnership between Dan Talbot, the founder of the former New Yorker Films distribution company, France’s Gaumont Film Company, and the local real estate investment firm Milstein Properties, which owns the property. According to the New York Times, Milstein declined to renew the cinema’s lease. While there may be plans in the works to reopen a theater on the premises, the news of Lincoln Plaza Cinema’s closure has come as a shock to the film community.
The theater’s operators, Talbot and his wife, Toby, who have been married for sixty-eight years, are well known on the film circuit. Their taste in movies and their screenings of films as exclusive engagements before their wider release have drawn crowds to the theater for years. The couple is credited with introducing German directors Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Werner Herzog, as well as a slew of other filmmakers, to American film buffs. In an interview with Deadline, Toby said that she and her husband “did everything we could to ask for the lease to be extended.” She also alleged that Milstein refused to renew the lease because he “is looking to get everything he can. He’s looking to make money.”
Commenting on its decision to close the cinema, Milstein issued the following statement: “Milstein Properties built 30 Lincoln Plaza in 1978, we are long-term members of this community and have played a central role in nurturing this special theater. There is vital structural work needed to repair and waterproof the plaza surrounding the building that cannot be completed while the space is in use, and will begin now that the cinema’s lease has expired. At the completion of this work, we expect to re-open the space as a cinema that will maintain its cultural legacy far into the future.” According to the New York Times, it is uncertain whether the Talbots will be involved in running the venue, should it reopen. A closing event for the cinema is being planned for January 21, 2018.