Good morning. It’s Thursday. We’ll find out about plans for more than movies in a Manhattan movie theater that has been closed for more than a year. We’ll also look at the surprise ending that kept Justice Hector LaSalle from getting a promotion to be the top judge in New York State.
Brian Schultz says the time has come for dinner and a movie on West 57th Street. At the same time.
Schultz is the chief executive of a company that has taken that concept to movie theaters in California and in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. He has signed a lease to bring it to a theater that went dark in 2021 — the eight-auditorium theater in the triangle-shaped building at 625 West 57th Street.
Schultz maintains that people want to go out again — and go to the movies. But with so many films available on streaming services like Netflix, theaters have to offer something audiences cannot get on the couch at home, something more than popcorn, soda and a sticky-feet-on-the-floor experience. He also says that streaming has conditioned moviegoers to expect seating that is more spread out and more comfortable than close-together rows in a multiplex.
His answer is to have waiters bring food and drinks to patrons’ seats, which have tables that can slide away when the last crumb has been eaten.
“This isn’t theater snacks — this is really food,” said Schultz, who has been in the theater-dining business since the 1990s. “This is dine-in 2.0, because the industry has to compete with people being on the couch. How we execute the concept creates an entertainment experience that’s communal. That’s what people are yearning for after being isolated for two years.”
Theaters were hit hard during the pandemic: The take at box offices dropped to $7.53 billion in the U.S. and Canada in 2022, down from $11.4 billion in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic, according to Comscore, a firm that compiles ticketing data. The turbulence in the industry is continuing: Last month Regal Cinemas said it would close more than 30 theaters around the country after its parent company filed for bankruptcy. Among them is the Regal Union Square, on Broadway at West 19th Street in Manhattan, according to a list from the bankruptcy filing that was posted by Business Insider and other publications online.
The theater on 57th Street is expected to open by summer in an area that has changed from when it was dominated by parking lots and garages, auto repair businesses and machine shops. “I lived in this neighborhood 14 or 15 years ago, and it was different,” said David Neil, a principal of the Durst Organization, which owns the building.
Now there are 1,500 apartments on the block, about half of them in the Durst building, with several thousand more after 11th Avenue becomes West End Avenue. “The residential density that a lot of people talked about a decade or so ago has now arrived,” Neil said — and Schultz sees the tenants as potential customers.
A handful of movie theaters in the city are already serving food and drinks in cinemas, including the two Nitehawk Cinemas in Brooklyn; the Alamo Drafthouse theaters; the Syndicated in Bushwick, Brooklyn; and iPiC Fulton Market, at the South Street Seaport in Manhattan. Schultz, who sees dine-in theaters as “the future of moviegoing,” started a dinner-in-the-theater operation in Dallas in the 1990s.
It had 35 theaters across the country, but with the pandemic came a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. He left the company in 2021 and started Look Dine-in Cinemas, which will run the 57th Street theater.
He said that six of its eight auditoriums would have slide-away tables. The other two would emphasize the moviegoing — servers in those theaters will not bring in food once the lights go down and the movie starts, as they will in the others.
Prepare for showers through the evening and temps near the mid-60s. At night, expect wind gusts and temps in the low 50s.
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Not getting a big promotion
Justice Hector LaSalle watched as the future he and Gov. Kathy Hochul had imagined for him, as the top judge in New York State, fizzled.
LaSalle sat, alone and silent, on a high-backed leather bench in the gallery of the State Senate as his nomination went down to defeat on a surprise 39-to-20 floor vote driven by Democrats who considered him too conservative as well as hostile to labor unions and abortion rights. LaSalle, who is the presiding judge of the appellate division of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, had denied that.
My colleague Luis Ferré-Sadurní writes that the vote could quiet an intraparty battle that has overshadowed the legislative session in Albany. But the defeat — the first of a governor’s choice for chief judge — is certain to strain Hochul’s relationship with Democrats in the Legislature as they open negotiations on the state budget, which is due in six weeks.
The vote also means that Hochul will have to name another nominee, which she said she would do — even as she disagreed with the outcome. She said the vote “was not a vote on the merits of Justice LaSalle, who is an overwhelmingly qualified and talented jurist.”
It came almost a month after the Senate Judiciary Committee blocked the nomination, a move that prompted Hochul to consider filing a lawsuit against fellow Democrats to force the vote. Eventually a Republican, State Senator Joseph Palumbo, took up the fight, naming the entire State Senate and 11 Democrats as defendants in a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of not bringing the nomination to the full Senate. “A vote of a mere committee” was not enough, the lawsuit said.
Hochul said after LaSalle’s nomination had been rejected that the vote was “an important victory for the Constitution.”
It’s not clear whether the floor vote undercut the lawsuit, effectively rendering it moot, though that is what Senate Democrats are hoping for. Republicans have said they intend to push the case forward; a hearing is scheduled for Friday in State Supreme Court in Suffolk County. The Democrats were concerned that if the case dragged on, it could draw attention from the budget process.
Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat and the majority leader, said that the fight over LaSalle had become “a wedge issue to distract us from other pressing matters at hand,” noting the ongoing budget negotiations. “We have a state to run.”
45 minutes in Central Park
Between the hours of 9 and 10
On a bench adjacent to mine
Sat a man who was not put together
A man in the grip of some battle
Big drops of rain began to fall
Raindrops by the tablespoon
The man refused to move
A woman with a terrier
Stopped as if she knew him
Offering dry comfort
Underneath her umbrella
The man began to cry
What determines luck, who makes up the rules?
Why is value attached to everything but me?
The woman sat by his side
Put her arm around his shoulder
In silence, the umbrella twirled
Until she offered explanation
Everything will be fine, she said
Just not today
— Danny Klecko
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected]
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