Despite losing Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, the Upper West Side plans to continue reeling in cinephiles.
New Plaza Cinema, an organization looking to reincarnate the Lincoln Plaza experience, has partnered with the Marlene Meyerson Jewish Community Center on Amsterdam Avenue to host a run of independent films in its 250-seat auditorium this summer.
The partnership will launch with a screening of “The Catcher Was a Spy” June 24, followed by a marathon of films based off Philip Roth’s books. Some of the movies the Lincoln Plaza had contracts to show will screen this summer as well.
“These films had no place to go. Many of them, for example, had 100 percent ratings in Rotten Tomatoes, and they had no visibility,” said Norma Levy, the founder of New Plaza Cinema. “We’re really excited.”
Isaac Zablocki, senior director of the JCC’s Carole Zabar Center for Film, said his team began planning to show films that would appeal to Lincoln Plaza’s clientele when the storied independent theater closed this January.
He ran into Toby Talbot, who co-founded Lincoln Plaza with her deceased husband Dan, and heeded her advice to contact the group of local cinephiles fundraising for New Plaza Cinema.
“We spoke, and it was a match made in heaven,” said Zablocki, noting they quickly collaborated on a screening list. “We were thinking of screening films that are being released, but don’t have an uptown theater . . . What they were thinking was to do old films from Lincoln Plaza Cinema — all of their best films that they had released over the years . . . They changed a little bit for us; we changed a little bit for them.”
When Roth died in late May, an homage to his life was quickly added to the run list.
“There’s a major connection between him and the theater,” said Levy, who has lived on the Upper West Side since 1965. “He was a very special writer, and he was also an extremely good friend of Dan and Toby Talbot.”
Levy said her group formed a corporation in March, and has begun fundraising with the goal of creating a permanent, multi-screen theater dedicated to independent films on the Upper West Side.
She said New Plaza Cinema has not yet raised enough for the fees associated with becoming a nonprofit, but hopes to be able to afford them.
“It’s in the thousands of dollars, but it’s nowhere near what we need,” Levy said of the money raised so far, noting there is widespread support for the endeavor. “My doctor tells me that people keep coming to him, and as they’re having their physical, they’re talking about not having the Lincoln Plaza around. It’s really made a tremendous difference in peoples’ lives, and that’s why we’re getting such a tremendous response.”
And the JCC and New Plaza Cinema may have more crowd-pleasing collaborations in store. Zablocki said the JCC’s Carole Zabar Center for Film has reached its capacity, and is interested in finding additional space, which it would be open to sharing with New Plaza Cinema.
“The JCC is looking to expand it’s film program, and hope that this partnership continues even beyond the summer run, if it’s something that helps,” Zablocki said.