January was not a kind month for high-profile Manhattan silver screens.
Just weeks after Chelsea’s Cinépolis announced its final screening, The Regal Union Square’s parent company made it public that the multi-story theater would be dimming its light for the last time as well.
Cineworld, the Regal franchise’s British owner that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September, disclosed on Jan. 17 that the Union Square theater would be one of its 39 locations to close — the only one in the city.
In the filing, Cineworld detailed its plan to walk away from leases starting Feb. 15. As of last year, Regal was the second-largest movie theater chain in the U.S., behind AMC.
The Union Square theater’s over 2,000-seat capacity and location made it a destination for blockbuster films — where fans donned wizarding robes and wands for Harry Potter openings, and more recently immersed themselves in the 4DX rain, vibrations and scent effects of James Cameron’s Avatar: the Way of Water.
When it opened in 1998, it was reported to be Manhattan’s biggest movie theater.
Related Companies, the New York-based real estate developer, constructed the complex as part of its full-block building at One Union Square South, which it sold in 2020 to MKF Realty — a company that the Real Deal reported to be the subsidiary of Raghsa Real Estate, a Buenos Aires-based luxury developer.
Three years ago, the cinema underwent an ill-timed multimillion-dollar renovation, which involved the installation of new screening technology. The work was done at around the same time as the pandemic broke out.
Silver screens across the city were subsequently closed for nearly a full year.
Though its palatial cinema will be gone, the mixed-use building at One Union Square South will continue to host a number of businesses including Nordstrom Rack, Duane Reade and Whole Foods. The development is also home to a 239-unit luxury apartment complex, which is managed by Related.
Union Square Partnership, the area’s business improvement district, declined to comment on the closing but released an economic snapshot at the end of last year that maintains the area’s commercial prospects are healthy and growing at this point in its pandemic recovery.
The BID, which covers a large area centered on 14th Street, said it brought on 40 new ground-floor businesses in 2022. Its visitors have also increased.
According to Placer.ai estimates, domestic foot traffic reached 93 percent of 2019 levels this past December. The MTA has documented subway ridership at the Union Square-14th Street station reaching 73 percent of 2019 levels — the second highest-ranking station in Manhattan.
Though Regal management did not return a request for comment, it appears that cinephiles from the East Village and beyond will have a window to enjoy the blockbuster palace again before it closes. Though the bankruptcy filings list the lease ending on Feb. 15, the movie theater website lists screenings from now through the end of the month.