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Lights come on after Lincoln Plaza’s long run

There’s more to moviegoing than the latest Hollywood shoot-’em-up or superhero adventure.

Lincoln Plaza Cinemas on Broadway, Thursday, Jan. 18,

Lincoln Plaza Cinemas on Broadway, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

You might think I won’t miss the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, because the clearest memory I have of the now-closed Upper West Side fixture is water dripping from the ceiling in one of the six auditoriums while the sparse audience debated whether the downpour was becoming strong enough to inspire an exit.

Other memories are also divorced from the presentations at the independent movie house — like spotting journalist Bill Moyers or Rep. Jerrold Nadler and his wife in the audience, or noticing how the line waiting for the next showing resembled stereotypically upper middle-class New Yorkers who might be waiting at a Woody Allen casting call (the controversial director’s work was screened there).

You pretty much had to go to Lincoln Plaza to see certain obscure films. Yet it’s the house itself that I will yearn for: the French posters on the walls, the domineering ushers ordering us about, and the ancient, back-pain inducing seats.

Still, there were the films: an Italian movie about a man blackmailed back home who is flown to New York to commit murder; another foreign screenplay about a woman whose husband is believed dead, who is driven to prostitution and mistreated by the townsfolk, but who gets her revenge when her husband returns.

Where else could you see such movies, along with current biggies like “Darkest Hour”?

Once upon a time, there was the Thalia on the Upper West Side. More recently, there was the Sunshine Cinema on the Lower East Side, also now closed.

Lincoln Plaza operators Daniel and Toby Talbot, who were married for 68 years, opened their six screens in 1981. The Talbots, who said they couldn’t secure an extension of the lease last year, wanted to continue to introduce American audiences to foreign films and filmmakers like Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Werner Herzog. Daniel Talbot died Dec. 28.

The Lincoln Plaza landlord, Milstein Properties, said that once “vital structural work” is finished, the space may again be a movie house, but it might be another multiplex chain.

There’s more to moviegoing than the latest Hollywood shoot-’em-up or superhero adventure. You can see those anywhere.

I’m losing a friend.

Leida Snow is a former theater critic.


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