LARCHMONT, N.Y. -- The Larchmont Playhouse, shuttered since September 2016, may see its curtain rise again in 2017.
According to Ellen Zuckert, who, along with fellow Larchmont resident Elizabeth Bradley has led a grassroots effort to preserve the beloved community fixture, Michael DiCosimo, a longtime professional focusing on sound in film and theaters, has offered to buy and renovate the theater (with the help of community donations) and add office space and a sound studio in the back.
There are several contingencies — including one that involves Regal Entertainment — so it’s not a done deal, but the two women are "cautiously optimistic" the theater will reopen in 2017.
According to a post published on change.org , DiCosimo, a Bronxville resident, plans to own the building, operate the three theaters and build his offices and a studio in the back of the theater (on the part of the property on North Avenue).
His goal is to make the needed repairs to the building and add state-of-the-art projection and sound to the three theaters. He hopes the Larchmont community will support him by donating – through the 501(c)(3) the two women formed last summer -- for things like new seats, an updated lobby area and potentially a wine bar/café.
DiCosimo told Daily Voice the movie industry is in his blood. There are three generations of his family in the business starting with his father who was a projectionist for the Army Motion Picture Service, and later rose to be Chief Projectionist of the then world famous Loew State Theater.
"My father -- as have I -- always felt something magical happens when the lights go down and the image starts on the screen of a movie theater. Movies are such an influential, powerful, art form and that is where the inspiration begins," he said.
As for why he was drawn to the Playhouse, DiCosimo said he was simply looking for a building to house his expanding Cinema Service company. What confirmed his commitment to the project was the outpouring of community support to save the theater.
"We are in concert, we want to make it an inviting focal point in the community where people can come see a movie, have a coffee or perhaps a glass of wine," he added. "We want to create a home-like atmosphere."
"We are so lucky to have Michael DiCosimo as the buyer of the building. He is an expert in sound and has a love of film – he will be a real asset to the community," said Zuckert.
"He is, however, expecting that the community will honor their pledges – and perhaps donate even more – to transform the Playhouse so it looks as good as it will sound."
Zuckert and Bradley have retained a non-profit lawyer who will be drafting an agreement that, among other things, will specify that these donations are tax deductible, will set up an advisory board to have some input into programming, and will, overall, protect the community's donations and ability to preserve the theater.
"Before we can celebrate, however, the seller [a developer in Texas] needs to eliminate a restrictive clause that was filed as a corollary to the deed in 2015," write the two on the change.org site.
"That clause permits Regal Entertainment, the prior owner of the Playhouse and the current owner of New Roc, to limit the showing of first-run movies, prevent us from changing the seats and even, strangely enough, to allow moviegoers to bring pillows and blankets in the theater (among many other restrictions). Michael DiCosimo has asked the seller and Regal to remove this clause, and we are waiting to see if they will."
"Lifting the restriction is a contingency in the contract, and Regal hasn’t lifted it yet," added Zuckert.
"I’m investigating whether the community would have any recourse if it remains in place. Fortunately, there are a lot of lawyers in town."
In addition, the typical due diligence period on the contract is in process and will end on January 16. Once all the research on the building’s condition and title to the property is complete to the satisfaction of DiCosimo, a closing will be scheduled.
Once that occurs, the two women will begin to collect on pledges and will get the word out.