The Malverne Cinema & Art Center has closed its doors again and will be available for private rentals only for the foreseeable future.
"We’re just not making it," said Anne Stampfel, who owns the independent cinema with her husband, Henry. "Regulars came back, but it just wasn’t enough to sustain it."
When the cinema reopened in October after seven months of sitting dark because of the COVID-19 pandemic, patrons came out to show their support. They insisted on paying full price even on bargain days and offered to donate a portion of their stimulus checks, according to the Stampfels, who added that they declined the offers. One man, they said, bought a single ticket with a $100 bill and said, "Keep the change."
"The outpouring of love has been what’s carrying Henry and I," Anne Stampfel said.
The Malverne Cinema ended its regular screenings Thursday; Anne sent an email to patrons that evening. All three of the Stampfels’ theaters, including the Bellmore Movies and Showplace, which they own, and the North Shore Towers theater in Queens, which they manage, are now closed.
The Stampfels’ two Long Island theaters continue to offer private rentals. Bookings so far have included screenings by independent filmmakers, a marriage proposal, a gender reveal party and a family reunion.
The Stampfels aren’t the only independent theater owners who have been hit hard by the pandemic. PJ Cinemas, in Port Jefferson, re-closed its doors on Dec. 14, though owner Phil Solomon has said he hopes to reopen this spring.