In the village of Westbury, what was once old has become new again. After a $10 million renovation, the landmark movie theater -- shuttered for more than 10 years -- is reborn as The Space at Westbury, a multifaceted performing arts and event center opening Friday night.
"Initially when I walked into the theater, it was really a disaster," says Cyrus Hakakian, a partner of Lowe Properties, which purchased it in 2004. "There were holes in the roof with water coming in. Sitting for nine years after the closure took its toll on the building."
The Space is the latest example of a local trend -- revamping an abandoned building in a downtown setting into a multiuse entertainment venue. While featuring several concerts each month, it can also be used for private events (weddings, bar/bat mitzvah parties), corporate events and dance recitals. The Space maintains its cinematic roots with a pair of movie screens that enable it to host film festivals and premieres.
"Our plan was always to create a room that can function in many different ways," says Hakakian, who lives in Roslyn. "In today's economic situation, it's the only way it can survive."
The Bowery Presents, a hip Manhattan-based concert promoter, is booking a roster of artists that will vary in musical styles from alternative rockers Fountains of Wayne and Soul Asylum to zydeco blues pianist Dr. John.
"People can enjoy a show here that they would normally have to go to Manhattan to see," says executive director Bruce Michael.
NEW 'OLD' LOOK
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The venue dates back to 1927, when it opened as the Westbury Movie Theatre with a screening of the film "Hula," starring Clara Bow. The theater remained a single screen until it was twinned in the late '70s. But as multiplexes opened on Long Island, it struggled to stay open and closed at the turn of the century.
Today, the renovated lobby sports giant old movie reels in front of the restored ticket window from the original theater. Inside the performance space, it's clear that elements of the vintage theater were enhanced with some modern flair. Eight custom-made chandeliers hang from the original ceiling, but it's the illuminated five columns of old brick, bookended with velvet curtains on each wall, that give the room its character.
"I call it industrial elegance," Hakakian says of the design. "I love history. We tried to keep as much as the old as possible."
When it comes to seating, three levels can hold an audience of 817. The house capacity expands to 1,500 for standing-room general admission shows.
The Space sells limited food, simple snacks like pretzels, nachos and hot dogs, but offers six full-service bars -- two in the lobby and four in the theater -- with top-shelf liquor and six beers on tap.
Adding to the appeal: The venue is just blocks from the Westbury Long Island Rail Road station and just south of the Northern State Parkway. Parking is available on the street and in the village's municipal lots after 6 p.m.
The community has been awaiting the opening of The Space, drawing people to peek in the windows and ask questions as they walk by on Post Avenue.
"Westbury has not seen anything like this before," says resident Jeff Siegel, who works as The Space's technical director. "The neighborhood needs a shot in the arm."
THE SPACE AT WESTBURY 250 Post Ave., Westbury
INFO 516-283-5566, thespaceatwestbury.com