The father-son duo behind the plans to reopen a historic theater in Babylon Village has been awarded a $150,000 grant from New York State in support of the project.
The funding will help Mark and Dylan Perlman of Seaford realize their dream of reopening the 94-year-old cinema on Main Street as a year-round professional theater for plays, musicals and other performance arts.
The state grant “allows for some significant project changes to the facility that, in our opinion, will very much enhance the experience for the patrons,” said Mark Perlman, a 63-year-old psychologist.
The Perlmans are working to acquire all of the necessary permits to begin construction. They hope to open the venue under the name Argyle Theater at Babylon Village in fall 2017.
Village Mayor Ralph Scordino welcomed the news of the grant.
“I think it’s going to be a tremendous asset for the village,” he said of the theater.
The funding, which was awarded by the Empire State Development Corp., will enable the Perlmans to build a recessed orchestra pit, install a second handicapped-accessible bathroom and expand the first-floor lounge, among other improvements.
The roughly $1.5 million renovation project will also involve tearing out the walls built by a prior owner around 1980 that turned the aging theater into three smaller cinemas, said Dylan Perlman, 23, an actor. The Perlmans plan to retain many of the classic features of the building, he said, like the iconic neon sign out front.
“That’s been a symbol there for many, many years,” he said. “Being able to relight that bright blue Babylon sign will be kind of special.”
The Argyle would be the latest in a series of incarnations for the venue, which dates to 1922. The Capitol Theatre, as it was then called, was one of three cinemas in the village at the time, according to Orlando Lopes, the former New York City director of the Theatre Historical Society of America.
“It survived as a single cinema all the way into 1979,” said Lopes, a former Babylon resident who was a manager in the theater in the 1980s.
It was then that the owner divided the theater into three smaller cinemas in an effort to boost profits. But even that wasn’t enough to make it competitive with the modern multiplexes that opened around Long Island, Lopes said, let alone the rise of VHS and DVD movies.
Babylon Cinemas, as it was last known, showed its final film in 2014.
The new 470-seat theater will host productions with professional Broadway actors and local performers, the Perlmans said. Alongside the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, it will be only the second professional theater open year-round on Long Island.
The venue could be a boon for downtown Babylon, Lopes said.
“The theater is supposed to be the focal point of the community,” he said. “If the theater is successful, all the surrounding businesses are successful.”