Glen Cove's darkened movie theater could flicker back to life by fall, the investor holding the building's debt said Monday.
The future of the venerable six-screen multiplex, which closed in March, remains in doubt: The building is in foreclosure, its projectors need costly upgrades to digital, its food service permit expired last week and it's unclear who will operate the venue if it does reopen.
Investor Robert DiNoto, owner of the Huntington-based real estate investment firm the DiNoto Group, said he wants Glen Cove Cinemas at 5 School St., to remain a theater.
"We will certainly do everything we can to make that happen -- whether that's with the current operator or not remains to be seen," he said.
The bank that held the building's mortgage began foreclosure proceedings in February against Mottco Realty Group LLC, the building's owner. First Central Savings Bank said in court filings that Mottco still owed $3.3 million. A company controlled by DiNoto, Atlas Property Services Inc., bought the mortgage note in June.
DiNoto said whether the theater reopens quickly depends on if the building owners pay off the mortgage or if he has to take the building through foreclosure, which he said could take 12 more months.
"Our plan is, if we take title to the property, to, yes, get an operator to run a movie theater, that would first and foremost be what we would try to do," DiNoto said. He said he would look for a national operator to run the theater but would consider keeping the current operator, Allied Theatre Group LLC. From an investment perspective, he said, Glen Cove is "a great place."
It is unclear what the building owner and the theater operator plan to do.
"Maybe in the near future it will be open, and maybe it's going to stay closed for a long time to come," said Angella Mottahedeh of Great Neck, a member of Mottco, who along with Mehrdad Mottahedeh, was named in the foreclosure filing. The relationship between Mottahedeh and the theater operator is murky.
"We own the property, but it's in foreclosure," she said. "So we don't know what the theater owner is doing about the opening of the theater. . . . We don't know his future plans."
She said she was not involved with the theater, but state filings identified her as a member of the company and contact person when it was registered in 2006. Subsequent filings designated first Don Mott and later Jonathan Mottahedeh as contact people. A reporter last week at the Mottahedeh's Commack business was told by a receptionist, "They don't want to speak with you."
Glen Cove Mayor Ralph Suozzi said he had met with Don Mott, who he understood to be the brother and brother-in-law of the owners, beginning in January to see if the city could help the theater.
"He told me . . . the industry is going digital, and that he had to convert and that he had to upgrade the theater with seats and carpeting," Suozzi said. "He wanted to refinance the note, to a lower amount . . . so he could invest in all those improvements."
Suozzi and DiNoto said they believed the theater was closed in a failed gambit to force the bank to refinance the building's debt. Suozzi said that DiNoto's interests are aligned with those of the city, which would benefit from the return of a downtown entertainment venue.
For nearby eateries, the theater's return would not come soon enough.
Jose Yanes, manager and partner at Gonzalo's American Café, which serves food from a storefront in the same building, said business has been down by about 10 percent since the theater closed.
"It changed, especially at night," Yanes said.