Glen Cove's downtown movie theater is to reopen in April after a $1 million renovation that includes the addition of digital projectors, new seating, marquee and concession stand, and a children's game room.
The theater's closing in March left the area without an anchor tenant, reducing foot traffic to nearby restaurants, business owners have said.
"In a big town like Glen Cove there should be a theater," said Jay Levinson, a self-described "movie fanatic" who leased the theater at 5 School St. for 15 years.
Levinson, who operates two theaters in Merrick and East Northport, said he is talking to Glen Cove restaurant owners about promotions that could give diners free movie tickets or concessions in order to attract people from nearby communities to come into the city.
"We hope that people will start coming back into Glen Cove because it really is a ghost town at the present time," Levinson said. "You need the movie theater there."
The six-screen theater will keep its name, Glen Cove Cinemas, and play first-run movies.
The venue closed a month after the building went into foreclosure. A company controlled by Robert DiNoto, owner of the Huntington-based real estate investment firm the DiNoto Group, bought the mortgage note in June and took title to the building in October.
DiNoto, with some help from then-Mayor Ralph Suozzi, looked at both national and local operators before deciding on Levinson.
"It needed a local presence, someone that's really going to be on top of it to run it the way it needs to be run to ensure it's going to stay," DiNoto said. "Although that meant a great deal less in terms of money for us, we were able to get someone to get in there and open sooner."
The Glen Cove Industrial Development Agency, which Suozzi chaired, last month finalized a tax break deal for the theater in which DiNoto's company will make a payment in lieu of taxes, called a PILOT, lower than what it would pay in property taxes. The reduced tax liability allowed DiNoto to charge a lower rent to Levinson. Suozzi said DiNoto would pay a $65,000 PILOT, with annual increases, for 15 years.
"The theater is the anchor of the downtown," Suozzi said. "It's really important for the youth, not just the businesses . . . it's also really important for the psychology of the community."
The most expensive investment in the theater is the digital projectors, which cost a total of between $500,000 and $600,000. Patrick Corcoran, spokesman for the National Association of Theater Owners, said that 92 percent of the 40,045 movie screens in the United States now use digital projection and studios are beginning to release some movies only in digital format.
Paul Ferri, owner of La Famiglia, a pizzeria in one of the theater building's storefronts, said the reopening would revitalize the town -- and his business, which he said has been down 30 percent since the theater closed.
"It's been pretty bumpy," Ferri said. "Without having that theater there it just chased everybody out of town. You just don't see nobody around."