The scene at Glen Cove Cinemas was a flurry of sweat and dust as workmen installed rows of theater seats and applied finishing touches ahead of the grand opening, scheduled for Thursday, pending the OK from the fire marshal.
The new operator -- and local merchants -- expect the restored theater to have a dramatic impact on business, which they said faltered when the theater went dark last year.
"You've got to have a movie theater in town; thank God these people are bailing us out," said Mike Maier, 58, owner of the Cove Delicatessen on School Street.
Jay Levinson and his two partners, who have leased the theater at 5 School St. for 15 years, invested nearly $1 million in the venue -- roughly half of it for digital projectors -- to illuminate six screens.
"It's a community that's been starving for a theater," said Levinson, who operates two theaters in Merrick and East Northport. He believes area residents who have traveled 20 minutes or more to see first-run movies elsewhere will now stay in Glen Cove.
The renovation has cleared a few bumps. Heavy snow caused some delays in the three-month process, but the revamp will be mostly finished when it opens, he said Friday.
"It's coming along nicely, but it's going to be down to the last minute, down to the last wire, as they always do," Levinson said.
The theater closed last year after the building went into foreclosure. A company controlled by the Huntington-based real estate investment firm DiNoto Group bought the complex with the intention of reopening the theater with a new operator. Levinson was chosen, and the Glen Cove Industrial Development Agency last year awarded the theater a tax break; and the IDA awarded a $10,000 grant to restore the marquee, Levinson said.
The new operator outfitted the theater with new screens, new seats, digital projectors and sound, a new concession stand and a room for children's events. The theaters will seat between 180 and 250.
While much of the emphasis is on what's new, Levinson was enthusiastic about restoring the old-school practice of opening and closing the theaters' blue velvet curtains between the previews and feature presentation.
"It just gives it a nice touch," he said.
A red carpet and costumed characters -- Captain America and Spider-Man -- will add pizzazz to tomorrow's ribbon cutting that will feature remarks by Levinson and Mayor Reginald Spinello. During the day, the theater will be open free of charge for all films except "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," which will open in the evening.
In the past year, a common refrain among restaurateurs has been that the theater's closure killed foot traffic from people looking for a bite before or after a film.
Asian Fusion, a pan-Asian restaurant across the street from the theater, has maintained a takeout and delivery business, but sit-down dining dropped off, said manager Winnie Lin. "Everybody's happy the movie theater is going to be open," Lin said.