South Bay Cinemas owner Jay Levinson kicks back in one...

South Bay Cinemas owner Jay Levinson kicks back in one of the cushy chairs in his newly renovated West Babylon theater, set to open in June. Credit: Dawn McCormick

The sticky floors are now smooth, the seats cushy and the screens no longer dimpled with rips, but enough hasn't changed that longtime patrons of South Bay Cinemas in West Babylon may feel nostalgic when they step inside next month.

Closed since 2016, the movie house has undergone a $1.3 million renovation under new ownership, and news of its impending opening has people not only recalling the good old days, but hoping to make new memories.

“I’m very excited, and we’ll be there,” said Babylon Village resident Gary Weiner, who plans to check out the theater with his daughter, Aurora, 14. “If they bring it back to a quality level, that’s going to be our go-to theater.”

Weiner, 56, remembers the place as "certainly rundown, but a fun, cheap way to go the movies" and "a great way to kill a lazy summer afternoon with my daughter."

New owner Jay Levinson, who also owns the independent Bellmore Playhouse, said the theater "was a real rat's nest" when he took over but he loved the experience 30 years ago when he frequently saw movies there.

“I always had my eyes set on that theater because there’s not too much competition in the area,” said Levinson, 69, of East Meadow, noting the closest options are in Deer Park and Farmingdale.

He said it took two years to come to a lease agreement with the landlord and the renovations were delayed for years because of the pandemic and supply chain problems.

There are five new screens in the theater, which has 550 seats. The floors have been replaced and there are luxury recliner seats where patrons can “push a button, lean back, fall asleep and miss the whole movie,” Levinson said.

The facility meets accessibility standards under the American with Disabilities Act, and new bathrooms and draperies have been added as part of the renovation, along with other design touches from an interior decorator Levinson hired for the project.

Perhaps the biggest change that may will greet moviegoers is a full-service bar and lounge — Levinson said his liquor license application is pending. The lobby also will feature the usual food and snacks for sale and video gaming stations. 

“In movie theaters today, you make your money in concessions and you actually lose money with the box office,” Levinson said.

He is promising lower prices than chains like AMC and Regal, with prices topping out at $10 for adults and seniors at $7.50 — along with planned bargain days such as Terrific Tuesdays where $6 will get anyone a seat. The theater also will host birthday parties and other events, Levinson said.

A film buff with a theater screen in his home, Levinson has operated theaters in Huntington, Queens and Westchester and calls the South Bay renovation his “last hurrah” in the business.

“A lot of theaters are having a tough time right now,” he said. “But you have to be reasonable and you have to be consistent and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Fans of the theater have expressed their excitement about the reopening on social media — both for entertainment and employment opportunities.

A recent job fair Levinson held attracted 130 applicants for 20 jobs. He hopes to open by June 16.

The sticky floors are now smooth, the seats cushy and the screens no longer dimpled with rips, but enough hasn't changed that longtime patrons of South Bay Cinemas in West Babylon may feel nostalgic when they step inside next month.

Closed since 2016, the movie house has undergone a $1.3 million renovation under new ownership, and news of its impending opening has people not only recalling the good old days, but hoping to make new memories.

“I’m very excited, and we’ll be there,” said Babylon Village resident Gary Weiner, who plans to check out the theater with his daughter, Aurora, 14. “If they bring it back to a quality level, that’s going to be our go-to theater.”

Weiner, 56, remembers the place as "certainly rundown, but a fun, cheap way to go the movies" and "a great way to kill a lazy summer afternoon with my daughter."

New owner Jay Levinson, who also owns the independent Bellmore Playhouse, said the theater "was a real rat's nest" when he took over but he loved the experience 30 years ago when he frequently saw movies there.

“I always had my eyes set on that theater because there’s not too much competition in the area,” said Levinson, 69, of East Meadow, noting the closest options are in Deer Park and Farmingdale.

He said it took two years to come to a lease agreement with the landlord and the renovations were delayed for years because of the pandemic and supply chain problems.

There are five new screens in the theater, which has 550 seats. The floors have been replaced and there are luxury recliner seats where patrons can “push a button, lean back, fall asleep and miss the whole movie,” Levinson said.

The facility meets accessibility standards under the American with Disabilities Act, and new bathrooms and draperies have been added as part of the renovation, along with other design touches from an interior decorator Levinson hired for the project.

Perhaps the biggest change that may will greet moviegoers is a full-service bar and lounge — Levinson said his liquor license application is pending. The lobby also will feature the usual food and snacks for sale and video gaming stations. 

“In movie theaters today, you make your money in concessions and you actually lose money with the box office,” Levinson said.

He is promising lower prices than chains like AMC and Regal, with prices topping out at $10 for adults and seniors at $7.50 — along with planned bargain days such as Terrific Tuesdays where $6 will get anyone a seat. The theater also will host birthday parties and other events, Levinson said.

A film buff with a theater screen in his home, Levinson has operated theaters in Huntington, Queens and Westchester and calls the South Bay renovation his “last hurrah” in the business.

“A lot of theaters are having a tough time right now,” he said. “But you have to be reasonable and you have to be consistent and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Fans of the theater have expressed their excitement about the reopening on social media — both for entertainment and employment opportunities.

A recent job fair Levinson held attracted 130 applicants for 20 jobs. He hopes to open by June 16.

South Bay Cinemas by the numbers

  • First opened in 1967
  • Reopening expected by June 16
  • Features 550 seats
  • Has 1 large, 2 medium and 2 small movie screens
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