By SARAH MEIRA ROSENBERG
The projected demise of the independent movie theater has been greatly exaggerated in the case of Flushing’s Main Street Cinemas.
The small, six-screen theater is located in the heart of Kew Garden Hills. At any given time, it is staffed by three or four employees. It screens a variety of movies, mostly the popular blockbusters such as The Hobbit and Legend of the Guardians, and romantic comedies like Playing for Keeps, with the occasional indie flick thrown in.
Reports for the last several years have been predicting the decline of movie theaters. This past summer witnessed a drop-off of ticket sales in what is generally the movie industry’s prime money-making season.
With the soaring popularity of iTunes, DVDs, web video, Netflix, and piracy, it seems logical that movie-goers would find alternate means of entertaining themselves, and many do.
“There’s very rarely a movie that I have to see as soon as it comes out, where I can’t wait until it comes to DVD and get it from the library,” said Gittel Klein, a 24-year-old Kew Garden Hills resident.
Additionally, some low-budget theaters cannot afford to upgrade their equipment from old-style projectors to digital ones, and are forced to close up shop.
Main Street Cinemas’ manager, Jorge Salazar, admitted that there may not be as many moviegoers now as there were in past years. “Sometimes it gets pretty dead,” said Salazar, 20.
However, it is hardly all doom and gloom. “It picks up on weekends and holidays, and at night — anytime the kids are not in school,” said Salazar. “It’s really not that bad.”
What keeps the people coming? For one thing, tickets cost only $5 during the day, and $7.50 after 5 o’clock. “Great prices,” said Dave Burnett as he waited for his popcorn at the small concession counter.
It’s also extremely convenient, being walking distance from every point in the neighborhood. “I don’t need a car,” said Klein.
There is also a nostalgia factor at work. The theater is over 60 years old, and some moviegoers have frequented it since childhood. “I’ve been coming here for 30 years,” said Burnett, who was accompanied by his college-age daughter, Monica. “It’s a great place; it’s a bit of a throwback.”
Main Street Cinemas is easily doing well enough to avoid the fate of shutting down due to outdated equipment. Without raising its prices, the theater went digital this year. “Everything’s run by computers now,” said Salazar.
One of the old non-digital Super Lume-X projectors stands in the hallway on the scuffed carpet as a display, adding to the theater’s retro vibe. “Kids love to play around with it,” Salazar said.
When asked if he thought the future of theaters was at risk, Salazar was dismissive. “The big screen, the sound, the quality — you can’t get that at home, and people know that,” he said.
It’s a sentiment that others share. “I wanted to see Spiderman 3D,” said Klein, “because it’s more fun to see him swinging in a theater than on a screen.”