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Historic Ridgewood Theatre listed for sale at $14 million

Once one of the longest-running movie houses in Queens, the 91-year-old Ridgewood Theater, has been placed on the auction block for $14 million just two months after lights dimmed permanently at the historic theater, a spokeswoman for Massey Knakal Realty Services said.

The five-screen theater, at 55-27 Myrtle Ave. in Ridgewood, opened as a vaudeville house in December 1916 and was converted into a movie palace the following year. The Ridgewood survived two world wars, the Great Depression, the golden age of television, video and DVDs, operating as a first-run movie theater continuously since its opening.

But Massey Knakal announced in mid-May that the theater, which closed due to declining business in March, had been placed on the market. The real estate services company is advertising the theater's purchase price at $14 million on its Web site.

According to Massey Knakal's site, the property could be transformed into a hotel or used for residential, retail or commercial purposes.

Vincent Arcuri, Community Board 5 chairman, said the Ridgewood was one of several unofficial community landmarks lost in the past few years.

"It had been there for a long time," he said. "Although there weren't that many people who still went to it, it had some historic value. I always worry when things my age or older start going."

Theodore Renz, executive director of Ridgewood's Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District, said community leaders would like for the theater's facade to be protected.

"The idea of the theater coming back is not dead yet," he said. "If it is not reopened as a theater, we are hoping the building will be of use to the [neighborhood's] commercial district."

Richard Sklenar, executive director of the Chicago-based nonprofit Theatre Historical Society of America, said he was saddened but not surprised about the theater's closing.

"Most of the older theaters in the country are already gone, so the ones that are still left are in even more danger because of a demand for real estate," he said.

The theater was designed by architect Thomas White Lamb, who built hundreds of theaters around the world, including Flushing's now-vacant RKO Keith's Theatre and Manhattan's AMC Empire 25.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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