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Battle brews over Ridgewood Theatre interior’s fate

Proponents of the Ridgewood Theatre, a historic movie house that has been closed since 2008, achieved a milestone earlier this year when the facade of the building and the marquee received landmark status, but now the building faces a conflict over the interior.

While someadvocates want the lobby and staircase of the theater, which are allegedly in good shape, to also get landmark status, others contend the auditorium is ruined and buyers for the structure have not yet been found.

Michael Perlman, chairman of Friends of the Ridgewood Theatre, said he had heard that the current owners of the structure at 55-27 Myrtle Ave. hoped to reopen it as a performing arts center.

“It would really enhance the property values of the neighborhood, create jobs, keep people off the street,” Perlman said.

But plans for that did not emerge, although Perlman is still trying to advocate for it. The property is currently listed on real estate firm Massey Knakal for an asking price of $3.4 million.

Perlman said the interior can be adapted to any type of use so long as the facade and marquee are kept untouched, but he is hoping the interior can be landmarked and has begun collecting signatures for a petition. He described the lobby in a press release as “mostly intact with domes featuring angelic muses, vaulted ceilings and a period staircase.”

“It would be a shame to have to reveal those architectural features, then have to gut them for alternate use,” he said.

But Theodore Renz of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District said the auditorium is in need of repair. He said an architect who came up with a plan to restore the theater said the auditorium would cost $25 million to renovate.

“It’s pretty much in disarray,” Renz said. “It’s been in disarray for years.”

Renz said a tour was held for potential developers for the Ridgewood Theatre, but nothing came of it.

“There’s nothing moving forward to do given the economic climate,” he said.

Calls to the theater’s owners were not returned.

Perlman said the Friends of Ridgewood Theatre has more than 300 members on social networking websites Facebook and MySpace and via e-mail. He hopes a buyer will restore the theater.

“It deserves a savior,” he said.

The theater was originally opened in 1916 and used to be a showcase for silent films and vaudeville acts. It originally had a capacity of 2,500 people, but later became a 1,950-seat theater with five movie screens. The theatre was designed by architect Thomas Lamb.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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