There’s only two movie theaters in the Bronx. A local nonprofit is doing something about it.

The landmarked and defunct Loew’s Paradise Theatre sits empty on the Grand Concourse, but reopening may be on the horizon if a new nonprofit is successful in its plans.
Photo ET Rodriguez

When the Bronx Times published the article “There’s only two movie theaters left in the Bronx. Does anyone care?”, it evoked plenty of reaction from readers.

“It’s a little too early to say anything, but not all Bronxites are taking this lying down. Expect some positive news soon,” wrote Ian Keldoulis — a board member of the nonprofit Bronx Independent Cinema Center (BICC) — on an Instagram post about the article.

The BICC then announced its intention, in an April 4 press release, to reopen the landmark Loew’s Paradise Theatre at 2417 Grand Concourse near Fordham Road. The historic theater, which first opened its doors in 1929, has been defunct as a movie house for decades, and over the years has taken shape as a music venue, an event space and even a church. Today, it sits vacant, but in step two of its four-step plan, the BICC aims to raise $3 million in an effort to purchase the theater outright by 2025.

When the building was purchased by Gerald Lieblich back in 2003, it sold for $4.5 million. But Gregory Hernandez, the executive director of the BICC, believes that raising $3 million by the end of 2025 is a “sign of successful traction.”

According to Hernandez, who is also one of the co-founders of Bronx Film 48 — a similar collective of filmmakers that screen movies, host workshops and networking sessions, and includes a 48-hour film project — it takes between $1-1.5 million to run a single-screen cinema.

“For us, we wanted to raise double that because this is going to be a movie theater and an incubator,” he said. “My idea is to combine the models of the Bronx Documentary Center and Ghetto Film School with that of an Alamo Drafthouse. Fuse robust education and a terrific cinema environment and you have a game changer for Bronx residents.”

The plan is to create a space for likeminded individuals regarding film and filmmaking. A place where Bronxites can call their own instead of being forced to go the Film Forum, the Angelika, the IFC or the New York Film Academy  —  all art house movie theaters located south of 14th Street in Manhattan. The only remaining commercial movie theaters in the Bronx are the AMC Bay Plaza Theater 13 and the Concourse Plaza Multiplex Cinemas on 161st Street.

This spring and summer the BICC, which was formed in October 2022, will host pop-ups and screenings through partnerships with local colleges, the New York Public Library and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, with their sights set on hosting a screening at the Paradise Theatre in October. Their goal is to promote networking of people who believe in their mission and are also tired of having to leave the Bronx to watch independent movies.

A similar mission to the one being carried out by the independent theater Cinema on the Sound in City Island.

“That’s something that’s missing here in the Bronx. There’s so many creators here, so many filmmakers, so many people that want to present, so many stories to tell and I thought, ‘well, let’s create a place where we can tell those stories,'” Cinema on the Sound owner Peter Gennari told the Bronx Times.

But BICC wants to go bigger.

By 2030, the last step of the plan is to raise a total of $6 million and complete construction of a second movie space, following the purchase of the Paradise Theatre.

BICC has yet to get in touch with the owner of the Paradise Theatre. The group is currently at step one: fundraising $250,000 to market their message and reach a wider audience, hopefully through grants and community support, they said. They are also seeking to forge relationships with similar institutions and local politicians for support.

“We’re hoping at the very latest, next month, we can start to have those realistic conversations — ‘Hey! We’re this non-profit organization and our mission is to have this space.’ That’s the ideal space,” said Hernandez. “Let’s work together to make this happen.”

According to a source, there is a tour in the works for Bronx politicians to visit the Paradise Theatre soon.

The Bronx Independent Cinema Center will be hosting its first pop-up at Hostos Community College this Wednesday.

Reach ET Rodriguez at [email protected]. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes