Film buffs rejoice as unique indie movie theater opens on City Island

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The closing of the Raymond Theater, pictured, in the 1970s marked the last movie theater on City Island until the opening of Cinema on the Sound in May.
Photo Ron Terner

Although it might come as a surprise to some that 1.5-mile long City Island is home to its own recently opened movie theater, the first theater on the island actually dates as far back as the early 1900s.

The Nickelette was a silent movie theater, which sat where the Crab Shanty now operates, and closed sometime in the ’20s even though the City Island Historical Society can’t say for sure when. The big kahuna, however, was the Raymond theater, established in 1926. The theater had several transformations, shutdowns and reopenings, and it also operated as a playhouse until sometime between 1976 and 1977, when it finally shuttered with a sign that read: “This movie house has closed because United Artists has refused to give the picture ‘Rocky’ to us which was promised four weeks ago.”

Nearly 50 years later, City Island has a movie theater once again. Cinema on the Sound opened in late May on City Island Avenue thanks to the efforts of owner Peter Gennari and filmmaker Jerry Landi, the theater’s manager and curator.

Gennari owns Clipper Coffee next door where he was already doing events like poetry night and movie screenings, so the theater seemed like a natural progression.

The arrangement at Cinema on the Sound seats approximately 50. Photo ET Rodriguez

“We were finding a lot of Bronx-based artists, filmmakers, creators that needed a space to do things for the Bronx and present their work,” said Gennari. “So we were doing a lot of that in the coffee shop and it just seemed natural when this space opened up to move here and do it on a grander scale.”

And thus, Cinema on the Sound was born.

The 50-seat theater has a wall projector and is fit with a small concession stand and popcorn machine. On Saturday nights one can see independent movies and documentaries for $10. On Sunday afternoons there’s a $5 matinee where the cinema shows classics like John Wayne movies and Betty Boop cartoons. There’s also a Fringe Friday in the works to screen “really out there” movies.

The theater occupies the former J.W. Foley Rarities and Obscurities antique shop, located at 270 City Island Ave. The antique shop had closed for renovations back in January. By February, owner J.W. Foley began posting about delays on reopening due to health issues. Then, on March 10, Foley wrote his last Facebook post to the community:

“To the best clientele anyone could ask for in the strange, weird world we inhabit, I send nothing but my love & thanks. Unfortunately, I spoke too soon earlier as my health issues have taken an unanticipated turn for the worse and nothing but every bit of strength left within me must go toward recovery, as such the brick & mortar is no more.”

Foley died in April at the age of 42.

“I talked and laughed with (J.W.) every day. His passing was quite sad,” said Gennari.

Cinema on the Sound owner Peter Gennari, left, and manager and curator Jerry Landi. Photo ET Rodriguez

Clipper Coffee and Foley’s antique shop both opened in 2018 and the owners became immediate friends. As an homage, Cinema on the Sound is keeping the original windows, which advertised Foley’s business. On either side of the theater entrance are two windows blacked out with gold writing — “Rarities” is written on the left window and “Obscurities” on the right.

In keeping with the movie houses before it, Cinema on the Sound is presenting their first live stage play, “5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche,” written by Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgoos, and directed by Tygar Hall. The story takes place in the 1950s as five women who are part of the Susan B. Anthony club prepare for their annual quiche breakfast when suddenly, a nuclear war breaks out and the farce ensues. The comedy will take place this weekend on Aug. 12, 13 and 14.

The space is also available to rent out. Whether you’re an indie filmmaker looking to screen your own movie, a parent trying to find an affordable event space for your kid’s party or an older adult’s center looking for an outing, Landi and Gennari said that prices are fair and flexible — the purpose of the theater is more about creating community than it is about making money.

This photo of John W. Foley sitting outside of his antique shop hangs on the wall inside Cinema on the Sound. 

They are currently working on a lounge in the back that leads to a sprawling backyard which will be shared by both the theater and the coffee shop, negotiations permitting. And there’s even talks of a possible “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” screening this Halloween.

Check out their movie schedule on their Instagram page, Cinema on the Sound, and visit ticketleap.com to purchase tickets.

This article was updated at 5:01 p.m. on Aug. 10.

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

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