But just a year later, it's being reported that the theater at 108-22 Queens Boulevard, which is operated by United Artists and home to businesses such as Banter Irish Bar and Kitchen, Gloria Pizza, and Liberty Travel, was sold for $20.5 million.
Now local residents are questioning whether the historic theater and small businesses will be preserved or undergo redevelopment to create condos.
According to The Real Deal, the theater was acquired by a group of real estate investors, which includes Eric Roth of Brick Realty Capital, Lloyd Goldman of BLDG Management, and Brian Ezratty of Eastern Consolidated.
In an interview, Roth would not reveal the specifics of the group's future plans, but cited “investment purposes” as their vision.
The theater is a 48,400-square-foot property, which has development rights of 65,000 square feet.
Opened in 1942, the Midway Theatre was dedicated to the courageous Americans in the Pacific Islands outpost and named after WWII’s Battle of Midway. Today, it features nine screens, 1,933 seats, first-run features, and state-of-the-art digital projection.
“The Midway is a Queens cornerstone, and we hope the new owners continue its operation,” said Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation.
The Midway Theatre was designed by Scotland-native Thomas White Lamb, who is often credited as “America’s foremost theater architect.” He designed over 300 U.S. Theaters, including the RKO Keith’s Flushing Theatre and Ridgewood Theatre, but Midway was his last.
“Thomas Lamb created some of America's most notable theaters,” said Karen Noonan, immediate past president of the Theatre Historical Society. “For generations, this theater has not only been a community gathering place for entertainment, but for news and group support during the war years. This classic should be zealously protected and preserved.”
The Midway Theatre still hosts community functions. At the 70th anniversary celebration, 170 people watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window.
Steve Melnick, treasurer of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce, worked with Regal Entertainment on the event, which raised nearly $2,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association. He plans to organize more classic movie fundraisers.
“The Midway attracts moviegoers from all over Queens, and supports hundreds of local businesses,” said Melnick. “Many restaurants even run dinner-and-movie promotions.”
He hopes the Midway remains a community gathering place.
“Keep the screens and incorporate space for a multi-purpose performance center with dance, music, and school events that supports our community,” he said. “A void would have severe economic ramifications.”
Neighborhood resident Anne Duterme echoed a similar sentiment.
“Forest Hills has a lot of character,” she said. “Rather than destroying the Midway Theatre and building more uninspired condos, thinking outside of the box and multi-purposing this property for independent film festivals and plays is an opportunity to enrich our community.”
On September 14, Banter Irish Bar and Kitchen celebrated its six-month anniversary.
“We haven’t met our new landlords, but presume they will be amenable to us,” said owner Michael Mansfield.
Tom A. Lamb, great-grandson of Architect Thomas W. Lamb, said the Midway’s history gives the community a feeling of permanence and belonging.
“I pray the new owners have a love for community and history that informs their actions, and that residents value their history enough to make their voices heard,” he said.