Cinema Sells, Movies Stay

Susan Rosenbaum | November 4, 1999

Even as record crowds lined up outside United Artists' Main Street, East Hampton, theater this summer, the company was negotiating to sell the six-screen cinema, one of the largest commercial buildings in East Hampton Village.

The movies, though, will stay where they are. In a $5.629 million sale-and-leaseback deal, U.A. turned over the theater to FROG, L.L.C., a Delaware corporation with Manhattan offices and an unlisted phone number, whose chief executive, Donald Zucker, has a house around the corner on Huntting Lane.

Mr. Zucker, a real estate developer whose headquarters are in Manhattan, owns several other East Hampton properties as well.

"For The Money"

We "did it for the money," said Charles Fogel, United Artists vice president for regional operations, from his Princeton, N.J., office. "We'd rather be a tenant than a landowner."

Mr. Fogel said the proceeds would go into other theaters - but not locally, where land is scarce and costs are high. "I wish I could find a spot to build another theater in the Hamptons," he said.

There has been some speculation that a multiplex theater might rise somewhere on the South Fork, but Mr. Fogel pooh-poohed it. "Nobody will build a megaplace in the Hamptons," he maintained.

UpIsland, the company is building a 12-screen theater on a former drive-in site in Westbury.

Newly Painted

Speaking from U.A. corporate headquarters in Englewood, Colo., Scott Hall, who represented the company in the negotiations with FROG, said he was talking with its principals about similar sale-leasebacks elsewhere. United Artists also has a four-screen theater in South-ampton and another with five screens in Hampton Bays.

Mark Walsh of Select Investment Realty Advisors of Hauppauge, pointing to a "longstanding relationship with both parties," said he brokered the deal. The lease, he said, runs 20 years.

The new owner will spruce up the building, said Albert Berkowitz, chief financial officer for the Zucker organization in New York, and of FROG. The outside has already been given a new paint job.

History Of Films

Moviegoers began lining up for feature films in the same spot on Main Street almost 75 years ago, with the opening of the 1,000-seat Edwards Theatre in 1926. The building, which also housed the Osborne Jewelry Store and the Marmador, a luncheonette and ice cream parlor, burned to the ground in 1964.

A year later, work began on a 900-seat East Hampton Theatre, owned and operated by Prudential New York Theatres. A second and third screen were added in 1976, and a fourth three years later.

Two more renovations, in 1981 and 1994, at a cost of over $1.5 million, brought the theater to six screens and its current capacity of nearly 1,300 seats.

Number One

While the $5 million price tag seemed on the low side to some observers, Judi Desiderio, a longtime commercial real estate agent for Cook Pony Farm Real Estate, said that in East Hampton, "The smaller the space, the higher the price," particularly on Main Street's north side.

Number One Main Street, for instance, with 2,000 square feet on each of two stories, is said to be available for about the same price as the theater. Dr. Alan York of East Hampton owns that building.

Besides his Huntting Lane residence, Mr. Zucker owns a house and vacant land nearby on the Circle and 6.9 undeveloped acres on Further Lane.