They’re shoring it up!
A developer bought Coney Island’s long-neglected Shore Theater and plans to restore the 90-year-old landmark to its former glory, the buyer’s legal counsel confirmed.
“The people of Coney Island can start looking forward to an amazing theater,” said lawyer Igor Oberman. “They don’t want this to be just a seasonal venue — it will be for all seasons benefiting not only tourists, but the people here year-round.”
Jasmine Bullard, daughter of People’s Playground land baron Horace Bullard, sold the icon to Pye Properties for $20 million last week, the Coney Island Blog first reported.
The rebirth bodes well for the People’s Playground, which area businesses and political leaders have been pushing to become a destination in the winter as well as summer, according to one neighborhood booster.
“This is wonderful news,” said Boardwalk impresario and Coney Island U.S.A. founder Dick Zigun, who has long advocated for the ailing theater. “If Coney Island is on a trajectory to go year-round and build hotels, you have to have nighttime entertainment and that’s the place to do it, at a landmarked Broadway-equivalent theater.”
The building has been vacant for decades and fell into serious disrepair, and Pye is still determining what it will take to make the theater show-worthy again, Oberman said.
“They’re still in the assessment phase,” he said. “The property has been derelict for many years, so right now they’re doing structural studies, and trying to understand the physical condition of the building.”
The theater was built in 1925 as the Loew’s Coney Island, according to historian Charles Denson. It housed Vaudeville acts in its heyday, he said. The Brandt Company took it over in 1964, and the theater started showing X-rated movies in 1972 in a last-ditch attempt to lure audiences. Kansas Fried Chicken mogul Horace Bullard purchased the property in 1978 hoping to convert it into a hotel and casino, but the state decided against allowing gambling in the People’s Playground. The land baron put the building up for sale and let it sit derelict for the next several decades, drawing criticism from Coney Island advocates as the structure deteriorated and became an encampment of homeless people. Bullard died in 2013, and a 2015 announcement that the city would scoop up other derelict Coney Island properties that passed to his family reignited calls to seize the property through eminent domain.
It’s not the first historic Loew’s theater to be pulled off the historical scrap heap — the Kings Theatre in Flatbush reopened last year after the city hired a theater group to restore the iconic venue.