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Years Later, Still No Replacement For the Former RKO Twin Theater

What has led to the prolonged emptiness of a once successful two-screen theater in the village?

When it was open, the Odeon RKO Twin on the corner of Sunrise Highway and Morris Avenue was a charming two-theatre, two-floor cinema in a prime location showing the latest pictures.

Yet for many years now, the RKO has remained empty and abandoned — a massive and glaring vacancy on a busy commercial strip. Closed in January 2006, the 765-seat theater has remained uninhabited without any hint of progress or replacement for nearly five years now. The theater, seen here in better times in a photo from 1986, now sits noticeably stagnant as a lifeless eyesore.

Through this time of emptiness, different real estate company flyers have overtaken movie titles on the façade — from Sutton & Edwards to the current Pilskin Realty — but in this case the film has remained the same: no developments to speak of.

and , Patch questioned Rockville Centre residents about what should take over this prominent space. While Whole Foods won one of the polls, some troublesome commonalities are formed in every discourse on the RKO Twin, among them a lack of parking, chaotic traffic on Sunrise and a high rent that scares away potential investors.

Though myriad ideas spring up — a teen center, a few retail shops, a parking garage or a concert venue — it seems that whomever buys it would need a business that is consistently profitable to help deal with the logistical issues surrounding the space. Similar to high rent, remodeling the interior — removing seats, reformatting the layout — would be a time and cost-consuming procedure.

Similar to Rockville Centre residents, businesses around the old theatre have found the prolonged absence worrying. Jimmy Trahanas has owned the Golden Reef Diner across the street for 30 years and witnessed the theater's rise and fall.

“Anything that goes out of business in the village is not good for anyone,” he said. “When this theater and the Fantasy were doing very well, there was a noticeable difference.”

Then why has it been vacant for so long? “It’s the parking issue,” said Trahanas. “Only a business without a need for parking can survive there. Something can work if they could figure out the parking.”

Trahanas echoed the sentiment that the parking predicament for the theatre was a microcosm of a universal problem for establishments throughout Rockville Centre.

The owner of the space did not respond to Patch’s requests for an interview.

Michael L. November 29, 2011 at 05:06 PM
Build a 20 story residential tower on top of it!
Frank November 29, 2011 at 07:59 PM
Elevated parking is the only solution in areas where parking is difficult. Add a Parking structure to whatever is built there. See past threads on the issue: http://rockvillecentre.patch.com/articles/question-of-the-day-what-would-you-want-to-see-built-at-the-odeon-theater http://rockvillecentre.patch.com/articles/question-of-the-day-how-do-we-fix-the-villages-parking-problem
Frank November 29, 2011 at 08:01 PM
OR... Provide a safe means of moving pedestrians across Sunrise Highway to parking on the north side of town.
Drew Guarini November 30, 2011 at 06:15 AM
"Though myriad ideas spring up — a teen center, a few retail shops, a parking garage or a concert venue..."
JohnQ November 30, 2011 at 02:29 PM
Rockville Centre should condemn the property and either: 1. Make the building into a community centre for meetings, continuing education, amateur theatrical productions, and guest speakers/performers. In the old days, many localities, including Rockville Centre, had community centers for such purposes. 2. Or, tear the place down, and extend the non-visible parking area into that area, so that it is visible from Sunrise Highway. That would be of substantial benefit to local merchants.
Anthony November 30, 2011 at 03:20 PM
Doesn't the town already have a place to hold community meetings if needed? Town Hall or for larger audiences the Rec Center? Who owns the buidling anyway? How much are they asking for it? Rent or sale? My opinion would be that they would certainly not tear it down and extend the parking lot or even make a parking garage out of it. Even if the Town approved the building of a parking complex, how many people would actually pay to park in it? If they built a structure that held 200 spots, do you think they would even surpass 40% capacity on a weekend night, let alone a weekday? Doesnt sound like anyone would make any money on it even if they were allowed to build it.
Kevin O'Reilly November 30, 2011 at 03:27 PM
A few years ago a person who likes to go by the moniker "Citizen Taxpayer" and regularly speaks at almost every Village Board meeting, announced that the Theatre was to be converted into multiple stores. I guess that's not on the menu anymore!
Kevin O'Reilly November 30, 2011 at 03:28 PM
I don't see a demand to park in a multi storey car park in the evening when street parking is free!
Kevin O'Reilly November 30, 2011 at 03:30 PM
Good point. That junction is notoriously difficult and dangerous to cross.
Anthony November 30, 2011 at 06:20 PM
Build a pedestrian toll bridge!!! Too cheap to pay? Risk the traffic!!!
Kevin O'Reilly November 30, 2011 at 07:32 PM
Hmm. I can see certain individuals using said pedestrian toll bridge to drop things on passing traffic!
Drew Guarini December 02, 2011 at 08:17 AM
The Paramount in Huntington is a beautiful new music venue on New York Avenue. When I went for two shows recently there was an abundance of parking and a speedy shuttle bus that took people to and from the train station.
John Morrissey December 02, 2011 at 01:07 PM
Make it police headquarters so when the trouble maker's come into town one of the biggest buildings they see is a police station. Maybe that will deter crime.
Frank December 02, 2011 at 04:10 PM
Whatever we decide, something should be done soon... it really is an eyesore. I am surprised the village is not fining the property owners for the lack of "maintenance of premises”, "upkeep and appearance", or obvious "fire prevention" violations. If the landlord is that greedy as to deny any attempts by the village and willing renters to occupancy the vacant building, I would make life so difficult for them by heaping daily fines (1000s +) until they cry "uncle". In other words, someone (like the mayor) needs to hold the property owner’s feet to the fire. The last administration lacked "fire"... This current one promised a lot, especially when it came to business. Here's your shot Mayor Murray! Try and turnaround the RKO Twin!
Drew Guarini December 10, 2011 at 05:23 AM
There were actually people working on the roof this afternoon. Hard to tell what exactly they were doing.
Steve Strangio April 06, 2012 at 02:31 PM
As an usher there back in the late 80's, I can tell you that people will find parking wherever they can. A great idea will bring people back to the space. I've always felt that a movie-themed bar and/or restaurant would be perfect for that space. The theaters are already in place and my guess is that people want to go out to the movies if there was something extra special attached to it. A multi-purpose entertainment space featuring movies, bands, and interactive shows featuring food, beer, and fun. THAT'S what this space needs.
opinion-ated June 08, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Build a Shuttle Bus Terminal / Cafe. We need less cars not more places for them.
tom kane July 20, 2012 at 03:34 PM
burn it

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