21 Aug 2014
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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?

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

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.

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