Academy Forced Out of Longtime Theater Venue in New York

Lighthouse International, which leased the Academy its theater on 59th Street since 2002, has sold the property, meaning hundreds of Gotham-based Oscar voters must now catch films elsewhere.
Scott Frances/Courtesy of Lighthouse International

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will soon be homeless in New York.

The Oscars-dispensing organization is being forced out of what it calls its "East Coast home" — the building at 111 East 59th Street, in which it has leased a 220-seat, state-of-the-art theater for the last 12 years — because landlord Lighthouse International, a vision-loss advocacy organization, has sold the property after merging with another nonprofit, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The Academy's spectacular section of the building — long referred to as "Academy Theater at Lighthouse Guild" — was designed by noted architect, designer and film enthusiast Theodore Kalomirakis and was renovated in 2010 with $1.2 million in funding from Charles S. Cohen, the film exec who in 2008 established the Cohen Media Group production and distribution company.

So, with Oscar season right around the corner, where will the Academy's roughly 750 New York-based members be able to catch weekly membership screenings, voting screenings and special programs? In a June 24 email, Patrick Harrison, the organization's popular director of New York programs and membership, indicated that these gatherings "will move to other screening venues until a suitable, permanent location can be secured."

In fact, the first Academy screening at an alternate New York location took place on July 2 at the Dolby 88 Screening Room at 1350 Avenue of the Americas. For the rest of the month of July, a few final screenings will take place at Lighthouse International (Mr. Holmes, Irrational Man and Southpaw), but the rest will be at the Dolby (Ant-Man, Trainwreck and Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation).

According to the New York Post, which first reported the Lighthouse-Academy split, the Academy is also considering the possibility of holding screenings at the SVA Theatre at the School of Visual Arts in Chelsea — a venue employed by the Tribeca Film Festival each year — but locations closer to midtown and the Upper West Side, where many members live, seem like a likelier bet until a permanent new home can be located.

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