By Rebecca Henely
Having reopened four months ago with new management and new types of movies on the marquee, the three-screen Jackson Heights Cinema is planning a special premiere when the major South Indian movie “Endhiran the Robot” hits U.S. shores Friday.
The theater, at 40-31 82nd St., formerly known as The Jackson Triplex Cinema, will screen the film, which stars Indian actors Rajnikanth, who only uses one name and is the second-highest paid Asian actor after Jackie Chan, and Aishwarya Rai (“Bride and Prejudice”), with promotions and free give-aways.
The ownersï»¿ also expect to take videos of the opening and send them to SunTV, the company that distributes “Endhiran the Robot.” The sci-fi movie, about a scientist who creates a mechanical human, combines American-esque action/adventure sequences with Bollywood-style dance numbers and boasts special effects from the same team that worked on “Avatar” and the “Iron Man” films, said Siva Gunasegaram, son of theater co-owner Sagar Gunasegaram.
“This is definitely the first time they’ve done something like this in Indian cinema,” said Siva Gunasegaram.
Siva Gunasegaram said Sagar reopened the theater in May. Born and raised in Sri Lanka, Siva described his father as a longtime lover of film who started work as a projectionist in the country when he was a pre-teen.
“It’s been his passion,” Siva said.
Sagar has had many theaters throughout the years, including movie houses in the Bronx, Long Island and New Jersey, Siva said. The ideal location and the attractive interior of the movie house made it a draw for Sagar.
It is built in the Italian Renaissance style by Herbert J. Krapp, according to website Cinema Treasures.
“It was a beautiful theater. It’s a gem, really,” Siva said.
Yet when they reopened it, the owners wanted the movie house to appeal to all members of the diverse population of Jackson Heights, Siva said. Thus the theater’s main attractions include films from India, but also Spanish-language films and mainstream American films with Spanish subtitles. The film also serves Indian snacks in the concession stand and hopes to expand to Latin snacks.
“It’s a theater for the community,” Siva said. “We don’t want people to have the feeling that they have to go to the multiplex and pay $15.”
Jackson Heights Cinema, which used to be a one-screen theater dating back to 1924, now has three screens, one with 600 sets and two smaller theaters with 228 seats, said the website Cinema Treasures.ï»¿
Siva said it took the owners three weeks to renovate the theater, mostly doing general overall cleaning, installing a new carpet and technical renovations for the sound and projector. They hope to eventually change the seating in the side theaters and get a 3-D projector.
“There’s still much more that we have in mind, but we’re trying to do it one-by-one,” Siva said.
Showtimes are available on the Jackson Heights Cinema website jacksonheightscinema.com.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.