Could the former Ridgewood Theater be making a historic comeback as an arts space?

ridgewood theatre
File photo/QNS

One man is trying to reboot the historic former Ridgewood Theater to its past glory by advocating creating a fine arts or performing arts space on the ground floor.

Anthony Arroyo has been a fan of the Ridgewood Theater since he was a child, and was saddened to see a sign on the historic façade advertising for rental units and commercial space at the once-thriving community theater.

Remembering all the fun he had at the Ridgewood Theater in years past, Arroyo concocted a plan to bring the arts back to the former theater for a new generation to enjoy.

“I am obsessed with the Ridgewood Theater, and cannot see anything else being there but the theater,” Arroyo said. “However, due to the growing artistic culture that is now Ridgewood, and surrounding areas, I truly believe a fine/performing arts theater would create such a frenzy.”

He quickly reached out to the current owners of the building and requested photos of the interior of the theater and a walkthrough. He learned that the apartments have been rented out, but the owners are still looking for commercial renters to take space on the ground floor.

After finding out about the availability of the approximately 15,000-square-foot commercial space — and a nearly 8,000-square-foot basement — Arroyo set up a GoFundMe page and an online petition to get the community involved in saving the Ridgewood Theater as a community arts space. According to Arroyo, funds collected during the GoFundMe campaign will go toward renting out the commercial space until investors take notice, or until they can get grants to try and keep the space as a theater.

Photo courtesy of Anthony Arroyo
Photo courtesy of Anthony Arroyo

“I sent a wishful email to [the] COO of a well-known, but small theater company, and he loved the idea,” Arroyo said. “I spoke on how the area of Ridgewood, Bushwick, and surrounding areas are changing. It is not what it was years ago when they first closed The Ridgewood Theater. We can get the community involved also, such as talent shows, independent movie showings and plays, along with regular showing [of] movies. I envision possibly three or four smaller theaters, and a large theater on main floor.”

Arroyo has printed 1,000 flyers and will be handing them out to the people of the community and local businesses to raise awareness of his mission. To view the GoFundMe page go here, to view Arroyo’s petition go here.

“The Ridgewood Theater is a symbol of time-tested strength of the community,” Arroyo said. “While everything around it is changing constantly, it stands strong and magnificent, holding history and future in a single space.”

The Ridgewood Theatre officially opened on Dec. 23, 1916. In the 1980s the theater was converted into a five-screen multiplex. As ticket sales began declining, the Ridgewood Theatre closed in March 2008.

The façade of the former theater, however, received landmark status by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission in January 2010 and cannot be changed or altered. The building was gutted for renovations in November 2014.

QNS has reached out to the building’s leasing administrator and is awaiting response.