One year after Landmark Theatres vacated its eight-plex cinema property at the base of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)-designed VIA 57 West apartment building in Manhattan, VIA 57 West’s developer has filed a $48 million lawsuit against the theater chain.
The Durst Organization claims that a Landmark affiliate owes more than $1 million in back rent and that it removed 700 plush seats and other items from the interior “under the cover of darkness.”
The luxury cinema complex was a commercial tenant of the pyramid-shaped VIA 57 West property, which was completed in 2016 at 625 West 57th Street, between 11th and 12th Avenues. Since opening in 2017, Landmark at 57 West became known for its concessions stand, which featured Yonah Schimmel knishes and other non-standard fare, as well as its mix of blockbusters and hard-to-find films.
The theaters closed temporarily in March of 2020 as part of New York’s lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In August of 2020, with the theaters still dormant, Landmark said it was vacating the property because it was unable to come to terms with Durst on renegotiating its long-term lease.
According to Indiewire, the suit claims that a Landmark holding company, Silver Cinemas Acquisition, owes anticipated rent over the term of its lease as well as rent that hasn’t been paid during the pandemic. The suit also claims Landmark stripped the first-level space of seats, light fixtures, and other features “under the cover of darkness in the middle of the night.”
Landmark leased the space when it was owned by entrepreneur Mark Cuban. Cuban sold the company in late 2018 to Cohen Media Group, which made the decision to close. Cohen did not respond to a request for comment.
Some movie-goers said the location was less than ideal because it wasn’t close to a subway station and not well served by buses. Others said the new theaters were a welcome contrast to older theaters elsewhere in the city and they liked the specialty menu items. Regardless, that outpost fell victim to a fate common to NYC retail in the last year-and-a-half, shuttering during the pandemic and finding itself unable to afford to reopen.
After Landmark Theatres vacated the premises, developer Douglas Durst vowed to find a replacement in a posting on the West Side Rag website. “While I cannot promise the knishes will be back,” he said, “I can promise that the theater will return.”