The Whitestone multiplex cinema has shuttered after 30 years in business. It was purchased for $30 million last year by real estate development company the Lightstone Group, who will be turning the site into New York City's first outlet mall.
For their final marquee, a goodbye note:
from South Bronx Network's facebook page
The Lightstone Group is best known these days for its massive luxury development of Gowanus, but they have developed a number of outlet malls--full of typical mall chain stores. The one at Whitestone will be a chain itself--in the Paragon Outlets chain of outlets--and will "feature an open-air racetrack design and showcase over 100 global brands."
Last year The Observer noted, "New Yorkers, secretly covetous of the bland, sprawling suburban malls that can be found in the city’s hinterlands, are ecstatic...incredibly enthusiastic about the prospect of opening more places in New York that feel exactly like the soulless suburban tracts they left behind."
Of course, the multiplex is also a suburban invention--like the drive-in theater that preceded it.
Whitestone Cinemas opened in 1983, when its owner, media magnate Sumner Redstone, decided that an indoor cinema, with lots of screens, would be more lucrative than his father's old drive-in. Mr. Redstone credits himself with inventing the word "multiplex," which he trademarked it in 1973. He describes the eureka moment in his memoir A Passion to Win:
"I was sitting in my office one day trying to think of a word for a theater that showed more pictures than the number of screens without any specifics. The word 'plex' was in the lexicon and I worked with that. I didn't want to say eightplex or nineplex... Then it came to me. 'Multiplex!' I jotted the word down and said it out loud. That's what we had, a multiplex."
(Today, multi is not enough, and we have megaplexes. I suppose googleplexes will be next.)
The Whitestone Multiplex had at least one murder, a fight over popcorn, and as far as I know, the Whitestone Drive-In had none. Opened in 1949, the drive-in kicked off with the two movies Suddenly It's Spring and Caged Fury.
In October of that year, the New Yorker's "Talk of the Town" visited the drive-in (which they called "rather spectacular") and spoke to its manager, Mr. Harvey Elliott. He insisted that drive-ins were not a passing fad, saying, "This is a country on wheels. We like to eat on wheels, telephone on wheels, and listen to the radio on wheels. Why not see movies on wheels?"
Mr. Elliott also took on the "ugly rumor" that the drive-in was a hotbed of neckers. "No such thing," he said, "not real necking." A police officer regularly roamed the amber and green-lit parking lot, checking cars to make sure.
Before the drive-in was built, the land was used as a dump.
And before the dump, it was swamp land.