Regal Cinemas' $25 million theater renovation scheduled to open next month on Merrick Road in Lynbrook will feature 13 auditoriums, stadium seating with recliner seats and other amenities. Blumenfeld Development Group rendering

The owner of the former Wal-Mart shopping center expects to sign a lease with Regal Cinemas to bring a state-of-the art multiscreen movie theater to the Route 58 location.

“We do expect to sign that lease,” Andrew Aberham, director of sales and leasing for Philips International, the Manhattan-based holding company that controls the site, told RiverheadLOCAL in a phone interview this afternoon.

While it’s not signed yet, he said, “Everything is coming together and it looks very promising. I’m very happy and very optimistic.”

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter has been working with Regal Cinemas since he took office in 2010, when he initially tried to spark the company’s interest in building a theater on Main Street. At that time, movie theaters were an allowed use only in the Main Street business district, pursuant to the 2003 master plan.

Much discussion ensued over a period of years, Regal executives told Walter they would not develop a theater on Main Street but were interested in the Riverhead market and would welcome the chance to discuss a site on Route 58. The town last year changed the zoning to once again allow movie theaters on Route 58.

When WalMart announced it was moving west to the new Gateway Plaza shopping center near the terminus of the L.I. Expressway, the supervisor put Regal Cinemas in touch with Philips International, owner of the Riverhead Plaza shopping center where WalMart and King Kullen were once anchor stores. King Kullen left the center in November 2015. Gala Fresh Farms, a Key Food affiliate, opened the following month.

Philips has filed a site plan application showing demolition of the eastern half of the existing plaza and construction of a free-standing movie theater in its place. The site plan also has two free-standing restaurant pads near the roadway.

Walter said in an interview last week Regal’s board of directors had voted in November to sign a lease on the Route 58 site, conditioned on the landlord’s agreement to upgrade the facade of the remainder of the center and secure national restaurants for the two building pads.

Aberham today confirmed that’s what Regal sought and that’s what Philips intends to deliver.

The town supervisor said he was “ecstatic” to hear the parties seem to be in agreement.

“We have been working on this since 2010,” he said. “Riverhead residents really want a movie theater very badly. When you go door-to-door around town, that’s the most-talked-about thing, the thing people request the most,” he said.

“But it’s also really essential to the future economic health and vitality of Route 58,” Walter said. “Its a changing landscape and we need to adapt to the changes in order to maintain the vitality of our commercial corridor.”

Walter has suggested the need for updating the town’s comprehensive land use plan as it relates to Route 58, which was zoned as a “destination retail” corridor. The boom of online retail and the decline of brick and mortar retail since the town’s master plan was developed in the early years of this century demand re-evaluation by the town, he said. It was a call he repeated at a Riverhead Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting on Thursday.

The movie theater industry has not been without its challenges, fending off market incursions by, first, home videos and DVDs and, more recently, video streaming online.

Regal Cinemas inked a lease with the developer of Riverhead Centre almost 20 years ago. Protracted litigation brought against the town in an effort to block the development delayed the construction of the shopping center. In the interim, Regal, which had grown rapidly during the 1990s, filed for bankruptcy in 2001 and the Riverhead Centre lease never came to fruition.

Regal emerged from its Chapter 11 bankruptcy as Regal Entertainment Group and since 2002 has operated Regal Cinemas, United Artists Theatres and Edwards Theatres.

Theater companies, including Regal, have had to change their business model to survive. Today they offer stadium seating, reclining chairs, reserved seating and other amenities — including lounges serving alcoholic beverages.

Regal Entertainment Group has announced seven grand openings in 2017, including one on Long Island, in Lynbrook. They all offer at least a dozen screens, “premium” sight and sound and other amenities.


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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.