Written by Betsy Abraham, email@example.com Friday, 28 June 2013 00:00
Long Island’s next big venue is finding its home in an unlikely place. With a population of just above 15,000, Westbury is not known for Gold Coast mansions, sandy beaches or fine dining establishments. However, The Space at Westbury is hoping to make the village a cultural destination, attractive to guests from all over the island and New York City.
The Space, which is slated to open later this summer, will be a multipurpose entertainment venue, hosting everything from concerts, to theater productions to art shows. However, many local residents know it as the Westbury Movie Theater, which has been a landmark on Post Avenue since the 1920s. The Westbury Movie Theater first opened its doors on November 10, 1927, as people gathered to watch the silent film Hula starring Clara Bow while the University of Maryland Collegian Band played onstage. The theater flourished as a single screen house, until it was twinned in the late 1970s.
Patronage soon decreased and the theater closed its doors, becoming an eyesore on Post Avenue on the verge of demolition. But eight years ago, Cyrus Hakakian, co-owner of Lowe Properties, saved the property, buying the location in hopes of restoring it to its old glory while renovating it to accommodate contemporary entertainment.
Today, Hakakian’s vision is finally nearing fruition. When Hakakian and his team bought the building eight years ago, it was in shambles, but now the Tudor style venue has been completely remodeled. The entire building was gutted, save for the walls, brick columns and ceiling, and has been repurposed to accommodate nationally and internationally renowned acts, concerts, dance companies and plays. The Space will not only be used for entertainment, but can be rented out for parties such as weddings, sweet sixteens and bah/bar mitzvahs.
“This is a house for every aspect for performing arts, any kind of special event can be staged here,” Executive Director Bruce Michael said. “We’re a multiple use house so people can expect to see any number of things here they wouldn’t see at any other theater.”
The venue’s LED marquee can be seen from blocks away and will boast upcoming performances. When people enter through the glass doors, they will be greeted by a beautiful chandelier and box office where they can buy tickets, as well as a bar where they can socialize and buy drinks before a performance. Off to the side of the lobby is a lounge, where patrons can relax on couches and where a small stage will house cabaret style entertainment. Guests entering through the valet entrance on Winthrop Street can see the specially designed chandelier and mural featuring a scene from what backstage at the original theater may have looked like.
The performing arts center can hold up to 1,500 people during a General Admission event with standing room, or 700 with seats. Most of the seats can be removed to add tables and Michael says there’s not a bad seat in the house. The main room features four bars, including one that is 30 feet long and is made from the theater’s original floorboards.
The Space also has state of the art lighting and sound. Eight stunning tiered chandeliers hang over the auditorium and LED lights along the wall can alter the atmosphere of the room with the single touch of a button.
“The room is a palette to receive any type of light and design,” Michael said. “We can turn the room into anything an event planner wants it to be, so anytime someone walks into The Space it can look completely different.”
The venue not only has a lot of offer guests, but also to performers. Behind the stage is a green room that can be used as a meeting place for media and artists, or a private dressing room. The area underneath the stage was also excavated to allow for additional state of the art dressing rooms. All the dressing rooms feature a private, fully equipped bathroom.
The size and décor of the venue also offer a sense of intimacy between the performer and audience.
“This is a very artist-friendly house. They can come in and feel like they’re in a living room with their audience,” Michael said.
Village officials and residents have high hopes for the reopening of the historic landmark. Westbury mayor Peter Cavallaro says he hopes that the new venue will be a catalyst in making the village a cultural hub.
“There will be no other venue like it in all of Nassau County,” Cavallaro said. “With the opening of The Space, we are going to try and capture some of the energy and creative vibe that is created there. We seek to re-shape Westbury into one of the most arts-friendly communities on all of Long Island.”