Culture & Music

Ready, set, action! Sunshine Cinema in the East Village back to its artistic roots

June 17 2016 | BTSNYC
Culture & Music Sunshine Cinema

Built in 1898, the Sunshine Cinema building had a quite turbulent and interesting historical path, going back to its first tenant.

Culture & Music Sunshine Cinema
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Landmark Theaters

The building was first the home of a Protestant Church in it’s very early days back in 1844.
It had quite a few “lives” after that. A meeting hall for immigrants arriving in New York was there for a while and, for a short time, it was a venue that featured boxing nights. It was also a Yiddish vaudeville house, a hardware warehouse for over 50 years, within a few other things! Phiuf!
One of it’s most famous businesses was the Houston Hippodrome motion picture theatre. Charles Steiner purchased the place and in 1909 opened its doors to the public. The place didn’t have the necessary safety requirements to house a theater, but Mr. Steiner promptly worked in figuring everything out.
It was a place that neighbors and people from all over came to have a pleasant and entertaining movie night. Unfortunately, something unexpected happen in 1913 that changed its future.
During a movie screening, a small (yes, small) fire started in the projection booth and a child from the audience got scared, yelling “Fire!”.
Panic spread throughout the theatre. Spectators rushed to flee the space, while staff went unheard yelling that everything was fine. The tragic death of 2 women in the middle of the chaos, plus over 30 injured people was deadly to it’s’ reputation.

After a $7,000 renovation in the summer of 2013, Houston Hippodrome operated for another 4 years. In 1917 is was permanently closed down.

The building was demolished to put together the new home that was finally named Sunshine Cinema. It was much bigger, now accommodating 600 guests (versus the previous 299 capacity). It was a dear cinema in the East Village
In time, the novelty died out and in 1945 it transformed into a hardware warehouse, owned by the Goldman family.
And finally the Landmark Theatres brought back to life Sunshine Cinema and opened it’s doors in December 21st of 2001.


“Landmark has restored the theatre back to its artistic roots and now offers the art-house film lover five state-of-the-art screens dedicated to first-run independent and foreign film as well as non-traditional studio programming.

The Sunshine Cinema has exceptional presentation and amenities including stadium seating, Dolby Digital Surround EX sound and gourmet concessions. The theatre also offers attractions such as a Japanese rock garden and a viewing bridge that offers breathtaking city views from the third story spectacular glass annex.”

Be sure to see their schedule of independent films. It will definitely be an unforgettable experience, specially after learning about it’s history, right?

Enjoy your night out in this cinema in the East Village!

Lastly, if you want to enjoy and explore the neighborhood, you have go for dinner at the Filipino restaurant, Maharlika, or the Jamaican-inspired, Miss Lily’s Café. Do you have a sweet tooth? Well, Ray’s Candy Store is opened 24 hours and they serve the best fried oreos!

For the night owls, you can see what’s going on at Piano’s. And for the culture crowd, Nuyorican Poet Café is our top local pick! Be sure to ask for Raul when going there, and mention Fernanda, our Founder, to him!

Unfortunately, our friends at Untapped Cities posted an update about Sunshine Cinema and informed that it’s slated to demolition.

Read here to see why.

We have to say, we are devastated to loose, yet another independent cinema in New York City.

Location: 143 East Houston Street

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