| 11 Nov 2014 | 02:11

    When the lights came up for the last time at The Beekman Theatre in June 2005, after one last showing of The Interpreter, the Upper East Side lost a cinematic institution. Film critics mourned the theater in print while patrons took to Internet message boards to decry the shuttering as one more nail in the coffin of the neighborhood movie house. They had reason to grieve. In the decade before, the Upper East Side had lost the Coronet 1 & 2, the Crown Gotham, the Sutton Theater and the 68th Street Playhouse. It was hard to be angry at the decision of the building"s landlord, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, to demolish the site to make way for a breast cancer research center. But that didn"t make the remembrances any less wistful. After all, there are few, if any, better ways to cement a building into the popular imagination of a certain class of New York filmgoers than to use it to backdrop the first scene of Annie Hall. And it was in front of The Beekman, on Second Avenue and 66th Street, that Woody Allen"s Alvy Singer was first harassed by that autograph seeker. The theater"s reputation as an Upper East Side home for thought-provoking film, earned over more than a half century, didn"t hurt either. So it was with anticipation that neighborhood moviegoers welcomed the Beekman name back last month. In late October, Jacobs Entertainment, the theater management and programming firm behind the Paris Theatre on West 58th Street, opened a new Beekman Theatre one block north and across Second Avenue from where its namesake once stood. The twin"s new home was once another theater altogether: Clearview"s New York One & Two. The new management traded in the iconic, looping signature on the marquee for a more rigid font, and one screen for two, but hopes to recapture the allure. â??The idea was to keep the idea of that cinema alive as close to that location as possible, Ronan Kearney, the general manager of the new Beekman and the Paris, said on a recent weekday night. â??I think we can do justice to The Beekman name but also create something new and special. Ross Melnick, a film historian and co-founder of the theater preservation website Cinema Treasures, said that at the height of the Beekman, the neighborhood and its discerning audience often served as a testing ground for films in New York. It was an era and locale in which a large line on the sidewalk could be a movie"s most effective marketing device. â??Movies were not to be just watched, they were to be debated, said Melnick, who now resides in Los Angeles but once lived on the Upper East Side. â??So many of these films premiered there, he continued. â??They found their legs there; the critics found them there and then they went on to greater success. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="400" caption="A painting near the concession stand was rescued from the original Beekman. Photo By: Andrew Schwartz "][/caption] Jeffrey Jacobs, president of Jacobs Entertainment, will serve as the new Beekman"s programmer. â??I"m 63 years old, he said. â??I went toˆ  Easy Rider opening day at The Beekman and came out on the sidewalk and was like, â??Wow what a movie." Jacobs said that he wants to make use of the two screens and 870 seats at the re-launched Beekman to show several kinds of movies. â??We"re interested in a mix of art and commercial, he said. â??We think that there"s an audience for sophisticated films that might not be served as well as the West Side or downtown. Our film distributors have often complained that they can"t get into the East Side. To that end, Jacobs has booked foreign films such as A Christmas Tale alongside indies like Elegy and more commercial fare such as Zack and Miri Make a Porno in the coming weeks. The advent of Fandango and multiplexes mostly killed block-wrapping lines, but early indications seem to suggest that there"s enthusiasm in the neighborhood for the new Beekman. â??It was heartbreaking when the original Beekman closed. It was like the end of an era, said Larry Feldstein, an area cinephile who maintains an Upper East Side film blog and Feldstein lives a few blocks from the new location, and he said that the area is still underserved when it comes to foreign and independent films. â??Your choices are to go downtown or to Lincoln Plaza, he said. On a recent weekday night, after The Beekman"s 7:40 showing of the French film Tell No One, neighborhood resident Ira Yohalen echoed Feldstein. â??That theater was an Upper East Side version of the Angelika, he said, recalling the original Beekman. â??Maybe this will become the successor. Melnick, of Cinema Treasures, said that the new Beekman has that potential but also said that it will only be as good as the movies it shows. â??The name will only carry as long as it continues to speak to a high level of taste and cater to the community, he said. â??It has a lot of power, that name. Speaking personally, I"m actually surprised right now how much that name means to me.