Southampton, NY — In a revelation that has set the Hamptons abuzz, it has been exclusively disclosed that billionaire real estate developer Aby Rosen is the secret purchaser of the iconic Southampton movie theater. Known for acquiring some of Manhattan's most prized buildings, Rosen’s latest acquisition through Hill Street Cinema LLC, at a cost of $8 million, has ignited a flurry of speculation and concern among locals.
The cinema, a cornerstone of Southampton culture since 1932, underwent restructuring in the '90s to become a multiplex and has remained closed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Awarded landmark status by the Southampton Village Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation in January, members highlighted its role as a longstanding institution and focal point in the village, reported local media outlet 27 East.
Who is Aby Rosen?
Aby Rosen is a prominent billionaire real estate developer, well-known for acquiring and managing some of Manhattan's most iconic buildings through his company, RFR Holding LLC. RFR Holding has a significant portfolio of commercial and residential properties, highlighting Rosen's influence in the real estate sector. Born in Germany, Rosen has made a substantial impact not only in real estate but also in the art world. He is celebrated for his extensive art collection and a fervent commitment to incorporating art into his development projects. A multifaceted personality, Aby Rosen continues to shape both the architectural and cultural landscapes of the regions he invests in, drawing attention to the intersection of art, architecture, and community engagement.
Rumors and Reactions
Rosen's acquisition has provoked a considerable stir among Hamptonites, fueling rumors and anxieties about the future of this historic structure. Residents are particularly concerned about speculation that Rosen intends to transform the cinema into an exclusive private club for his affluent acquaintances.
However, a press release from August 17, 2022, on the theater’s official website seems to allay these concerns, stating plans to “reopen the historic structure as a theater for movies and cultural events.” Furthermore, a spokesperson for Hill Street Cinema expressed the purchase's motivation was driven by a “fervent desire to preserve this essential component of Southampton Village’s culture” and to rejuvenate the building’s distinctive architecture that has been a community anchor for many years.
The theater was originally acquired by Hill Street Cinema LLC last November, outbidding local documentary filmmakers Ben and Orson Cummings and a coalition of other local stakeholders. The subsequent discovery of Rosen as the man behind the LLC has only intensified the concerns of Southampton residents, who are eagerly awaiting clarity on the future of this cherished local landmark.
Despite assurances of preserving the cinema's cultural and architectural heritage, the community remains wary, given Rosen's reputation for high-profile and often exclusive property developments. The uncertainty surrounding the potential transformation of a public space into a private enclave for the elite has heightened tensions and fueled discussions across the Hamptons.
As speculation continues, the community seeks transparency and open dialogue with Rosen and Hill Street Cinema LLC to understand the long-term vision for the theater. With its rich history and central role in Southampton Village, the cinema’s future remains a subject of keen interest and concern for both longtime residents and newcomers alike.
Residents hope that the redevelopment will honor the cinema’s historic significance, maintain its accessibility to the public, and continue to serve as a vibrant cultural hub for Southampton. Only time will reveal if the unfolding chapter in the theater’s storied history aligns with the community’s hopes and aspirations.