Home » After 30 years, Manlius Art Cinema has new owners

After 30 years, Manlius Art Cinema has new owners

by Stewart Cole

Manlius, NY — Nat Tobin and Eileen Lowell agree on this: when they leave their hometown theater to new owners, the audience will miss them the most.

The Manlius Art Cinema, for the first time in 30 years, will operate under new ownership next week.

Tobin began running it on April 1, 1992. “Life is Sweet,” by director Mike Leigh, was playing then, Tobin said.

Tobin bought the theater as a second income, but over time it became much more.

“Basically it was a financial necessity,” he said. “I quickly fell in love with the theater so much that it became my primary income and primary love.”

But after decades of selling tickets, working the concessions desk, showing movies to audiences and running the screening booth, married couple Tobin, 74, and Lowell, 72, decided it was time for someone else to take over.

“We are getting old. We don’t have the social media skills that a younger person might have and it’s the realization that that’s what’s best for the theater,” Tobin told syracuse.com | Post-Ordinary Tuesday.

The new owners come from AW Wander, a restaurant just below the theater. They start after next week and plan to continue operating the movie theater, Tobin said.

At nearly 104 years old, the 200-seat, 100-foot-long, 17-foot-wide theater is the oldest movie theater in Onondaga County. And it’s gone through big changes since Tobin took over.

In 1992, the theater still used two vintage drive-in projectors from the 1940s in the booth. The mode has since gone digital, expanding what Tobin and Lowell can play.

Moviegoers watch The Grand Budapest Hotel at Manlius Art Cinema in Manlius, New York, Friday, April 18, 2014. Kevin Rivoli | krivoli@syracuse.com

But the theater’s place in the Manlius community and the kind of people who come to see the movies remain the same. They’ve become a “theater family,” Lowell said.

“We tried to bring thoughtful, entertaining films to people who appreciated them,” Lowell said.

The kind of film that made audiences think and provoked thoughtful discussions were what the theater sought to play, Lowell said.

“They’re the movies that made people come back and talk about the next time because they engaged their thoughts and feelings,” Lowell said.

The films were largely independent and foreign-produced. The one played in the 100 years of the theater was fitting. “Cinema Paradiso” is the film about a cinema in a wartime Italy that shows the relationships and imagination that a cinema can evoke.

Manlius Arts Cinema

Nat Tobin and Eileen Lowell have owned the cinema for 29 years.

Tobin said the transition from theater is difficult. He and Lowell have no immediate plans when they retire next week, though he said he hopes to take some trips and catch up on the vacations they couldn’t take before.

“It has been our pride for 30 years. I’m very proud to be associated with it and position it for the future,” Tobin said.

Both Lowell and Tobin said they will miss their audience the most.

“It has been a joy and a privilege to bring this cinematic experience to a community,” said Lowell. “And the theater has become a community for many people.”

Staff writer Fernando Alba covers breaking news, crime and public safety. Have a tip, story idea, question or comment? Reach him: e-mail | Twitter or at 315-690-6950.

Related Videos

Leave a Comment