ALBANY — The owner of Madison Theater urges people should look forward to “what’s going to happen next” after news of its prospective sale came out last week.
Madison Theater closed its doors on New Year’s Day for cleaning and improvements. The move, said owner Gunther Fishgold, relates to the potential sale of the 88-year old theater to one of two potential parties, neither of which was he allowed to disclose.
Fishgold said one of the potential buyers, which intends to maintain the building as a movie theater, is under contract to purchase. Its deadline to complete the deal falls on the end of the month.
“People should look forward to what’s going to happen next,” said Fishgold, founder and president of Tierra Farm, the owning entity of the movie theater.
Fishgold said he was not actively seeking a buyer for the theater. “I wasn’t seeking,” he said. Between his business at Tierra Farm and stepping in to maintain the theater, he said, “I didn’t have time.” He was recently approached by three interested parties. One, of which he called a “national corporation,” was turned down. The front runner to purchase the theater has already expressed an intent to keep it as such. The other purchaser has an interest in turning the building into a shared community space.
Fishgold purchased the building nearly five years ago as a community preservation project. With a background in urban planning, he said he stepped in to continue saving the theater from demolition. In 2004, the Madison was nearly purchased to be razed to construct a CVS Pharmacy drive-thru. Prior to his purchase of the building in 2013, Fishgold admits he never had experience with running a movie theater.
Fishgold’s initial intent to buy the iconic neighborhood theater was to hold it and wait, “for someone to pick it up and do a better job of it.” Tierra Farm spent a million dollars on renovations, including a new marquee. Since then, the owner admits that the movie theater has never been a “money-maker,” but that it was never an issue over money.
“We’ve done a lot of projects here in the Pine Hills community,” said Fishgold. “And, we want to maintain the integrity of this theater.”
Madison Theater was built in 1929 in the middle of Pine Hills, once an affluent suburb of the city of Albany. The spacious property lots lured young professionals from the cramped living spaces of downtown to relative estate housing for the Victorian Age. Today, the College of Saint Rose stands prominently in front of the theater’s doors with pockets of the neighborhood still retaining the charms of a bygone era.
Affectionately known as The Madison, it continues to draw movie lovers from the neighborhood — including Saint Rose students. Fishgold expanded the theater’s usage for live entertainment. In recent years, the theater has played host to several festivals, live improve and musical acts.
Should both business deals fall through, Fishgold said he will continue to run the theater as he has. But, the potential of passing the theater to another party with the same interest of preserving the neighborhood charm has him excited.
“It’s going to be great,” said Fishgold.
Michael Hallisey is Managing Editor of Spotlight Newspapers.