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City declines offer to take over closed cinema

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OGDENSBURG — For a while last week, it looked like the city might be getting into the movie theater business.

Plattsburgh businessman Gilbert J. Jones made the city an offer July 31 he hoped it couldn’t refuse: Take over his closed Ogdensburg Cinemas, 219 Ford St., and keep it running for “at least 25 years.”

“I’m offering it as a gift to the city,” said Mr. Jones, who shuttered the twin-screen cinema last month.

Interim City Manager Philip A. Cosmo cited legal reasons for turning down Mr. Jones’s offer.

“It’s not something that we’re allowed to do,” Mr. Cosmo said.

Mayor William D. Nelson said the city can use taxpayer dollars to provide basic services such as sewer and water as well as fire and police protection, but not a private enterprise like a movie theater.

“Running a theater is not something we can legally do,” the mayor said.

Mr. Jones was brief in his response to the city’s reply.

“I have no comment,” he said. “The offer still stands.”

Mr. Jones bought the theater in 1980.

Over the years he has invested heavily in the 9,000-square-foot property.

A new roof and ventilation system cost $85,000.

Last year, with assistance from a $50,000 state grant, Mr. Jones installed a $73,000 marquee.

Yet the theater remains unprofitable, losing an estimated $5,000 annually.

“It’s always been a money-losing proposition,” Mr. Jones said.

The theater’s latest expense was a factor in Mr. Jones’s decision to shut it down.

A digital projection system is needed at a cost of more than $100,000.

He doesn’t have it.

“I want to keep the theater open as much as anyone,” Mr. Jones said.

He also owns and is continuing with plans to renovate for reopening next year the former Ramada Inn at 119 W. River St.

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