Once upon a time I used to take a free weekend afternoon and do a grand circuit of Manhattan bookstores, up 2nd Ave. maybe stopping at Black Orchid mystery store if it was open, two Barnes & Nobles on E. 86th St., thru Central Park, 2 B&Ns on Broadway on the Upper West Side, then the Borders on Columbus Circle and the Borders on Park Ave.
That was a long time ago!
Now, it's been months and months and months since I've been to the mega-B&N on E. 86th that replaced two smaller and inadequate locations. But I needed to buy three books by a couple published authors who are talking to us, I decided to buy them the old-fashioned way, the B&N was supposed to have all three.
So up 2nd Avenue I went, for the first time in ages.
Sadly, the United Artists Gemini at 2nd Ave. and 64th St. closed quietly in the fall, there's a "for lease" sign touting the "unique footprint" for retail. According to Cinema Treasures, the theatre opened as the Columbia in 1971, doesn't say exactly when it got the name of the Gemini, which is much more appropriate for a twin theatre. It had two auditoriums, an upstairs with stadium seating in the rear section and a downstairs, both with around 400 seats and pretty good-size screens. More important, unlike some other theatres of that vintage like the Coronet, which had stiff high-back seats and no leg room and was torture to sit in, the Gemini had luxurious seating rich with leg room. It was a very comfortable place to see a movie.
I first went to the Gemini in February 1986. Looking at the release date of the movie FX and thinking on the timing, I think there's a very good chance that I went there following one of my interviews at Scott Meredith during my job hunt after college, I don't think it was a stop after work in my early days on the job. So there's some sentimentality just on that account. But it wasn't the only movie I saw at the Gemini over the years. Dirty Dancing was probably the favorite movie that I saw there, others include The End of the Affair, Total Recall, The End of the Affair, Adaptation, Closer, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and more.
The theatre was in a stand-alone building. The air rights were sold, and as part of the deal for building atop of the theatre, a small 3rd screen was added upstairs. The Gemini wasn't a good name for a three-screen theatre, but shall we say that going from The Gemini to the UA 64th and 2nd is not change for the better? What an awful name for a movie theatre.
With changing times, this neighborhood house that often had sell-out shows became very quiet, even though the Upper East Side is horribly underscreened. I hardly went to the theatre at all in recent years, even though it was close by. There was almost always a nicer place to go to see a movie in Manhattan, even though the Gemini was nice, there were nicer. Also, Regal charges a Manhattan surcharge when using their discount tickets, AMC does not, so it would cost more to go to the Gemini.
The last movie I saw at the Gemini was Rock of Ages.
I keep track in my head of movie screens that remain intact from when I moved to NYC in 1986, with the loss of the 2 original screens at the Gemini, we're down 2. (I think the others are 84th St. 6; Ziegfeld, original 3 at Lincoln Plaza, the Quad, IFC Ctr/Waverly #1, Cinema Village #1, the DW Griffith/Big Cinemas, Cinema 2, the Paris, the NY Twin/Beekman, the 57th St. Playhouse/DGA, or 22 in all.)
Moving onward, 2nd Avenue is a mess. As they build the 2nd Ave. subway, around half the blocks from 60th St. to 86th St. have pits for building the tunnel and stations. Businesses have closed in abundance where the construction blocks them from view. Progress!
I went in to the Upper East Side Fairway for the first time. This is where one of the two B&Ns used to be, in shared retail space with a Circuit City. Fairway has taken over both spaces, is using the ground floor and basement, and the upstairs space that the B&N used to fill is backroom space for the grocery store.
The B&N, well of course it had only two of the three books it was supposed to have, 2 copies of the 3rd book supposedly came in back in July but are nowhere to be found. It was very retro, checking a variety of wrong sections that the book might have been mis-shelved in before giving up on the idea of finding it. In the early days of JABberwocky when I visited bookstores often and it was truer than now that I make my money a nickel or quarter at a time when people buy a book, I used to fixate on missing copies like these a lot more than I do now. The joy of going to a Borders on Opening Day, and finding the two books of 70 of mine that were put in the horror or mystery section when they were supposed to be in SF. Sadly, I may end up having to buy an e-book for book #3.
They had a book group event in the store with 10 people, yet B&N won't offer Manhattan signings for major sf/f authors like Peter Brett because they claim they won't get crowds. I'm reasonably sure Peter Brett could get way more than 10 people to an event on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
It's interesting to ponder how the me of 10 years will think back on the me of today, the way the me of today thinks back on those Sunday afternoon bookstore tours of the Upper East and West Sides, and if in 20 years the movie theatres I go to all the time now will have fallen out of fashion the way the Gemini did.
- The Brillig Blogger
- A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.