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Syracuse's old single-screen theaters find new purpose in a new era

The Landmark, Palace and Westcott theaters all served Syracuse for decades as single-screen movie houses. But with the a television in every house and multiplexes in every mall, each of these remaining Salt City icons has had to find a new way to survive.

'The Westcott'

Two years ago this month, Sam Levey and Dan Mastronardi reopened the doors of the former Westcott Cinema as the Westcott Theater, trading in the reels and auditorium seating for a 700-capacity live music hall with a full bar.

"I always talked about doing a music venue, and I always talked about doing it here," said Levey. A Westcott resident "a long time ago," he used to see films at what was then the Cinema. "For a long time if you wanted to see an art film or an indie film, this is where you came."

But when the building ownership changed hands, Levey and Mastronardi saw an opportunity to give the theater new life and the neighborhood live music. During renovations, they discovered the original stage -- used for vaudevillian acts when the theater was built in 1909 -- and used it as foundation for the current stage, Levey said. They left alone as much of the original architecture and design as possible, but had to ditch the seats and the screen.

Now, The Westcott brings in 180 to 190 live acts a year, Levey said.

"In this neighborhood, these are the people that are supporting music, and we're right in their backyard," Levey said. "People know now that if it's at the Westcott, it has to be good."

Production manager Alex Balstra said the reception of the community was evidence of the Westcott's success.

"To have it go so well and get such a great response from the community is really satisfying," Balstra said.

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