By and  on February 6, 2002

WHAT TO SEE AND WHERE TO BE SEEN ON THE LOWER EAST SIDE.

Theatrical Comeback

The Sunshine Cinema opened in December after a $12 million-dollar renovation that transformed the former Yiddish vaudeville house and nickelodeon into a 980-seat, five-screen hangout for art-house aficionados.

Pleskow + Rael, a Venice, Calif.-based design firm, was responsible for the 104-year-old building's facelift, which included adding stadium seating and two Japanese rock gardens. There is also a cafe serving atypical theater fare, including Scharffen Berger gourmet chocolates and baked goods from the East Village's Sticky Fingers Bake Shop.

The theater's programming includes first-run independent and foreign films.

"The Sunshine will give audiences the opportunity to experience new and classic art house films in a sophisticated neighborhood theater," said Bert Manzari, executive vice president of Los Angeles-based Landmark Theatre Corp., the theater's owner.

The building was originally home to a Yiddish vaudeville house, the Houston Hippodrome; in 1917, it became a nickelodeon called the Sunshine Cinema. The theater closed its doors during the Forties and subsequently served as a warehouse for a hardware company until the late Nineties. 143 East Houston Street, (212) 358-7709, landmarktheatres.com.

Massages, Now Martinis

Formerly a massage parlor -- shut down by the city about a year ago -- and now a watering hole for the see-and-be-seen crowd, the space at 302 Broome Street has always had an appropriate name: Happy Ending.

"There was definitely much more than massage going on there," claimed Peter Kane, who along with partner Oliver Pihlar, owns the bar. The duo also own Wyanoka restaurant and Double Happiness lounge, both located on nearby Mott Street.

Unlike the old set-up, which had more of a one-on-one atmosphere, the renovated Happy Ending houses up to 150 people. Patrons may now plunk down in brown velvet booths with their Moscato martini or blood orange tequila gimlet, in a space once occupied by hot tubs and steam rooms.

But not everyone is sold on the new Happy Ending. Some of the old clientele still stop by and are disappointed with the new digs. "The conversation usually doesn't go too far," Kane said. "They usually ask, 'Massage?' and when we say, 'no,' they leave." 302 Broome Street, (212) 334-9676. Drinks are under $10.

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