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Gotham exhibs offer diversion

UA plex gives free films, concessions, shelter

Although at least one lower Manhattan movie theater won’t reopen for a while, another downtown venue used its screens to offer the public free films, concessions and simple shelter in the aftermath of last week’s World Trade Center tragedy.

United Artists’ UA Union Square, a 14-plex opened less than two years ago, let thousands of local residents in for free on Wednesday and Thursday; Hollywood studios were cooperating in the effort. Thousands took in movies and the offer of free concessions, but many others just enjoyed a bit of shelter in the 3,000-seat venue’s large lobby.

“We opened it up as sort of a safe harbor,” said Mike Pade, UA’s L.A.-based head film buyer.

On Wednesday alone, 11,000 emotionally exhausted New Yorkers took advantage of the venue for some much-needed respite, he said.

By Friday, the theater again began charging for tickets, but Pade noted management would extend whatever special considerations seemed appropriate.

Closer to the site of Tuesday’s terrorist disaster, UA’s theater in downtown’s Battery Park remained closed indefinitely.

“It was very close to the World Trade Center — a matter of blocks away — and there may have been some structural damage,” Pade said.

UA acquired the 16-screen Battery Park venue from previous operator Regal Cinemas in July.

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