'Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride'

A still from "Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride." (Handout / May 22, 2008)

In "Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride," documentarian Amy Nicholson puts a human face on the deterioration of the iconic New York amusement park by focusing on the fate of her favorite ride.

Consisting of a rotating boom orbited by free-flipping cars, the 38-year-old Zipper was operated by Eddie Miranda. Ambitious development plans and greedy land-grabbers have been pushing Miranda and many of his fellow carnies out of business, rendering "America's Playground" a wasteland of dilapidated buildings and deserted parking lots — even before Hurricane Sandy ripped through.

Nicholson clearly explains the intricacies of real-estate zoning and the politics behind the plans for the peninsula, interviewing key players from the New York City Council, the Economic Development Corp. and the Department of City Planning as well as Joe Sitt, the smiley billionaire developer who's been snatching up pieces of land with promises to revitalize the place in the vulgar vein of Las Vegas or Orlando, Fla. One can't help but cringe as he rattles off the chain retailers and restaurants interested in moving in.

Meanwhile, Nicholson explores the creation and culture of the Zipper, visiting the Wichita, Kan., factory where it was made and reveling in the banter of the barkers who run the ride. Director of photography Jerry Risius' Super 16mm camera gazes at the towering, shiny, colorful contraption with the same awe as those who, when they ride it, screaming bloody murder.

The story isn't over by the time "Zipper" ends, but Nicholson manages to close on a nostalgic, if not quite hopeful, note.

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"Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride"

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 17 minutes.

Playing: At Laemmle Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.