6-Screen First-Run Movie Theater Coming to Williamsburg in 2011

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12/14/2010 1:45 PM |

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2010 was the year the coolest (and most aggressively gentrifying) neighborhood in the world, America, finally got actual movie theaters.

IndieScreen, which opened this summer on the rapidly expanding waterfront, seems to have settled in, at least for now, as a restaurant, rental space, and dollar theater (with an emphasis on indie distributors); and the South side’s Spectacle is reviving the tradition of the midnight-movie rep house. And now, reports the Brooklyn Paper‘s Aaron Short, the developer Blue Zees Real Estate has begun publicizing its plans for a 6-screen, 850-seat first-run theater on Driggs and Grand.

So, what does this mean?

It’s unclear, pending inquiries, who will be running the theater, but no major theater chain seems as yet to affiliated. Short’s lede—”Williamsburg residents won’t have to take the L train to Union Square to catch the latest blockbuster”—as well as the cinema’s size, presumes that the theater will show first-run studio fare, and god knows the Williamsburg-Greenpoint area (plus Bushwick, plus holy christ Bed-Stuy) is astonishingly underscreened.

Still, it’s hard for independently operated theaters to compete with chain multiplexes to pay the rental fees studios charge for blockbuster releases. (Or even for indie fare, as Brooklyn Heights Cinema owner andsuspected fraudster Norman Adie can tell you.)

Now, there are enough people in New York City to support a number of independent neighborhood theaters: Cobble Hill Cinemas, say, soldiers on in the shadow of the UA Court Street—though I’d wager that’s mostly from showing semi-indie and family friendly stuff. You’ll note that most big-ticket studio-affiliated films don’t start screening at Cobble Hill until after they’ve already opened: studio rental fees generally go down after the first couple weeks of release. So, are moviegoing residents of Williamsburg really as patient as residents of Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens? And as tied to the cultural offerings of their own corner of Brooklyn?

The Park Slope Pavilion is maybe the best model for whoever ends up operating an independent, first-run multiplex in Williamsburg: bedbugs aside, the 9-screen, Hollywood-tilting Pavilion seems to be doing all right since Norman Adie sold it in 2006, maybe because there’s little enough competition in the immediate vicinity of its spot in the center of a culturally consumptive neighborhood.

4 Comment

  • Mark, I’m pretty sure your statement about big-ticket studio-affiliated films not hitting Cobble Hill Cinema until after they’ve opened is sort of incorrect/misleading. You link to their coming-soon page, which lists Black Swan and The Fighter — indeed, two such big-name movies coming to Cobble Hill in their second/third weekends… but those movies are coming to 99% of their screens that way. The Fighter was on exactly one NYC screen for its opening weekend. Black Swan was on something like three (then some more for its second, and yet more opening this Friday, I think). Cobble Hill gets those types of movies about as quickly as most multiplexes that get movies playing on a couple hundred screens nationally. (Kips Bay, for example, which rarely has an exclusive release but often gets the bigger art movies earlier in their runs.)

    And if you’re talking about actual big-ticket wide releases, I’m pretty sure Cobble Hill gets them at the same time as everyone else. You’ll see on your link that Little Fockers is coming 12/22, when it hits the rest of the city (lord have mercy on their souls, etc.). I’m pretty sure they had Harry Potter first weekend, and they definitely had Burlesque and the Sex and the City movie first weekend… they just don’t get the big Oscar platform movies in the first weekend. But no one is going to start a five-screen exclusive run at Cobble Hill Cinemas; even BAM usually has to wait a week or two for that.

    I’m pretty sure something a lot like Cobble Hill Cinemas (mixing mainstream movies and some of the bigger-ticket platform releases as they come out, a la Swan/Fighter) would clean up in Williamsburg, though obviously I have no stats to back that up.

  • What’s sort of interesting as well is there used to be a big talkie theater by RKO called the Republic Theater on Keap and Grand, just down the street from the new proposed theater on Driggs and Grand. It opened in October of 1921 and sat over 2000 people. Here is a picture… http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_VZaVT03Q2G0/S9l5…

    Everything old is new again… http://cinematreasures.org/theater/3971/

  • The Alpine in Bay Ridge wouldn’t be a bad model, either; AMC spun it off several years ago, but an independent owner was secured (same guy who owns Cinema Village, I believe) and it’s been going strong since, showing first-fun fare, getting all the traffic from Sunset Park, Bay Ridge and wherever else people consider Sheepshead Bay and Park Slope to be too far away…

  • Actually, Jesse is entirely right, those studio pictures at Cobble Hill are all awards season platforms opening “limited” in Manhattan. A lot of actual blockbusters they get on opening weekend like everyone else. Although I still have a hunch (and nothing more) that a disproportionate of Cobble Hill’s receipts come from children and seniors.

    I knew there’d be an Alpine reference in this comment section.