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.