Talking to Kenn Lowy, New Owner of the Brooklyn Heights Cinema About His Artsy Plans for the Place

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06/07/2011 11:22 AM |

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The Brooklyn Heights Cinema was last in the news when owner Norman Adie was charged with securities and wire fraud: prosecutors allege he raised more than half a million dollars for a proposed (and not remotely up to code) expansion of the theater, and used it to cover personal and operating expenses.

Given the, let’s say, existential uncertainties that come along with these sorts of circumstances, we were all very relieved when we read last week that the Henry Street twin had a new owner: Kenn Lowy, a local musician, marathon swimmer, and former Green Party candidate for State Assembly, who tells us, “my cinema background is that I see about 100 movies a year.” He told us some other things, too, when we talked last week about how he came to own the cinema, and what his plans are for it.

He tells us, first of all, that the Brooklyn Heights Cinema wasn’t for sale: as a long-time patron, who had long dreamed of owning it (“Why wouldn’t I want to run [a movie theater]? … It’s a fantastic opportunity for someone like me, who’s an artist. The funny thing is that when I speak with filmmakers I know they tell me everyone in the business has a dream of running their own theater”), he saw an opportunity under the current “unique circumstances” and approached Adie, eventually convincing him to sell.

Under the terms of the sale, Lowy assumes the debt amassed from unpaid bills under prior ownership; as for lawsuits, “The people who are suing Norman, are suing him. Obviously, I’m hoping it won’t affect me.” He admits to feeling some pressure to increase attendance, given the outlay involved in taking on a theater and the realities of the financial situation he’s inherited, but says he’s confident: “The things I’m going to be doing will help make it more of a destination. And the amount of goodwill is really inspiring.”

As for the things he’s going to be doing in the theater: the programming at the theater will remain consistent—expect the same studio indies and imports, often later in their runs—for the most part.

Lowy plans to renovate the lobby, to make it “more of a coffee bar,” conducive to admiring the monthly photography exhibits he plans to show, presumably stuff he’s curating himself. (“Much of it will be Brooklyn-centric, but not all… there might be a lot of ocean- and water-related themes. The artist coming in the late summer early fall is an aerial photographer.”)

Also drawing from his connections to local artists, Lowy plans a singer-songwriter night, at least monthly. (“Since this is acoustic music, it will be quiet, so our neighbors won’t have to worry about anything loud…”) He observes, not unfairly I suppose, that “Monday and Tuesday nights are dead in all cinemas,” so that’s when he’ll give over one of the screens to a musician.

And more musicians, this time with more cinephilia crossover: Lowy plans to show silent films with live accompaniment once a month, talking to musicians he knows who have scores prepared for silent films. He has some experience scoring shorts as well, and hopes to perform a silent-film score of his own next year: Metropolis. The new restoration? “To be honest I haven’t decided, but I know it should be that one. It’s long, which obviously is more work.”