The first floor features an open-air cafe; the theater lobby, complete with a bar featuring upwards of a half-dozen taps, is on the second floor. There are two tiny theaters up here; the bathrooms and a third theater are down the back staircase.
This past weekend I caught a movie in Theater 3, which seats 28 (it's the smallest of the three); the tables are for two, rather than Austin's long rows, and the three tiers of seats are raised subtly up on platforms from the floor in this improvisational but effective screening room. ("Like some friend's dad's basement," a friend observed, not disapprovingly, if that friend's dad basement was a subdivided commercial loft space with springs in the ceiling for soundproofing.)
The movies, then, will have to play in a small room's sound system, projected digitally on a screen that's bigger than a big-screen TV, anyway. It opened with Midnight in Paris, The Trip, and Submarine. The Cinema Director, John Woods—who cofounded the Reel Life video stores—told me he anticipates showing mostly fare similarly situated along the studio-indie axis; the booker is Jeffrey Jacobs, who was involved with the Angelika at its outset in the 80s, and has more recently booked for BAM.
Those theaters—which both offer a cultured nice night out—occupy a niche that's a good one for the Nitehawk to fill. Long under-screened, Williamsburg is suddenly abounding in movie theaters: the owners of charmingly independent multiplex Cobble Hill Cinemas will operate a new 6-screen first-run theater on Driggs and Grand, and on the other side of the scale, UnionDocs and the Spectacle continue to offer scrappily eclectic underground and repertory programming.
Woods emphasized to me his commitment on an "integrated" experience, and that's evident from the shorts that play in the 45 minutes you have to place your order and chat up your date. The Alamo Drafthouse preshow is a model of YouTube gold-mining, but the Nitehawk feels more programmed: for Submarine, a Wes Anderson-y teen romance imported from Britain, the preshow featured vintage British invasion clips and quirky undersea stop-motion animation. The Nitehawk's also hoping to feature local filmmakers prominently in the preshow; several are already in rotation and they're actively soliciting more.
The food, too, is "integrated," with drink and food specials inspired by the films screening. (If we had seen The Trip we could have gotten scallops, which is a good thing because I've never wanted scallops as badly as I did after seeing The Trip.) The food, prepared by chef Saul Bolton (The Vanderbilt), is good—the small plates are extra-small, the popcorn bowls extra-huge, dry, subtle—probably better than it needs to. (My veggie burger was pretty far to the right side of a bell curve, especially for, you know, a veggie burger to eat while watching a movie.)
But then, the whole experience is almost ostentatiously perfectly curated, down to the posters lining the walls (Body Double and Eyes Without a Face, Clint Eastwood and Jacques Tati). As more money flows into North Brooklyn, along with cultural consumers with less specialized tastes, the Nitehawk suggests a thoughtful, useful design for living.