The Nitehawk theater’s planned expansion to Park Slope isn’t just good news for Brooklynites who like the boutique cinema’s meal-and-a-movie experience, it’s also a win for New Yorkers looking for more places to watch independent films on a big screen.
Nitehawk’s takeover of the Pavilion theater will result in fewer popcorn movies at the seven-screen, 650-seat cinema, and more indie titles. The new Nitehawk Prospect Park, opening in the fall of 2017, will also be three times the size of Nitehawk’s existing location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
“There are much larger screens there, both capacity-wise and also just larger physical screens, which would do well with summer blockbusters, but of course we’ll be very choosy with that,” Nitehawk founder Matthew Viragh told IndieWire, adding that Nitehawk’s bread-and-butter movies will still be indies. “Our whole staff is really excited to have more space in which to play, both programming-wise and menu-wise.”
A former resident of the adjacent Prospect Heights neighborhood, Viragh was a frequent customer at the Pavilion theater and has wanted to convert the location to a Nitehawk cinema since 2011, the year he opened the Nitehawk in Williamsburg. “I just thought it would be a really great location for Nitehawk,” he said.
Bill Thompson, the Senior Vice President of Theatrical Sales at international arthouse distributor Cohen Media Group, agrees. “It would be an excellent location for them, and I think there’s an upscale, sophisticated clientele in the area that could well support upscale films,” Thompson said. “Hopefully they book them.”
Thompson added that getting Cohen Media’s subtitled films booked on screens in Brooklyn has always been a challenge. “It can be very frustrating that in a borough of 2.5 million people there are only a couple theaters that will play specialized and particularly subtitled films,” he said. “All independent distributors can be optimistic that [Nitehawk Prospect Park] is going to be another possible location for us to get our films played in Brooklyn.”
Nitehawk’s Williamsburg theater has helped pave the way for other New York theaters interested in selling beer and wine by lobbying to change state law so that movie houses could serve alcohol. Austin, Texas-based theater chain Alamo Drafthouse is opening a Brooklyn location in the coming weeks, and this fall, theater chain iPic is planning to open an eight-screen theater in New York’s South Street Seaport that will feature in-theater servers.
Viragh believes the theater industry is gradually changing to expand its offerings beyond the traditional popcorn, candy and soda. “Ultimately movie theaters need to continue to evolve and elevate the experience,” he said. “We’re trying to make it as accessible as possible with our food, our drink, and our programming.”