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Nitehawk Cinema Prospect Park aiming to stay true to ‘classic’ Pavilion

The movie house is now projected to open by the end of the year.

A sign for the old The Pavilion on

A sign for the old The Pavilion on Prospect Park West is removed to make way for installation of the new Nitehawk signs on Wednesday. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Park Slope’s Nitehawk Cinema will aim to stay true to the “classic” vibe of the 90-year-old Pavilion Theater when it opens by the end of the year, a spokeswoman says.

Nitehawk received community-board approval to give the neglected venue a facelift, several months into its construction. Protected by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), Nitehawk was be allowed to revamp the existing marquee, paint over the glaring fire escape and add three new signs that have been custom designed as a part of the nearly $10 million renovation.

“It’s going to keep well in touch timeline wise with the existing theater and stay within the feel of the neighborhood,” says Jeff Friedman, the owner of Let There Be Neon.

On Wednesday morning, his team lowered the location's old Pavilion sign and replaced it with the block-lettering Nitehawk logo. 

Housed in the former neo-Renaissance-style theater at 188 Prospect Park West (which first opened as Sanders Theater in 1928), the alteration of the venue’s exterior was a heavily debated topic among Manhattan’s Community Board 6 and the LPC who wanted to avoid commercializing the building, according to local blogs.

Friedman and Nitehawk’s founder Matthew Viragh worked together for the past year and a half to narrow down nearly 20 designs for the new sign, which is different than the original that welcomes Williamsburg moviegoers on Metropolitan Avenue.

Still a red and black color combination, Friedman says its open-faced, block lettering design chosen by the community board and the LPC, was heavily influenced by the “style of the period,” as well as the neighboring Prospect Park.

“We chose black metalwork and red neon so the neon has a nice presence [at night near the park] -- a dark red color so it’s not garish and stays tasteful,” he adds.

Friedman’s team, who also worked on the Williamsburg location, will spent weeks last winter building on-site before setting up the two-day installation. 

Inside, the old theater is still deep in construction.

Demo crews have spent months removing debris, but a few “very cool original elements” from the Pavilion will remain.

Marble flooring discovered after crews ripped up the carpeting that once covered the Pavilion’s entry staircase will be restored, former spokeswoman Alexa Harrison says. A balcony between the first and second floors will be refurbished.

When it’s finally ready to open its doors, the theater will have 650 seats, seven screens, two bars and in-theater dining options. Similarly to the Williamsburg location, it’ll offer a variety of new and indie flicks.

The second Nitehawk location was projected to open in fall 2017, but was delayed by a year once crews discovered these salvageable pieces of the shuttered Pavilion.

Last summer, the crew used the extra time to “finalize which finds are salvageable and can be incorporated into the design layout,” Harrison said.


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