An art house icon returns to business in a spiffy new form when the Quad Cinema reopens Friday at its West 13th Street location.
After a massive two-year renovation, the return of the Greenwich Village institution, which first opened in 1972, marks the latest highlight in what has become a golden moment for New York City cinephiles.
The past several years have seen an explosion in specialty cinemas across the city, from the Nitehawk in Williamsburg to the Syndicated in Bushwick to the Metrograph on the Lower East Side and more.
But there’s something about independent and foreign movies and the Village that just seems right, said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.
“The Village has changed a lot, but it being a center for independent and foreign films remains the same,” he said.
The Quad was Manhattan’s first multiplex, and it has a long history of showcasing significant filmmakers such as John Sayles, New York icons like Andy Warhol and revivals of classic foreign movies.
The theater hadn’t aged well in recent years, but it maintained a loyal fan base. Chief among the loyalists was developer Charles Cohen, CEO of specialty film distributor Cohen Media Group, who bought the theater in 2014 and spearheaded the makeover.
“People want to return to film going as a social experience and not a solitary experience,” Cohen said. “In an over-connected society, the opportunity to connect with people in a community experience is going to be welcomed.”
The four screen, 430-seat theater has a new marquee and a lobby filled with digital screens, vintage posters and a 21.5-inch video wall that will show clips from classic films.
A separate wine and beer bar section, with brightly lit tables and chairs, and a concession stand that serves several items including coffee from around the world, will tide over viewers before each show.
The theater is equipped to play every conceivable format, including 35 mm, 16 mm, 4K digital and 3-D.
Cohen promised that the Quad’s programming will reflect the neighborhood’s interests, and he’s attracted top talent to oversee that vision. Christopher Wells, who has programmed at the IFC Center and Anthology Film Archives, is the Quad’s director of repertory, while Gavin Smith, formerly of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, is senior programmer.
Wells stressed a commitment to classic programming “every single day of the year.” The theater opens with a Lina Wertmuller retrospective, in addition to first-run releases “Heal the Living,” a French film, the Emily Dickinson biopic “A Quiet Passion” and more.
It might seem like the market has been oversaturated in the Village, given that the IFC Center is pushing an expansion and the Film Forum, Cinema Village, the Angelika and others are still going strong. But Berman believes competition among the theaters strengthens the community.
“There is definitely a synergy in the Village between the small institutions like this,” Berman said. “It creates an environment where they can thrive.”