Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Shoe drops for Two Boots

The East Village’s Two Boots Pioneer Theater — the independent moviehouse known for screening everything from offbeat foreign films to gory zombie flicks — has drawn the curtain.

The one-screen theater, owned by Village impresario Phil Hartman of the Two Boots pizza empire, fell victim to rising rents after failing to secure a new investor for the E. Third St. and Avenue A space.

According to a post on the theater’s Web site, its final screening — “appropriately: Night of the Living Dead” — occurred on Friday after news broke early last week that the space was facing imminent closure. The note stated that “Two Boots pizzas have been able to support our labor of love all these years, but now, with our lease ending and a rent hike looming, it’s no longer economically feasible to keep the theater going.”

Hartman said that he reached out to a host possible saviors for the space, including film distributors and the Queens-based American Museum of the Moving Image, to no avail. But hope remains: “Until the wrecking ball comes, you never know,” he added.

“It’s rough, but I’m really proud of what we did there,” Hartman continued. “When you were in the Pioneer, you knew you were in the Pioneer.”

He is now focusing his efforts on opening a historic theater in Bridgeport, Conn., next to one of his Two Boots outposts there, while still operating restaurants around Downtown. The company’s Den of Cin video store on Avenue A, which is connected to the restaurant there, will also remain open.

The Pioneer will host a farewell party on Fri., Nov. 7, starting at 6 p.m., with free movies, popcorn “and reminiscences.”

“I’m, of course, totally bummed about it,” Hartman said. “On the other hand, it’s kind of a miracle we lasted for nine years.”

Waterfalls windfall

Remember a few months back when you and your friends cynically snickered at the notion of Olafur Elliason’s “New York City Waterfalls” installation having some great artistic impact on the city? Well, that point is still debatable. What’s not is the economic boon it provided Downtown and the rest of the city, as the project generated an estimated $69 million in revenue.

According to a recent city report, of the 1.4 million people who viewed the exhibition, about 79,2000 were visitors to New York who came specifically or extended their stay because of the installation. Fifteen percent of “Waterfalls” viewers who stayed in a hotel chose one Lower Manhattan, which counts only 7 percent of the city’s hotel rooms, showing that visitors disproportionately chose Downtown hotels over others in the city.

Additionally, more than 213,000 boat passengers bought tickets for Circle Line’s Downtown “Waterfalls” tour during the length of the installation, with average weekly ridership jumping by 123 percent.

Over all, more than 320,000 people made their first trip to the Lower Manhattan or Brooklyn waterfront for the exhibit, including 44,500 New Yorkers, the report stated.

“We always knew the ‘Waterfalls’ was going to reinvigorate our city’s waterfront — but its actual impact has exceeded our expectations,” said Mayor Mike Bloomberg. “People didn’t buy tickets or pass through a turnstile to experience the ‘Waterfalls,’ but this exhibition brought people to areas of the city they might not otherwise ever have visited. We’ve always understood that we have to encourage big, bold projects that set our city apart, and this will be increasingly important while areas of our economy are struggling from the turmoil on Wall St.” 

Calexico doubles up

The folks behind Soho’s Calexico food cart — the popular Southwestern-style street eatery that took home top honors last month at the 2008 Vendy Awards — have doubled their presence on Prince St. after increased demand for their prodigious yet penurious-friendly fare.

After waiting times for their burritos, tacos and quesadillas had grown as long as 45 minutes, the Calexico crew decided to consolidate two carts at the corner of Wooster St. to better serve their loyal Downtown fan base. (They moved the second cart from Gramercy to their original Soho intersection after the Oct. 18 Vendy victory pushed wait times to nearly an hour.)

“A lot of customers were really gracious with waiting,” said Dave Vendley, 25, a California native who founded the truck with brothers Brian, 28, and Jesse, 40, more than two years ago. “We’re doing our best to return the favor.”

The single cart had been serving as many as 300 people during its typical four hours of afternoon operation. (For those scoring at home, that’s upwards of 100 pounds of chicken, steak and pulled pork per day.) So, the brothers doubled up as a gesture of goodwill. Now, they’re now turning over orders in less than half the time they used to.

“Almost all of our business is repeat business,” added Vendley, whose day starts at 6 a.m. prepping food in an Astoria kitchen. He noted the relocation “means something to us, and it hopefully means something to them.”

Vendley spoke to Mixed Use in between taking orders on an overcast Monday afternoon, with the line stretching a dozen deep at times. So, with that kind of dedicated following, is Calexico eyeing expansion?

“We might start running late night on the Lower East Side,” he added. It’s sounds like a good idea, since they would likely find a goldmine in the post-bar crowd down there. “We’d love to have another cart out by spring,” he said.