Unveiling a Uniplex in the East Village


Just when the multiplexization of Manhattan seemed complete, the East Village gives rise to the so-old-it’s-new concept of the neighborhood arthouse theater specializing in alternative films. Conveniently located next to one of the area’s three ATM machines, the Two Boots Pioneer Theater—scheduled to open February 17 at 155 East 3rd Street—is the latest addition to a bohemian entertainment compound that already includes a pizzeria, a video store, and a cozy basement performance space-screening room called the Den of Cin.

The 100-seat, Dolby-enhanced uniplex is the brainchild of Philip Hartman and Doris Kornish, two long-standing East Village entrepreneur-filmmakers. Hartman divides his time between indie film projects and helming the successful Two Boots pizzeria franchise; Kornish cofounded and ran the legendary Film Charas, New York’s longest-running community film series. With a board of directors that includes Christine Vachon and Good Machine’s Ted Hope, the theater boasts close ties to the city’s independent-film community.

The Pioneer kicks off with the U.S. premiere of Lech Kowalski’s Born to Lose: The Last Rock and Roll Movie, featuring Johnny Thunders, Dee Dee Ramone, and the New York Dolls. The theater’s ensuing punk retrospective, “Blank Generation & Beyond, 1975-1985,” takes us back to those halcyon days when nothing seemed possible, when vomiting was a political act, and when pain was something you looked for in a relationship. Some standout gems include Nightclubbing: Live From CBGB’s (featuring a pre-famous, 1975 Blondie and the Talking Heads), Kowalski’s D.O.A., and Nick Zedd’s 1979 punk opus They Eat Scum, a film banned in Canada for obscenity and deemed “uniformly revolting” by the Voice‘s own Amy Taubin. “The reason we wanted to show these films is that they grew out of this neighborhood, most everybody lived here, and it’s when we got our start in this neighborhood, too,” says Kornish.

Connoisseurs may want to attend the U.S. premiere of Fear of Fiction, Charlie Ahearn’s first feature since Wild Style. Other noteworthy artifacts include Ulli Lommel’s rarely screened The Blank Generation (1978), starring Carole Bouquet, Andy Warhol, and Richard Hell (Hell will be in attendance), and Robert Mapplethorpe’s 1976 short about Patti Smith, Still Moving. The festival also dusts off the work of several women directors, including Vivienne Dick’s She Had Her Gun All Ready (1978), in which Lydia Lunch stalks Pat Place; Sara Driver’s You Are Not I (1981), based on a Paul Bowles story and featuring cinematography by Jim Jarmusch; and Beth and Scott B’s Super-8 classic The Offenders (1979), originally screened in segments at Max’s Kansas City. Details of the series will be available from the Pioneer’s under-construction Web site,, an experiment in putting pizza and celluloid under one roof.

Hartman and Kornish see the Pioneer as countering the often alienating multiplex experience, emphasizing instead the convenience and intimacy of a theater in which indie filmmakers will drop by to introduce their own films. At the same time, the Pioneer welcomes celluloid strays that would never get airplay at conventional theaters. “The films that other theater owners don’t know what to do with are the films we love,” explains Kornish, to which Hartman adds, “We’re looking for any sort of film that’s twisted.” Given these parameters, one can only look forward to the Pioneer’s Lifestyle Festival in March, cosponsored by and Good Machine. The program includes the U.S. premiere of the Hughes brothers’ eagerly anticipated documentary American Pimp, followed on March 16 with The Lifestyle, an incursion into the world of swinging, free-loving senior citizens.