The Pavilion Theater, a landmarked, Art Deco movie house located on the southwest corner of Prospect Park West, holds the distinction of being the absolute worst movie theater in the city. Nitehawk Cinema, the five-year-old theater located in the heart of Williamsburg, is beloved for enabling patrons to watch an Orson Welles flick while washing down an arugula salad with a shot of Jim Beam. Now, these two theaters will come together as one, with Nitehawk’s proprietors slated to work their magic on the beleaguered space for a fall 2017 debut.
According to the Times, the cinema will be renamed Nitehawk Prospect Park, a smart rebranding move that will undoubtedly go a long way toward rehabilitating the Pavilion’s image as a bedbug infested icebox (or, in the summer, bedbug infested sweatbox. It’s reliably the opposite of what you’d like to be). The number of screens will also be reduced from nine to seven (which is still five more screens than its Williamsburg counterpart), and a new double kitchen and two bars (!) will leave the stroller-pushers so thoroughly sated they’ll forget to leave early to feed the Maltipoo.
Refurbishing the interior will cost $10 million, but will also require the services of an old priest, a young priest and the city’s most square-jawed exterminator. If you think I’m exaggerating, you’ve obviously never had a weekend night ruined by the dizzying amount of filth and ineptitude seeping from the walls like blood in the Amityville Horror house. (And, let’s be honest, probably also blood.) The last time I was there I was forced to leave 50 Shades of Grey to throw up in the bathroom after some drugs failed to dissolve peaceably into my stomach, but the floor was so sticky I decided I was better off just hanging in the park, screamingly cold February chill be damned. See what I mean?
It’s not as though the Pavilion hasn’t been renovated in the past. In 2011, the proprietors promised the dawn of a new era through the panacea of new carpeting, seats and, god help me, finger foods to be served in a posh upstairs cafe. They may have replaced the chairs, all of which looked like they were pulled from a fleet of burning 1992 Celicas, but damn it if they couldn’t hire employees who could remember to turn on the movie or dim the lights. I never tried the finger foods, which is probably why I’m still alive to write this today.
A year later, owners Peter and Ben Kafash tried for a Hail Mary in the form of a liquor license, which predictably did not pan out.
It must be said that Nitehawk’s takeover is the best possible outcome for the struggling cinema, which as of last summer was poised to become a sad condo fortress, the desultory afterthought of a theater to remain solely to muzzle groaning NIMBYs. One community member said plans for the structure resembled “Lord & Taylor’s poor cousin,” and another, more cuttingly, described it as “something you’d see in Washington D.C.”
Hidrock Realty, which bought the 88-year old theater in 2006 for $16 million, sold it to investors on August 26 for $28 million, with Nitehawk signing onto a long-term lease. Hidrock, however, will continue to own the adjoining building, though it has since nixed plans to convert the space into a five-story, 24-unit condo complex. As Hidrock’s Steven Hidary declared loftily to the Times, “We had to decide, do we build condos or do we save Brooklyn?”
Hidary opted to “save Brooklyn,” though it’s unclear what, in Hidary’s estimation, that means. (Requests for comment have not been returned.) A look around the firm’s website indicates that the majority of its properties have been made into either offices or hotels, so if saving Brooklyn means “boutique Marriott with ground-floor TD Bank,” then consider us born again.
The Pavilion as we know it will close at the end of October. Alexa Harrison, Nitehawk’s PR director, told the Voice she’s not sure what exterior changes will be made to the building, nor how much of the design approved last year — the one described as a “penitentiary” — will carry over.
“We’re a neighborhood theater, we’re going to stay true to the neighborhood and our current concept,” she said. “People can expect more of what we’re doing now, but on a bigger scale.”
And will a portion of that $10 million be allocated to employing the city’s most unforgiving exterminator?
“You can count on it,” she said.