The old Sanders Theatre was closing for the second time when I moved to the Slope in 1978. The neighborhood had not yet been gentrified. There were bodegas, greasy fried chicken and soft ice cream on 7th Avenue. The Miami fruit market had been around since the 1940s. The Shirts, a “power pop band” rented a loft for $250 a month. Harriet Hoffman had a pottery studio on 9th Street at 7th Avenue. She gave free lessons to school classes.
The Park Slope brownstone community begun to change, rents went up, many of the older places couldn’t afford to hold on and closed their doors. The Sanders stood decaying on the corner of Prospect Park West and 15th Street. Plans to multiplex the balcony, while converting the first floor to a hardware store, never came to fruition. One movie house remained in the neighborhood, the worn Plaza Theatre on Flatbush.
In September 1994 Manhattan theatre exhibitor, Norman Addie, purchased the Sanders, renaming it the Pavilion, converting it to a triplex and adding a café to the balcony level. Carl Giangrande served as architect. Addie also acquired the Plaza, the theatre’s ceiling collapsed as the workers were starting renovations.
Additional screens were added with the Pavilion seemingly popular with the local neighborhood. Eventually, however, Addie failed. American Apparel took over the Plaza and Cinedign the Pavilion as its digital showcase theatre.
Recently the Pavilion has come under adverse criticism. It fell under the bed bug hysteria that gripped so much of New York. A woman claimed to have been bitten while watching a film. However no solid evidence was forthcoming. The same could not be said for the deteriorating condition of the cinema. The sorry state of the Pavilion became a topic with numerous blogs. The Brooklynian reported “seats with no backs, seats with no…seats, seats with stains and random food particles and hair.” The article illustrated with five photos.
The beleaguered staff sent an email apology to Park Slope Parents about the state of the Pavilion, blaming ownership for the current state of the theatre. Finally Jill Calcaterra, Chief Marketing Officer for Cinedigm, came forward, stating that there would be “big changes” with the Pavilion undergoing a major renovation (Park Slope Patch).
Many remain cynical about the future of the Pavilion as movie house. A comment on one of the blogs stated that an “upscale neighborhood deserved better.”
The Pavilion had just opened when I gave my first Park Slope theatre tour for the Brooklyn Center of the Urban Environment. The new multiplex had met with opposition. A person living on 15th Street demanded in the local press that a study be conducted on the impact of opening a movie house in a residential community. Not realizing there had been cinema on that corner since 1908 (the original Sanders Marathon).
At the start of the walk, I quoted this person and posed the question what was the impact on the neighborhood when the Sanders opened in 1928 with eleven other theatres in the Slope. What was it like on the streets of Park Slope when these places spilled out on a Saturday night? What was it like at the restaurants and the soda fountains?
Updates March 3, 2011:
The Brooklyn Paper, with a slight dig at the Park Slope Patch blog, states that the “Pavilion will be a movie palace again.” That it was never actually a movie palace doesn’t enter into the equation.
F in the Slope is wondering if a battle is brewing between Park Slope Patch and the Brooklyn Paper? They also take time to explain why the “Pavilion movie theatre will so not be a palace again.” It seems that just about every movie house built in the 1920s and 30s was a palace. Anyway it is a rather amusing look at “fabric swatches-again.”
According to L Magazine the “”Pavilion’s absentee corporate overlords” are allowing 23-year-old theatre manager, Ross Brunetti, to “pick out the new upholstery.”
Oh, by the way, there is no word from the Patch about the suppose feud with the Brooklyn Paper.