The Pavilion Once Again

The Pavilion  is the last remaining  movie house in a Brooklyn neighborhood once crowded with theatres. Opening as the Sanders in 1928, the interior attractive in its Moorish design but never the movie palace that so many blogs and newspapers refer to.   Nicer than its nearby competition the Minerva but not on par with the RKO Prospect at 9th Street.

The Pavilion has come under adverse criticism, the sorry state of the theatre a topic of  newspapers and blogs. The multiplex once again in the news during the month of May with local blogs reporting the sale of the beleaguered theatre.

Photo by Sidney B. Selleck, Jr. (part of the author’s collection)

FIPS broke the news on May 9th after receiving a tip from reader  @axelmurillo.  “Say goodbye to the bed bug infested, spooge covered filthy purple seats folks!” proclaimed FIPS.

In all fairness , the bed bug allegations were never proven.

After  doing “some further digging”, the FIPS came up with a rumor that a group of Jewish business men had bought the Pavilion.

The actual proof of sale came a few days later in the Park Slope Patch with a quote from Jill Calcaterra, the Chief Marketing Officer for the previous owners Cinedigm:

“We found a local buyer who was interested in making an investment in the theater — refurbishing it — so it just made sense.”

Filming at the Pavilion (Photo by Betty Sword)

“Pete” sent Mary, at the Windsor Terrace Blog,  an email about the  article in FIPS  with the Pavilion  “actually truly doing some kind of vague renovation.”

Relying on information from the Patch and FIPS, Mary found the news “encouraging.”

Apparently without actually visiting the Pavilion, Natalie O’Neill was able to report  in the Brooklyn Paper that renovations were almost done.  Everything ready “in time for Memorial Day.”  New co-owner Ben Kafash expressing a commitment to “making a better place.”

Ben Kafash and Grace Sarvalo operate Cinema Holdings, a company specializing in take overs of troubled cinemas, apparently with  mixed results.

Feedback from readers attending Kung Fu Panda 2 over the holiday weekend was largely negative, critical of the article and the Pavilion. “Looking forward to returning to the Pavilion”, one person praised the Brooklyn Paper for its “the non biased” reporting.  Another suggested reading  FIPS which had already published a scathing review of the new Pavilion calling it “arguably the worst movie theater in NYC.”


Pavilion Theatre with a Few Updates

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.


The Brooklyn Theatre Index

I had just started this blog when the Brooklyn Theatre Index got in the way. Originally I had hoped to publish two or three entries per week but that  was soon put aside.

It was about three years ago when I first conceived  the idea of publishing a history of Brooklyn showplaces from 1776 to the modern multiplex.  The Index having its origins in two earlier surveys of Brooklyn theatres, conducted independently by Dario Marotta and Michael Miller, each compiling an extensive listing  of Brooklyn venues.

For the purpose of the Index, the two lists were combined, and extensive research carried out on each auditorium, with new information uncovered and a number of new venues added.  I poured over newspaper clippings, blueprints, and company records to document each theatre.

The staff at the Brooklyn Collection, Central Library, was extremely helpful in all aspects of  my research. In addition to giving me her own list of 1929 theatres, Joy Holland even allowed access to the Brooklyn Eagle morgue files.

I traveled to Elmhurst, Illinois to visit the  Theatre Historical Society of America where Executive Director Richard J. Sklenar not only granted me access to the Michael Miller Collection but also assisted in my research.

View from the Theatre Historical Society, second floor of the York Theatre Building

Finally in February, 2010, I chose  Integrative Ink for the final editing, proofreading and formating of text. While I thought the first volume done, they did not. Integrative Ink made numerous suggestions, even preparing a style sheet. While trying to finish Volume II, I found myself going back over Volume I repeatedly. The publication of the Theatre Index was to coincide with two talks at the Central Library but not was not  the case. Various other projects, including this blog, put on hold as I struggled to complete the first two volumes. Finally at the end of July, The Brooklyn Theatre Index Volume I From Adams Street to Lorimer Street was ready for the publisher.  It took almost five months to prepare Volume I for print and less than a month for the second volume (going to press shortly).    I learned a lot from Stephanee Killen and Dave Bow of Integrative Ink.

Exterior view of the York Theatre Building in Elmhurst

Brooklyn Collection, April 28, 2010

My recent talk at the Brooklyn Collection garner positive reviews in two blogs.

Save the Slope found the talk “fascinating” but had some doubts about Alger Hiss being introduced to a Soviet spy chief in the mezzanine of the Prospect Theatre. The only support they could find for this claim was my essay in The Brooklyn Film, edited by John Manbeck and Robert Singer. Save the Slope also mentioned that Pete Hamill  “cites the same tale.”  They thought it was a great story but was it really true?

I added as a comment the following from the Brooklyn Eagle, June 6, 1949:

“Each time, the perjury consisted of suppressing the espionage role he [Whittaker Chambers] accused [Alger] Hiss of playing after he introduced Hiss to a Soviet spy chief in the United States in the mezzanine of the Prospect Theater at 9th St. and 5th Ave. in January or February of 1937, he admitted under the battering questions of defense council Lloyd Paul Stryker.”

Richard Grayson at Dumbo Books “learned an awful lot” at my talk while having “a great time with a charming, knowledgeable and funny man who seems to know more Brooklyn theater history than anyone in captivity.”

Thanks Richard and HDEC at Save the Slope.

Interior: Prospect Theatre 1919

When it opened in September 1914, the Prospect Theatre, with 2400 seats,  was the largest vaudeville house in Greater New York. A large section of the upper interior still survives above the C-Town at 327 Ninth Street in Park Slope. Prior to climbing up a twenty-foot ladder to see the remains, an excited stock boy told me with a great deal of glee “it is like the mummy’s tomb up there!”