The transformation of the former Pavilion Theater in Park Slope is getting closer to reality as Nitehawk Cinema pushes forward on its revamp of the beleaguered theater. Brownstoner got a hard-hat tour and a peek inside the renovation Tuesday.
The 1920s movie house at 188 Prospect Park West has had a bumpy road towards rejuvenation. Opened in 1928, it was originally known as the Sanders Theater and designed by architect Harrison G. Wiseman and Magnuson & Kleinert Associates. Wiseman designed more than 20 theaters in New York City, including the Egyptian influenced Cameo Theater on Eastern Parkway.
They designed a fairly restrained theater, with a border of decorative cast stone encasing three arched windows above the marquee. Historic images show the original marquee would have been a bit more ornamental than the present-day one, altered by the mid 20th century.
The theater survived as the Sanders until 1978. It sat mouldering until 1995, when it reopened as the Pavilion. It had less than a stellar reputation over the years with incorrect movie times, bedbug rumors and theaters without heat. After it ceased operation in 2016, the owners proposed a condo conversion before Nitehawk Cinema took on the property.
According to Nitehawk’s Matthew Viragh, they had their eye on the Pavilion before ultimately opening their first location in Williamsburg. They started the Pavilion renovation in late 2016 and hope to have the cinema open in spring 2018.
On the outside, the signage will once again glow neon; the lighting is being restored by Manhattan-based firm Let There Be Neon.
The former ticket booth in the main lobby.
The theater went through a number of renovations in the 20th century and what little original historic ornamental detail survives is primarily found on the ground floor. While not as grand as the Loew’s Wonder Theaters built in Brooklyn during the same era — like the over-the-top Loew’s Pitkin in Brownsville — the Sanders had some touches of fantasy.
What ornament can still be spotted has a touch of Moorish influence, with small arches inscribed in the moldings and geometric and stylized floral ornament around the doorways and ceiling.
No original light fixtures have survived, so contemporary fixtures will be suspended from the 1920s-era ceiling medallions.
Some marble stairs were uncovered beneath layers of old carpeting. Additional small sections of trim were also found surrounding doorways and will be restored, with the many later alterations removed.
Some of the ornamental work is not quite as historic — most of the circa-1990s quirky artwork won’t survive the renovation.
This lounge space will be transformed with banquette seating and arcade games — one of two lounge areas planned for the cinema. Both will be open to the public, not just movie attendees.
An original balcony uncovered during the renovation will remain on view in what will become a public hallway.
The original fly loft, used for storing scenery during the vaudeville days of the theater, is still open at the moment. The former theater space below it will be turned into a kitchen.
There were nine theater spaces carved out of the space when Nitehawk took on the building. Seven theater spaces are being retained, with a seating capacity of 650. All of the theaters will be ADA accessible.
[Photos by Susan De Vries]
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