We were on hand yesterday afternoon as the doors officially opened for the first time at the Metrograph Theater on Ludlow Street. We brought along photographer Whitney Browne, who captured the images you see here.
People waited patiently outside the converted warehouse building for the 2 p.m. showing of Taxi Driver. The Metrograph is the first independently owned theater to open in New York City in at least a decade. It’s the brainchild of Alexander Olch, the Lower East Side-based fashion designer.
When we sat down with Olch this past October to discuss his vision for a new golden age of independent cinema, the space at 7 Ludlow St. was pretty much an empty shell. Four months later, the Metrograph is up-and-running. In the minutes before yesterday’s debut, CEO Ethan Oberman took a few minutes to chat with us about the gutsy venture.
The likes of Dustin Hoffman, Sophia Coppola and Jim Jarmusch were part of the opening celebrations earlier in the week. If it’s going to be successful, the Metrograph will need to become a go-to destination for New York’s film community. But Oberman, who lives on Ludlow Street, said they also want it to be a real part of the local community. “We’re hoping it’s welcoming,” he explained. “One of the things that is very important about this project is that it’s very much embedded in the Lower East Side, in the community.”
The two theaters are in good shape for the first screenings. “The projectors work, the screens look great, the sound is great,” said Oberman. There’s still some work do do in other parts of the building, however. Oberman expects the restaurant, located on the second floor, will be open in the next week to 10 days. For the moment, guests are able to select a variety of retro and gourmet snacks from a self-serve concession in the lobby. Offerings include: Swedish fish, packaged pistachios, lychee gummy candy, salt water taffy, wasabi green peas and, of course, spicy house-made popcorn.
The goal of the Metrograph is to make going to the movies a special experience again. “We are really focused on bringing hospitality to theater going, in many ways, like it used to be,” said Oberman. “We hope that all of these things (the theaters, restaurant and bar, a bookstore) operating together in the same space will be something really different (than you see in most independent cinemas). Glancing at the crowds flowing into the 175-seat theater, Oberman concluded, “We can see that it’s already working.”