For years, Greenpoint / Williamsburg lacked a movie theater, until indieScreen opened in 2010. Now, the neighborhood has a second place to view films: Nitehawk Cinema.
Matthew Viragh, owner of Nitehawk, was in advertising for several years until he decided to work at a single screen art deco theater in Virginia. There, he learned the business and saw the “dinner and a movie” concept in action.
A resident of Brooklyn, Viragh said the neighborhood was “starving for a movie theater.” Nitehawk plays well-known indies (those that fall between small films and mainstream blockbusters) in its three theaters, which have 90, 68, and 20 seats. Before the movies begin, local filmmakers’ projects are shown. “We’re trying to give [them] a voice in our pre-show,” the owner said. “There are 35-40 minutes where we put up some odd clips we came across from local filmmakers and give them a chance to have their stuff on the big screen before the feature starts.”
The theater, which opened June 24th, specializes in the dinner and a movie combo, serving up such entrees as their signature burger, fish tacos, a grilled chicken sandwich, and BBQ pork belly.
Chef Saul Bolton dreams up delectable meals to complement the current films’ themes. For example, while screening Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Nitehawk’s menu offered up a country pate with a French Connection cocktail (cognac, lemon, raspberry, and prosecco). For The Trip, it was scallop ceviche and the Alan Partridge cocktail (pimms, lemon, and cucumber); while for viewers of coming-of-age comedy Submarine, the Tiny Broken Heart cocktail (Don Q rum, lime, and fresh sugar cane) and Brooklyn bangers and mash were suggested. “We like to match a food and cocktail to a movie,” said Viragh. “It’s fun for our kitchen staff to get inspired by films and serve something that invokes the film in some way. We’re doing that for every film that comes through.”
The main menu is not the only place that moviegoers can turn for delicious cuisine. Nitehawk’s concession stand provides much more than traditional buttered popcorn and Twizzlers. For $5, patrons can purchase the cinema’s special popcorn (cotija cheese, lime, and cilantro), butter nutters (peanut butter, honey, sea salt, pretzels), and spiced mixed nuts (rosemary, cayenne, and brown sugar). Small plates are $6, and include cheese-covered tater tots, deviled eggs with bacon bits, and homemade hummus and pickles. All the cocktail names contain movie references like Re-Animator, Dog Day Afternoon, and Amores Perros.
Viragh is also trying to make the downstairs café at Nitehawk stand on its own, where anyone can stop by and enjoy the full menu without seeing a film.
Assisting Viragh is film booker Jeffrey Jacobs, President of Jacobs Entertainment Inc. Jacobs is best known for booking the films for the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Anjelika, when it first opened, in the late 1980s. The cinema director is John Woods, who owned the Reel Life video shop on Bedford Avenue.
If Veragh had simply opened a movie theater, many in the neighborhood would have been grateful. By including an inventive movie-watching experience, signature drinks, emphasis on local filmmakers and quality food Nitehawk stands to become a community icon. To Viragh, the theater provides “a chance for everyone in the neighborhood not to go into Manhattan to see a movie.”
136 Metropolitan Avenue