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Brooklyn Heights Cinema Launches Fundraiser to Buy Digital Projector

By Nikhita Venugopal | February 27, 2014 6:06pm
 The Brooklyn Heights Cinema at 70 Henry St.
The Brooklyn Heights Cinema at 70 Henry St.
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BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Before the screen goes dark, a local movie theater is hoping to stay afloat with a little help from technology and the Internet.  

The owner of the Brooklyn Heights Cinema, a decades-old movie house, is looking to raise $30,000 to purchase a digital projector for one of the theater’s two screens.  

Owner Kenn Lowy has been forced to switch to advanced-screening equipment in order to show popular movies that are no longer available on 35mm film.

Without the money to buy digital projection by the end of March, “we’re out of business,” he said.

Several films, including Hollywood and foreign movies, are no longer printed on 35mm film, which one screen at the theater still uses.

Just before Christmas, Lowy managed to rent and install a digital projector, but he is now looking to purchase the equipment for his movie house.

Oscar-nominated films like “Nebraska,” which is still running at the cinema, were only available digitally, as well as flicks like “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” and Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

“35mm prints are so hard to get,” Lowy said.

The money raised will allow Lowy to buy a digital projector, a digital cinema media server and an automation system that controls lighting, as well as lenses and bulbs.

Any extra funds from the online campaign will go toward equipment for the second screen and refurbishing the theater’s concession stand and lobby, he said.

The two-screen theater, which holds about 300 seats, opened its doors in 1970. It is “the oldest and longest running independently owned and operated cinema remaining in New York City,” according to the theater's website.

“People love this theater because it’s the last of its kind,” Lowy said.

When customers ask how they can help save the cinema hall, Lowy has two requests: Donate, and come watch a movie. 

Lowy, a musician, songwriter and freelance computer consultant, bought the theater three years ago when it was in dire straits and near closing, he said.

Moviegoers will often find Lowy greeting people from the box office, asking whether a film was well-received or if anyone needed anything — the kind of attentiveness that can still be found in some restaurants and grocery stories but rarely movie theaters, he said.

“It’s just a throwback to places where you had personalized service,” he said.

But the Indiegogo campaign comes at a precarious moment for the Brooklyn Heights Cinema and its future.

Last week, the 70 Henry St. building’s landlord listed the property for sale at $7.5 million or lease at $30,000 per month, which is significantly more than Lowy's current rent. 

The owner, Tom Caruana, has tried and failed to redevelop the property after two proposals were rejected by the city. Because of Brooklyn Heights’s status as a historic neighborhood, any structural changes to buildings must go through the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Lowy said the building owner has been “supportive” of the theater’s continued operation at the corner of Orange and Henry streets, and is still exploring options that would allow the business to stay.

But despite the building’s possible sale, the Brooklyn Heights Cinema is still active and Lowy needs new technology to keep the credits from rolling permanently.

“It’s really gotten to the point that if we don’t have [digital projection], we have to close,” he said.