Movie revival: Nitehawk Cinema opens in former Pavilion theater

Brooklyn Paper
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Movie buff: Nitehawk Cinema owner Matthew Viraugh in the new Park Slope movie house’s 194-seat theater.
Rooms with a view: Nitehawk’s seven theaters vary in size from a 54-seat screening room to an auditorium with almost 200 seats.
A nightcap at Nitehawk: The new theater in Park Slope offers Old-Fashioned cocktails on draft.
Booze and blockbusters: Filmgoers can grab drinks at the ground-floor bar of Nitehawk Cinema Prospect Park, or at another on the second floor.
Double decker: The second-floor bar includes a third-floor mezzanine filled with tables, chairs, and a pair of video games.
Reel neat: Nitehawk Cinema hosts a 35mm reel-to-reel projector that formerly belonged to auteur Martin Scorsese.
Hidden treasures: The restoration of the former Pavilion Theater uncovered elaborate ceiling details.

The previews are finally over!

Nitehawk Cinema opened the doors of its long-awaited Park Slope multiplex on Wednesday, following a more than two-year renovation project. The new 650-seat, seven-screen theater features digital projectors and three 35mm reel-to-reel projectors — including machines formerly owned by auteur Martin Scorsese and media mogul Rupert Murdoch — and is more than three times the size of Nitehawk’s flagship Williamsburg cinema.

Nitehawk Prospect Park — as owner Matthew Viragh has branded it — will host screenings of both blockbuster and art-house flicks, in addition to showing reruns of Hollywood and foreign classics as part of its Signature Series program. One of the largest theaters also features a wide stage that will be used for lectures and other live performances, according to a spokesman.

The “dine-in” movie house also offers table-side food and beverage service. The menu, designed by executive chef Blessing Schuman-Strange, features entrees such as the signature Nitehawk Burger, along with snacks including tater tots and homemade beef jerky, and artisanal popcorn served with truffle butter and citric salt. The cinema has also introduced a “Dine and Dash” option for those who purchase their tickets with a credit card — anything ordered during the film is automatically charged to the card, so movie-goers will not have to wait for the check.

The theater also hosts two full bars for ticket holders to visit before or after the films, or for barflies more interested in catching a buzz than a blockbuster.

The 1928-built Sanders Theater served Park Slope as the neighborhood’s only movie house until 1978, then sat largely empty until 1995, when the cinema reopened as the infamously dumpy Pavilion Theater, which was rumored to contain bed-bugs during it later years.

Developer Hidrock Properties got city approval to convert the historic theater into a condominiums in 2015, but later abandoned its plans, and Viragh snagged the lease from investors, who purchased the property for a cool $28 million in 2016.

Then began a massive, gut-renovation of the historic theater. The more than two-year renovation project proved a massive challenge, said Viragh, and saw workers contending with “rats the size of dogs” at a theater that had clearly seen better days.

“It was like a hoarder had lived here for 50 years,” he recalled.

Viragh had originally hoped to open the Park Slope cinema earlier this year, but credits a months-long delay to the discovery of walled-over architectural elements, including a third-floor mezzanine overlooking Brooklyn’s Backyard.

But at the end of the day, whether the name “Sanders,” “Pavilion,” or “Nitehawk” graces the theater’s marquee, the old Prospect Park West movie house was built to last, said Viragh, who hopes to serve Park Slopers booze and blockbusters for many years to come.

“It’s a really great building,” he said. “It’s got great bones.”

Nitehawk Prospect Park (188 Prospect Park West at 14th Street in Park Slope, Open daily at 3 pm. Tickets $13 ($10 seniors and children).

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 2:48 pm, December 19, 2018
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