[Photo from Wednesday]
Walking by 34 E. 13th St. between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue, you wouldn't know that there was a movie theater in this space.
Back in the summer of 2014, news broke that the Quad Cinema, family-owned and operated since 1972, was now the property of real-estate developer, film producer-distributor and movie buff Charles S. Cohen.
Since then, the theater has been undergoing a gut rehab to upgrade the space to showcase foreign, independent and classic films.
Cohen, whose personal wealth is a reported $2.8 billion, has given several interviews of late. For starters, the Quad is expected to reopen this spring.
Here's more from a Q-and-A published Feb. 4 at LA West Media:
What is the biggest challenge of being a distributor?
The biggest challenge a distributor has for limited release films is finding screens. The highest and best use of real estate in New York City is not movie theaters. So there are very few screens and the real estate for screenings is very tight. We have done very well with the current screens, but I wanted my own screens so I could insure that I could play the films that I feel strongly about that might not otherwise find a home. I tried years ago to buy the Walter Reed chain, but that didn’t work out. So in 2014, I acquired the Quad Cinema ... It’s going through massive renovations. It originally had 570 seats, but will open in April with four state-of-the-art screens, with 430 seats each.
There are more Quad details in a feature on Cohen in Surface magazine (H/T Jeremiah Moss!).
C. Mason Wells, the IFC film programmer who Cohen hired to co-run the Quad, tells me that he tracked Cohen down after hearing that he’d bought the theater. “I was so impressed by the scope of what he was doing,” Wells says. “There are so many people who do individual components, but not altogether—distribution, production, restoration and exhibition. That’s something I want to be a part of.” (Former Film Comment editor Gavin Smith was also brought on board to program the cinema.)
What clinched the deal was Cohen’s decision to dedicate one of the Quad’s four screens to classic cinema, which Wells wanted to focus on, and which is often relegated to matinee or midnight screenings at other theaters.
“Finding a fellow fan is great,” Wells says. “At our weekly meetings we’ll start talking about movies and the merits of them even when there’s other stuff on the docket. He watches pretty much everything that comes out and he can rattle off film facts like a human IMDB. It almost turns into a game of, ‘Oh man, I got stumped by Charles again.’”
“I think it’s going to be a game changer,” he says of the Quad. “I think it’s going to be one of the best places to see film in New York. The programmers will create a new standard. It’s what New York is missing.”
As our time together came to a close, I wondered some things aloud.
What would it have that other theaters didn’t?
“They don’t have what I’m looking for,” Cohen says.
But what was he looking for?
“A soul,” he says. “Going to a movie should be more of an event. It should energize you and provoke discussion. It should be a curated experience, there should be someone to welcome you, to provide history, interpretation. It should be a window on the world.” One with a wine bar.
According to Cinema Treasures, the Quad was Manhattan's first four-screen theater when it opened in 1972.
Previously on EV Grieve:
Now playing at the Quad Cinema: Closed for Renovations