Cinema Village is the oldest continuously operated cinema in Greenwich Village. Built in 1963 in an old fire house it showcased “vintage classics, cult and contemporary critical favorites on double bills that would usually change three times a week,” which have since dissipated in commercial cinemas. During the emergence of home video, buy outs by major circuits and real estate development, it struggled
to stay open and only survived with a switch to limited engagements of highly alternative first run programming.
In the early 1990s it became known through its annual festivals and other bookings, as the place to see the amazing Hong Kong films, which had a profound influence on international filmmaking styles. Personal appearances by talents such as Michele Yeoh, Chow Yun Fat, Wong Kar Wai and Peter Chan. In 2000, renovation allowed for modern three screen facility with state of the presentation with a much more diverse programming mix and permit them to extend runs of special films to extraordinary lengths. 2001 introduced digital video projection, which gives them potential to play deserving features without the burden to distributors or filmmakers of an expensive conversion to celluloid.
Greenwich Village is composed largely of elderly people and college students. Discounted tickets (College ID $8 Senior $6) There is a Large Jewish community and Cinema Village makes it a point to showcase works with Jewish themes or works by Jewish filmmakers. Promotion of films playing is largely dependent on word of mouth. They also promote the current films on their website.
Building and Location:
There is no lobby and a one-teller box office. If you arrive more than 15 minutes prior to the film’s start time, there is no indoor waiting area and you will be asked to wait outside. There is a small concession stand with the basics (large portion of cinema’s profits).
• Screen#1 capacity: 156 seats projection: 35 mm, 16 mm, digital video, QuickTime Files sound: Dolby Digital CP500
• Screen#2 capacity: 67 seats projection: 35 mm, 16 mm, digital video sound: Dolby Surround CP45
• Screen#3 capacity: 73 seats projection: 35 mm sound: Dolby Surround CP45
After showing up a bit early we realized we had to kill some time so headed across the street to grab some zza. We headed over about 10 minutes past showtime wrongfully assuming that we were savvy moviegoers who would simply be skipping the previews. After purchasing our ticket from the college-age teller we bought some over-priced popcorn and headed into the tiny theater up the narrow stairs.
There were roughly 10 other people in the theater and all seemed borderline-elderly. The film came and went without really leaving any members of the group even slightly impressed. It was a mediocre film at best. We headed back out to the "lobby."
After asking the teller to speak to a manager she got very nervous and immediately insisted she must know why. We explained we were doing a project and she relaxed slightly. "He's somewhere around here" she told us. We realized quickly that she was disinterested in helping us so we asked if we could look around for him. "No, just wait here. He should pass through eventually." We decided to start looking for another employee to talk to. We found Steve.
Steve is a SUNY Purchase Film Studies alum who works at Cinema Village and was a great resource of info on Cinema Village. He was one of the most tenured employees with only a little over a year under his belt. He informed us that the average employment time for anyone working at cinema village was around one to two years and that no current manager had been there longer than him. The owner comes in roughly once a year when something needs to be fixed or equipment purchased. Other than that, the place pretty much is run by the employees on hand. He told us that they employ a film purchaser who picks the films that they will be showing and makes it a point to have at least one Jewish-themed film on hand and playing at any given time. He rarely gets to see the films that play and admits that he prefers not to be there when not working even though he can see any film free of charge.
Overall, Steve painted a grim picture of Cinema Village and claimed to see the writing on the walls for the old theater. However, due to its survival during trying times, it is difficult to believe that this cinema could go down without a fight.