Guest Post: Brooklyn Heights Cinema Owner Kenn Lowy Responds to Possible Closing

Brooklyn Heights Cinema owner Kenn Lowy has written this guest post in response to the news that the building may be demolished to make way for a 5-story residence.

“So the news is out: the Brooklyn Heights Cinema building is going to be demolished and a 5 story condo will take its place. A lot of people have asked me if I knew this could happen? The answer is yes. When I met with the landlord last year he told me there was a good chance he would develop it. So I had a choice, let it close or move forward and take my chances. Actually, there wasn’t a choice for me because this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. If I succeeded at making it better and growing the business, then I knew I could continue it elsewhere if it came to that. I wanted to make it more of a destination adding music, comedy (coming in February) and silent films with live music and you (my neighbors) have been very supportive.”

“Back to the demolition of the building. Our lease runs to June 30th, so we’ll be at this location for a while longer. The landlord is a decent guy and has told me we’ll be able to stay until he’s ready to move forward with his plans. That could be July, or it could be December. Either way, we’re looking for a new home in the area and with any luck, we’ll close in one location and open in the other seamlessly (like the Knitting Factory and St. Ann’s). We do things other cinemas can’t or won’t do, and that’s why I bought it, to do something different. We played Battle for Brooklyn for months and next month we’ll be showing local filmmaker Heather Quinlan’s “If these Knishes Could Talk” (a work in progress). We’re not slowing down or going anywhere for a while.

“For now, the best thing you can do is continue to support us. Without your support, there is no going forward. If you have any ideas or suggestions, come in and tell me your thoughts. Unlike any movie theater I’ve ever been to, the owner (me) is usually here and actually wants to talk to you.”

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  • AEB

    Your candor is appreciated, Mr. Lowy, as well as your efforts to keep the Cinema going in the Darwinian world of NYC real estate.

    Alas, it seems unlikely, to say the least, that you’ll be able to relocate in the Heights. But one can dream.

  • Jorale-man

    I can only say that if you have to move out, I hope you’ll find a place in the Heights. It should be a point of pride for a cultured neighborhood to have an independent cinema. Fort Greene has BAM, Cobble Hill has the Cobble Hill Cinemas. I don’t know where such space might exist in the Heights (closer to Downtown?) but I’ll certainly support the theater wherever it ends up.

  • Anthony A. Manheim

    Keep up the good work, Ken!

  • Ballerina

    Is there a chance that the new owner of the five story condo will allow you to have a Cinema/Theater on the Ground floor?? Perhaps that could be something to negotiate with the Brooklyn Heights Association or the Landmarks Preservation Group. This is the only intelligent Movie Theater in the neighborhood.

  • BH’er

    I agree, there should be a covenant to preserve the theatre! This is a NYC landmark and an invaluable part of our community!

    I don’t believe it would be the same anywhere else…

  • clyde turner

    Ken, I hope you can find a place in the Heights so I won’t have to go to the Angelica theater so much.

  • stuart

    The developer should include a new cinema in his building. It could work great. The entrance/lobby could be along Henry Street and the actual cinema could be underground in the basement. He can still have as much residential as he is allowed and will have a great community facility that is much more important than just another restaurant or nail salon.
    the other new building proposed nearby on the site of the former Brooklyn Eagle (Ace Wire Brush) building has underground parking. How much better is an underground cinema?!

  • Doug Biviano

    Bravo Kenn.

  • Andrew Porter

    Ironically, when 101 Clark Street was built, a stand-alone movie theatre was constructed as well, which remained empty for decades. It’s now the tennis facility with the entrance on Pineapple Walk. Perhaps it could become a movie theatre again?

  • Nick BC

    I hope you are able to stay in the Heights. Your cinema is awesome, and your passion for bringing art to the community is a true inspiration. Great work!

  • Marsha Rimler

    Hi Kenn
    Downtown is now being develped as a 24/7 destination. If you cannot stay on that site when it is redeveloped or in the heights proper .. there are some interesting locations very close to the heights and dumbo.. I have some ideas.. lets talk.
    It is refreshing to see your honesty and sincerity

  • Luke C

    As a direct neighbor, I’ve appreciated the presence of a local, independent cinema and while I don’t think the building is particularly land(re)markable, a new 5-story residential building is far less so. The sight of the simple marquee with interesting movies expresses a lot about the quality of the neighborhood; if we reject the lowbrow presence of a fast food chain, the cinema is the exact opposite: a business the presence of which increases the value of the neighborhood.

  • Lindsey

    Hi Kenn – thanks for the work you do. We love the theater and come as often as we can A thought I had (I think it’s something the Cobble Hill Cinema does), is a weekday matinee showing for moms to attend with their babies. I have a 4 month old and there are tons of new mom’s in the heights who would love to come, see a movie and not worry if their baby cried or was fussy. Who would understand better than other moms. I’d be happy to organize the first one if you’d be willing to open on a weekday for a matinee – it’s a slow time otherwise, but this is a captive audience dying to get out! I’m happy to come by during the day to discuss if you’re around.

  • Shawn Hoke

    As a local photographer offered the opportunity to show my work at the cinema, I was blown away by Kenn’s passion and commitment to the artist community. He and the cinema need to be supported and valued. It’s clear how much he wants to give to the neighborhood.

  • my2cents

    The BH Cinema will be sorely missed. Even though I don’t go there all the time, it is such a wonderful amenity in the North Heights, and screens such excellent quality films. Our sleepy little enclave will get a little sleepier without it.

  • Master Of Middagh

    See? Lindsey is talking about matinee shows for children. I mentioned that idea on another thread. There are SO many children in the North Heights and nowhere to take them to go and see a movie (unless you want to take your chances on Court Street). How expensive can it be to throw some “Little Rascals” up on the screen?

  • Hicks St Guy

    appreciate your energy, Kenn, and will do all I can to patronize this valuable neighborhood asset.

  • Orange Oscar

    I think matinee shows for moms and kids is a great idea! I suggest that you also attempt (if you haven’t already) to do cult film showings like Rocky Horror, Night of the Living Dead, Reefer Madness, Pink Floyd The Wall, Buckaroo Banzai, Army of Darkness, Toxic Avenger, Big Lebowski, etc. One night showings with every effort to get people to come out and crowd the theater all dressed up in garb (and encouraged). On that idea, perhaps Mystery Science Theater showings would work well too? I’ve never seen one of those, but there’s no reason not to give them a shot.

    I love your theater, Kenn, and I think losing it in the Heights would be a real shame. The idea of getting underground space is a terriffic one if you can get the construction firm to build in the additional work cost effectively (they are the ones who set the price after all – the owner/developer pays the bills) then it might be easier to sell to the owner.

    Don’t go without a fight, and let the blog know if you need support in any form!

  • john

    Thank you for the straight answer. It is refreshing to read about so directly and straight forward. I enjoy that theatre as I know that no one is about to start a conversation on a cell phone while the movie is being shown.

  • Brian

    What a shame! Thank you for all of your hard work. I will muss this gem of a movie theater in my immediate neighborhood. :(

  • Master Of Middagh

    Great idea- put some of those on a double billing with Max Fleischer’s classic Superman shorts and who cares how silly I may look, but I’ll be right there lining up with all the kids to go see it!

  • Local Coffee

    Long live the Heights Cinema! My wife and go to this neighborhood movie house every chance we get. The film choices are always must-see IMO and compete nicely with Sunshine Cinema, BAM, Angelica, etc. We consider Heights Cinema one of the real cultural treasures of our neighborhood. God forbid the chaotic multiplex on Court St become the only Brooklyn Heights movie theatre. Support your neighborhood cinema!

    Long live the Heights Cinema

  • Local Coffee

    @Orange Oscar. Midnight cult classics! What a great idea! One night “Annie Hall”. The next night “Social Network”. Or “Sideways”. “Wizard of Oz”. “Crumb”. “Stranger than Paradise”. “Goodfellas”. “Brazil”. Herzog. Kurowsowa. Bergman. Almodovar. Fellini. You name it. These kind of Midnight Movie programs are VERY popular and an extra revenue stream, I’d imagine. What could it hurt? I’ve always wished I could catch an occasional late show at the Heights. Make it happen Kenn! I guarantee people will come down.

  • john

    @Andrew Porter – what tennis court are you talking about?

  • Perry

    If your landlord is indeed the “decent guy” you say he is, he will make a provision for the movie theater to remain in his “developed” property.

    You will pardon my invective, but of course he’s letting you stay until the lease is up, and I suppose that fighting such a useless project as yet another condo is futile, but “decency” would imply that he cares about more than his own profiteering enterprise, i.e. about the folks who have enjoyed a movie theater in Brooklyn Heights for many decades, and that he will provide for other people than the trust-find babies who will doubtless inhabit yet another dreary dwelling for the boring, self-satisfied 1% who make Brooklyn Heights such a characterless neighborhood.