With less than two weeks remaining in an Indiegogo campaign to raise $30,000 for new digital projection equipment, the mood permeating the empty lobby of the Brooklyn Heights Cinema Monday night was decidedly bleak. A month into their six-week fundraising campaign, and with only $10,000 committed for equipment vital to the theater’s future, cinema manager Amy Mascena was decidedly not optimistic.
Tending the theater’s ticket window, Ms. Mascena feared that a failed fundraising campaign would be the final blow to a theater whose website claims is “the oldest and longest running independently owned and operated cinema remaining in New York City.”
In a matter of hours the clouds of despair surrounding the cinema were transformed into elation as Brooklyn Heights Cinema owner Kenn Lowy reported Tuesday afternoon that Donna and Evan Wuhl had donated $5,000 towards the projection equipment purchase. The Whul’s donation—Evan is the brother of actor Robert Wuhl—transformed the cinema’s fundraising effort and made Lowy almost giddy about the prospects for his theater’s prospects.
Now “considerably more optimistic” about meeting the campaign’s goal, Lowy cautioned that the next two weeks were vital. Lowy also indicated that the Wuhl donation is a direct gift to the cinema and will therefore not be listed among the Indiegogo total of $11,476, therefore depriving his online campaign of a much-needed bounce.
“It won’t appear on [Indiegogo] but it’s still five thousand dollars,” said an obviously elated Lowy, who by his own admission has spent every penny he has to keep the theater’s doors open.
While success is not ensured—Lowy also recently received $1,000 from an anonymous donor to move the total fundraising needle to more than $17,000—the fact that donors are responding to his organization’s need is greatly encouraging given the theater’s uncertain future.
“We need a good ten thousand dollars more and I’m really hoping that people step up and help us out,” said Lowy. “I’m an eternal optimist and I wouldn’t still be running this [the cinema] if I wasn’t.”
As reported extensively by Brooklyn Heights Blog’s own Heather Quinlan and Claude Scales, the building the cinema resides in is in desperate need of major renovation or, ideally, replacement.
Due to Brooklyn Height’s designation as a historic neighborhood, substantial structural alteration to local buildings requires approval by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. Building owner Tom Carcuana has submitted multiple redevelopment proposals to Landmarks, but final approval has so far remained elusive.
Stating that Mayor Bill De Blasio’s delay in filling key city service positions—including a new commissioner for Landmarks—will have a direct impact on the building’s fate, Lowy believes that approval for Carcuana’s proposal is a long-time coming.
“My landlord, even if he wanted to go back now [for approval] he really couldn’t,” said Lowy. “He’s got to just sit and wait.”
Given the cinema’s unsettled long-term prospects, Lowy determined that purchasing a digital Projector and related equipment was essential to the theater’s short-term viability given that the time-honored 35mm film format is no longer available for current movies.
Though encouraged by recent developments, Lowy struck a note of caution in stating that the new digital equipment will be meaningless unless more movie-lovers patronize the Brooklyn Height’s Cinema.
“The thing that will close the cinema more then anything else is if people don’t come.”
Photo: DCI-Compliant 2K Digital Projector