For much of the last half century, Cyprus-born theater operator Nick Nicolaou has lived and breathed the world of NYC cinema. Starting with Times Square’s adult film houses of the 70s and moving through decades of forced change at the hands of city regulation, chain takeovers, and vast cultural shifts, Nicolaou now exists as one of the last truly independent theater owners left standing, as he works to keep his low-cost theaters alive in an industry aiming to push them out.
For starters, I’m not sure why this film is titled THE PROJECTIONIST. Metaphorically, I kinda get it. However, nothing to do with projectionist and everything to do with independent theater ownership, this film is a rough-around-the-edge stroll down memory lane. NYC has gone through major changes. As a mecca for theaters as far back as the early 1900s, the film’s protagonist shares heart-felt stories regarding his upbringing in Cyprus, family, his love for films, arriving in NYC in the 60s, and crash-landing among the industry of theater-based business. The film is as open and raw as can be, as it is also endearing and inspirational as its core is about passion and living the American dream.
From the Cinemart Ciemas (currently owned by Nick) in Forrest Hills, Queens to the Alpine (currently owned by Nick as well) in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to the grungy, filth-infested porn theaters in Times Square I reluctantly visited with friends in my late teens (no shame in my game), THE PROJECTIONIST opens up on the other side of what makes the movie industry tick-and-tock. For the most part overseen by big theater multiplex chains like Regal or AMC nowadays, Nick is a man who keeps the origins of the mom-and-pop appeal going for an authentic, home-like, affordable experience. And believe me… It doesn’t come easy!
Director: Abel Ferrara
Tribeca Film Page: https://www.tribecafilm.com/filmguide/projectionist-2019