Alpine theater shines light on history as it nears 100th anniversary

October 15, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
Alpine theater shines light on history as it nears 100th anniversary
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Bay Ridge’s sole remaining movie theater plans to celebrate its centennial next year with a look back and a look forward.

Alpine Cinema, which opened in June 1921, was forced to temporarily shut its doors in March due to the COVID outbreak, but has vowed to stay open to mark its historic milestone.

The managers of the theater, at 6817 Fifth Ave., recently made a discovery that harks back to its earliest days: four light fixtures that were part of the original interior. They also plan to give the theater a different look for its big birthday.

Nick Nicolaou, owner of Alpine Cinema, told this paper that the ancient fixtures were discovered during repair work on the building’s air conditioner and heating system.

“It’s the oldest surviving theater house in the five boroughs, and through the years it was renovated and converted to eight theaters to conserve energy,” Nicolaou said. “So it was impossible for anyone to see unless you put a very high scaffolding going up 40 feet to the original ceiling from 1921.

“We put scaffolding up there because we have been shut down since March and decided to look at every part of the building to see what we can do to make it look better, and we decided to because what we understand from the scientists is that this virus is also airborne.”

Nicolaou said the upgrades to the Alpine will restore some of its original charm.

“It’s going to be a beautiful place inside,” he said. “We are going back to the original ceilings of the lobby, because when the theater was renovated in the early ’80s, they put a low ceiling. We removed everything and exposed the 1921 walls and ceilings. It really looks good.”

Nicolaou also owns Cinema Village in Manhattan and Cinemart Cinemas, the oldest movie house in Queens. He took over the Alpine in 2006, at a time when a number of south Brooklyn theaters had closed, including the Fortway in Dyker Heights.

“The Alpine was about to be sold to a mosque,” he said. “When I read about the outcry of the community, that the last theater in the area was going to shut down, I made the decision that I have to keep this theater going.

“I came to New York when I was 12. I worked in movie theaters for 46 years. I wanted to give back as much as I can and keep this neighborhood theater alive. I believe in our history and there’s something beautiful about the neighborhood theaters that your grandfather used to bring you to. Then you grow up, have children and you bring them there.”

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