Alpine theater owner takes center stage in documentary

July 30, 2021 Jaime DeJesus
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A Brooklyn theater owner has received the Hollywood treatment himself.

Nicolas Nicolaou, who operates the century-old Alpine Cinema in Bay Ridge, the Cinemart in Queens and Cinema Village in Manhattan, is the subject of the documentary “The Projectionist.” 

The film, which premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, was officially released last October and began streaming this March. Nicolaou and director Abel Ferrara recently hosted screenings and Q&A sessions.

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The 90-minute film tells Nicolaou’s story from his childhood in Cyprus to his move to New York City as a teen to his ownership of some of the city’s most beloved theaters.

Nicolaou, who describes his childhood as simple and carefree, had his first movie experience in a theater in Limassol, Cyprus, which he revisits in the film.

“I was five or six years old, and if you saved five caps from Pepsi bottles you would get a free ticket to the movie,” he said. “That’s how we saw our first movies here.”

Alpine Cinemas Photos courtesy of Kino Lorber films

He got his first job at Cinema 123 in Manhattan.

“Watching the movies was like magic,” he said. “I started dreaming and calculating how I could open up a place like this.”

Nicolaou rose from usher to manager to owner, and was especially interested in buying theaters that were considered old.

“The [Alpine] is the oldest theater in the five boroughs in New York,” he said. “Ten years ago this theater would’ve been the victim of another shutdown, another theater closing. There were like five theaters around here and one by one got shut down … Newspapers were calling for someone to buy it. No one wanted to buy it. I did it because it combines two things I like to do, which is make money and keep neighborhood theaters alive.”

Nicolas Nicolaou is featured on the poster for “The Projectionist.” Photos courtesy of Kino Lorber

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