Portrait of a Neighborhood Movie House
I was on my way to the subway at 12th Street and Seventh Avenue when I was flooded with a whole age of memories of life in the Village circa 1950. I was staring at the Equinox, the new-age gym for the muscle bound mindset that now populates the neighborhood. Investment brokers, hedge fund managers, lawyers, celebrities, high salaried, the up and coming, that have pushed out the writers, painters and filmmakers. Even the butchers and bakers … gone. My wife calls it Upper Wall Street.
Dreaming back to the Greenwich Movie Theater that had long presided where the Equinox now stands, it was home for those of us who had gravitated to this unique part of New York City. I had arrived in the Village at age 17, an excited journalism student at NYU. It was love at first sight and movies were part of its DNA. The village was studded with art houses: Art on 8th Street and University Place, Waverly on 6th Avenue and 4th Street, Fifth Avenue Cinema on Fifth Ave off 13th Street and of course, The Greenwich on Greenwich Avenue and 12th Street.
We were introduced to the best that world cinema had to offer. There was no end of intellectual ferment, of international as well as home grown energy, bursting onto the Village screens. We had a ravenous appetite for film and couldn’t get enough. We were film vampires and we drank the blood of foreign films. It was like the air and we needed it to survive. The influences were profound, permanent and have lasted a lifetime. These films taught us how to live, laugh, promised us love and helped shape our lives; times have changed. One by one our favorite film houses were rent hiked out, leaving not a trace of their cultural and glorious past. For those of us still hanging around, a source of intellectual nourishment was now gone and Greenwich Village was poorer for it.
Yet standing there, I realized that I didn’t feel deprived. I had the QUAD. I admit to a bit of bias. Not only is the QUAD my film house of choice, it is in my hip pocket, around the corner from where I live. In 1972, a down period in New York City, a real estate operator had an inspiration. Going against the grain he turned an ordinary warehouse into the first multiplex in the area, one theater, four screens and called it the QUAD. He decided he wouldn’t show car crashes, action films or big budget studio films, but emphasize imaginative, evocative, stimulating films by young and talented filmmakers. In 1982, Maurice’s younger brother, Elliot Kanbar, became the QUAD’s President, the driving force, and the QUAD really hit its stride. Mr Kanbar said that his goal was “to show the best in independent feature, documentary and foreign films being made today.”
Elliot Kanbar, an energetic gentleman of an age, obviously loves film, acts on his passion and is concerned for its future. He said recently, “the old distribution model is broken. Filmmakers today must adapt to new ways for a new time.” He explained that it isn’t enough to get a film produced, “this isn’t the sand box we’re playing in. You’ve got your film in the can, now what?”
To answer this critical question, Kanbar has initiated an aggressive, optimistic, do-able program to assist filmmakers in a practical, purposeful, financially viable way to get their films before the public, have them reviewed, giving them a platform to fulfill their potential. Asked specifically, what it was he was doing, he outlined his program.
“Quadflix SELECT is an alternative for filmmakers who feel shut out of the system and are left with the prospect of their films gathering dust on the shelf. Quadflix enables independent films to open in prestigious Greenwich Village, New York City, the centre of the film universe. The crowning glory of the program is that it enables the breaking film to be reviewed by major New York film critics. These reviews of course help in acquiring further distribution.”
Very much tuned in to today, Kanbar went on to add, “Quadflix ONLINE offers filmmakers the opportunity to market their films on the most popular online platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, Zeene and Sony Play Station. If nobody knows you are there, how do they let you in?”
He explained the goal of the QUAD was to be a destination, “an oasis, a safe harbor where independent screenwriters, directors, producers, and unique niche distributors, could come and take advantage of the QUAD’s welcoming and sympathetic approach. We’d like them to think of the QUAD as home base, a kind of starting line. We’d like to function as a wellspring, a launching pad, a pipeline to the larger public film market.”
The QUAD fits snugly into the Westside of Greenwich Village in addition to playing its part in the bigger picture American Film scene and I was impressed. Elliot Kanbar smiled confidently, “the best part is that what we’re doing is all realistic, not theory. It’s happening as we speak.”
All I can add is, hail Elliot Kanbar and the QUAD Cinema. Long may they wave.