REVIEW: Ferrara’s Film The Projectionist, on Nicolas Nicolaou, Owner of Cinema Village

By Anthony Paradiso

“I don’t believe in [using] tricks to get people in the theater,” Nicolaou said. “[I believe in] good projection, a comfortable place, a nice theater to watch a movie in—that’s what people like.”

Those are the words of Nicolas Nicolaou, who owns Cinema Village on East 12th Street in Greenwich Village. It is one of the last neighborhood movie theaters left in the Village. According to its website, the theater has operated for 58 years, and to celebrate its reopening, Abel Ferrara, the director of the film The Projectionist, has helped Cinema Village re-open with a bang!

CINEMA VILLAGE OWNER Nick Nicolaou (left) Michelle Yoon, (director Abel Ferrara’s archivist and programmer at Cinema Village), and Joe Delia (composer of Ferrara’s films for over 20 years) stand in the newly re-opened Cinema Village shortly before the doors open for a screening of The Projectionist, a film by Ferrara, based on Nicolaou’s life in the industry. Photo by Bob Cooley.

One of the great ways Ferrara has helped Nick reopen Cinema Village is by directing a documentary that tells the story behind the theater’s dedicated owner. Another is, Ferrara traveled with his camera crew to Cyprus and filmed Nicolaou in his hometown.

Nick and his family moved to Queens, New York when he was 12 years old. From the moment he set foot in America, he was attracted to the movie business, and began working in movie theaters when he was 15. One of his first jobs was at a theater on East 59th Street in Manhattan.

The Projectionist hits a somber note when Nicolaou describes his mother passing away. She died in 1983 and left him $27,000. Walking the streets of his hometown in Cyprus, Nick describes how his mother’s parting gift made him determined to make it in life. He says, “It’s not about the money; it’s about the people who give it to you out of their hard work and love.” Many years after the death of his mother, Nick provided the funding for a playground to be built in Cyprus and named it after her.

Things get even more interesting when the film shows Nick fight for his three neighborhood theaters in Brooklyn, Queens, and The Village. In 2015, he almost had to shut down the Cinemart in Forest Hills, Queens; he was willing to give up ownership to a big company, as long as it remained a movie theater. The big company refused.

Doing everything he could to keep his beloved neighborhood theater in business, Nick stood for 12 hours a day at the box office where he would greet customers. Eventually, everyone in the neighborhood started going to the theater and it survived.

Then, some luck came Nick’s way. 21st Century FOX announced they would start giving neighborhood theaters “first-run” for their biggest movies, because they didn’t want to see “any more movie theaters close.”

The Projectionist is about a man who cares about his community and wants to continue the tradition of movie-going for future generations. After understanding the blood, sweat, and tears that Nick put into all three of the theaters he owns, I want to start going to neighborhood theaters more often. The owner of Cinema Village offered the following as to why he wants to preserve the movie-going ritual for future generations: “I don’t want everything to become mass-produced. There’s something about running a small movie theater. Most of the [directors] we play here would never get their movies shown at a movie theater and I think that’s wrong.”

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