Nitehawk Cinema featured in the Wall Street Journal

By the end of May, Williamsburg, a neighborhood with no shortage of movie buffs, but with a serious shortage of movie theaters, is set to get its first multiscreen cinema.

Much as Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Bowl, with its $18 entrees and live music, has made bowling safe for the Bohemian set, Nitehawk Cinema represents an experiment in the moviegoing experience itself. The innovative interior design of the converted warehouse weaves together bars, a restaurant and three theaters into a variegated series of spaces that allow the audience to, depending on the setting, eat, drink, order food and even socialize while the movie is in motion.

To pull this off, Nitehawk hired Caliper Studio, a Williamsburg-based architecture and metal fabrication firm. In the two formal, tiered movie theaters, with 92 and 60 seats respectively, the designers spaced the seat-rows five feet apart to allow access to food servers. For every two seats there’s a small, underlit table from which to dine. During movies, patrons will be able to write down orders for the wait staff, which will have a separate entrance connecting them directly to the kitchen.

To enrich the moviegoing experience, Nitehawk, which plans to charge $11 a ticket, will serve food and drink inspired by the movie being screened, says Matthew Viragh, the 33-year-old executive director of the cinema.

For example, if the theater were to screen Steve Martin’s comedic classic, “The Jerk,” the restaurant could serve pizza in a cup.

Caliper, which also designed the three-story rental apartment tower above the movie house, successfully gave an industrial chic look to the building by keeping the original facade of the two-story yellow brick warehouse. The new stories are clad in pre-weathered zinc, covered with a constellation of glass discs backed by LED lights developed by an artist in the Czech Republic.

The idea, says Caliper Studio principal Stephen Lynch, was to be “theatrical.” The discs cascade around the punched-out windows, concentrating most densely above the entrance to the cinema, on the far left side of the building, located on Metropolitan Avenue between Berry Street and Whythe Avenue.

Moviegoers will walk through the star-studded entrance and ascend a steel-paneled staircase to the movie house lobby, which will double as a cafe and bar.

A metal marquee will sit over the building’s central entrance, which leads to ground-floor bar/restaurant. The interiors will have the same nostalgia-laden aesthetic so prevalent in the speakeasy revival of recent years. Indeed, RePOP, the venerated vintage furnishings firm based in Wallabout, is collaborating with Caliper on the interiors. For example, part of the downstairs bar will be made of repurposed black-and-white barber stations found by RePOP.

On Thursday, a popcorn popper sat idly curbside. “We’re going to take the movie-going experience to another level,” Mr. Viragh says.

Detail showing tonal variation intrinsic to the blackening process.
Photo by Ty Cole.
Sliding door pocket
Photo by Ty Cole.
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