COURIER LIFE, JUNE 11-17, 2021 33
OUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO THE BOROUGH OF KINGS
BY JESSICA PARKS
Bay Ridge’s Alpine Cinemas reopened
to the public just in time for its
centennial — making it one of the longest
operated theaters in the Big Apple.
“Alpine Cinemas is the oldest theater
in the fi ve boroughs,” said Nick
Nicola, owner of the movie theater,
which celebrated 100 years on June 6.
The Fifth Avenue cinema closed
during the statewide shutdowns in
March 2020 as all nonessential businesses
were forced to, though the movie
theater didn’t open its doors again until
June 7 of this year— a few months
later than when Gov. Andrew Cuomo
authorized businesses of its kind to resume
operations on March 5.
Nicola said he used the downtime
to begin upgrades and conduct longawaited
repairs to the building, something
he said he’d wanted to do for a
very long time. “I always wanted to fi x
it up,” he said.
He bought the beloved theater 14
years ago, at a time when it would have
closed if he didn’t — all while knowing
it may be a money pit, as it desperately
needed repairs and was in an area said
to have disproportionally high property
“The real estate company… was trying
to sell it for a year and no one wanted
to buy it,” Nicola told Brooklyn Paper.
But the theater-enthusiast took on
the challenge anyway, citing a belief
that cinemas bring both a cultural and
social aspect to their neighborhoods.
“A neighborhood movie theater,
without people really realizing it, is
bringing people together,” Nicola said,
“and you say ‘Hey, what is the harm? I
shared the movie with 300 strangers of
all different backgrounds. We laughed
and cried together.’”
Similarly, Nicola believes that going
to the movies should be accessible
to all families — no matter their income
level. Because of this, his cinemas
(he owns two more in addition to
the Alpine) are some of the few in New
York City that haven’t raised their
ticket prices above $10.
“The Alpine Theater is the champion
theater out of all the fi ve boroughs
to provide the lowest possible allowed
ticket prices,” said Nicola, who got his
start in the industry at age 15, when he
worked as an usher for RKO Theaters
He’s since spent more than four decades
in the business, and has at one
time owned 10 cinemas across the city.
Now, with just three left in his possession,
Nicola says he’ll continue to work
hard for his remaining theaters, all of
which he chose to save due to their longstanding
tenure in their communities.
“I kept three theaters that I felt
should be preserved for the history and
the memories,” Nicola said regarding
the Alpine, Cinemart Cinemas in Forest
Hills, Queens and Cinema Village
in Manhattan’s West Village.
Despite Alpine Cinemas being out
of operation for over a year, Nicola was
required to pay over a million dollars
in both federal and state taxes for his
business and storefront — forcing him
to take out over $3 million in loans between
the levy and other operational
expenses, he told Brooklyn Paper.
“We are doing our best to keep ourselves
above water by taking loans and
more loans,” Nicola said. “My staff
and I are giving up our lives to survive
the theater, we have basically given everything
up because we believe in the
While the pandemic compounded
the fi nancial loss movie theaters are
facing, small cinemas closing their
doors is not incidental to the health crisis,
said Nicola, who blamed the rise of
streaming and the high-tax structure
imposed on small theaters.
“I hold the Department of Finance
partly, not fully, responsible for doing
their part in having most of our neighborhood
movie theaters in New York
shut down forever,” Nicola said.
Speaking with Brooklyn Paper, he
pleaded for the city and state’s elected
offi cials to take notice of the ongoing
situation and work to preserve the few
cultural establishments that are left,
either through stimulus money or by
re-evaluating the tax burden put on
movie theaters — something, he contended,
would have a lasting impact.
“Where we had hundreds of them, now
we only have a handful,” Nicola said.
Adding salt to the wounds, the businessowner’s
sky-high tax liability during
the pandemic left him unable to
complete renovations, and it prevented
him from celebrating the theater’s 100-
year anniversary how he planned.
Still, Nicola decided to open just ahead
of the summer movie season to provide
a sense of normalcy and a communal
space for Bay Ridge and beyond.
“We did what we could,” he said.
The Alpine is currently showing
“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do
It” and will begin showing “Peter Rabbit
2: The Runaway” and “In the Heights”
starting June 10. At any of those fl icks,
movie-goers will get to see some of the
cinema’s renovations, which include
new fl oors, higher ceilings, new countertops
and an LCD screen showing previews
for upcoming releases.
At one of the Alpine’s fi rst showings
in over a year, longtime patrons
told Brooklyn Paper they would have
visited no matter what movie was playing,
and that they’re just excited to return
to their neighborhood theater.
“First movie,” said Hamsa Elsyied.
“We are more excited to see what the
movie theater looks like.”
Bay Ridge’s Alpine Cinemas
reopens for 100th
MARQUEE NAME: Bay Ridge’s Alpine Cinemas is open for business after closing during the
pandemic and undergoing extensive renovations. Photo by Paul Frangipane