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Re-opening of the Quad Cinema: New Owner, Same Heart

Photo by Scott Heins/Gothamist

Amid New York’s rich history of indie movie theatres, “The Quad” is one of the key players. It was after all,“The first theatre in the city to have multiple screens under one roof.” (The Quad) History aside however, New York is in the midst of an indie art-house renaissance.

Last month marked the one year anniversary of the overwhelmingly hip Metrograph, Nite Hawk is a Brooklyn standard, the Alamo Draft House is finally here, and soon enough documentary staple DCTV will have it’s very own Academy qualifying theatre in their renovated Chinatown firehouse. Yeah.

As for The Quad, the aptly named four theatre movie-plex re-opened its doors this past weekend after a 2 year renovation gap.

Built in 1972, The Quad was frequented by young cinephiles and big name icons alike (Warhol, Mick Jagger, Bowie to name a few). The theatre incorporated many identities ranging from “far-out arthouse” and “queer cinema showcase” to “second-run house” and the ever flattering “'four-walling’ purgatory.” (Brooklyn Magazine)

Some of the most frequented showings at the theatre during the 70’s were the works of Lina Wertmüller, whose films “played a combined total of 75 weeks in the 70’s making her the reigning Queen of the Quad.”

Newfound Quad owner Charles S. Cohen (Cohen Media Group CEO and real estate mogul turned boutique distributor) hopes to keep that history alive. “We have maintained the theatre’s name, and its DNA, as well as its two longtime managers,” and hopefully, the neighborhood spirit.

Located two blocks from Union Square, the theatre sits at the center of that melting pot of budding film students and long time village residents.

Photo by Buck Ennis

With this new life, the theatre pays tribute to its reigning Queen by opening with the most extensive Lina Wertmüller retrospective ever seen in NY. After 10 years as an actress and director for theatre in Italy, Wertmüller got her start in cinema as an assistant director to Federico Fellini on "8 ½".

She went on to direct her own features beginning with “The Lizards” in 1963, and became “a certifiable international phenomenon – a lively firebrand behind white glasses who became one of the decade’s marquee name filmmakers.”

Her hot button movies were erotic, polemical, and provocative all at once, and smashed box office records. Wertmüller would become the first female director nominated for an Academy Award for “The Seven Beauties” in 1975. I repeat, 1975.

Her oeuvre is one that I would hope is very much on the radar of every undergrad high on the “Women in Film” hashtag, though I can't be certain that it is. Still, I’ll leave that argument to someone else.

Wertmüller Directs ( in a dope jacket)

Some new additions to the space include 4K Barco and Christie projectors, along with 35 and 16mm projectors, updated seating (imported from Norway, cause why not), a 50 foot concession stand, and most notably, The Quad Bar, home to “fine wines, imported beers; great conversation.”

Drink infused conversations might venture from retrospective to new releases. Terrence Davies’ “A Quiet Passion,” which brings the life of poet Emily Dickinson to the big screen, had its US premiere this past weekend, alongside Cohen Media Group’s own US release of the French film “Heal the Living.”

The most unique experience The Quad offers is First Encounters, in which a notable New Yorker is invited to “choose a film they’ve never seen but have always wanted to… and share their immediate, raw reactions with the audience following the screening.” This week’s notable guest list includes John Turturro, Kenneth Lonergan, and Noah Baumbach among others.

The Quad Cinema has a rich history and is one of few remaining independent theatres from the 70’s that stands today. To new management, the question isn’t how to live up to its legacy, but how to expand on it.

After this weekend’s grand re-opening, with a Wertmüller retrospective side by side with new US releases, the initiation of the First Encounters program that links icons to fans, and the new Quad Bar, the Quad Cinema seems to be doing just that.

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