Friday, November 07, 2008

Remembering the Pioneer Theater

Dear Pioneer Friends, Filmmakers, & Film Lovers,

Ten years ago, when we began construction on The Pioneer, we were told we were crazy - that no single screen, indie-oriented, 99 seat theater, east of Avenue A, could possible survive. But for nine years, we did - showcasing the best of truly independent cinema, presenting restored classics (from The Last Picture Show to Ace in the Hole), curating special programs (from Luis Guzman Night to the 42nd Street Smut Show), hosting guest filmmakers (from Robert Altman and Robert Downey to Steve Buscemi and Richard Kelly) and partnering with local film organizations including the IFP, Filmmaker’s Co-op, Cinema Tropical, Fangoria, Women in Film and Television, Cinewomen, Third I, Slamdance, Docfest, and many more...

We’ve been blessed that The Earth Mother, Mel Cooley, The Dude, and the other Two Boots pizzas have been able to support our labor of love all these years, but now, with our lease ending and a rent hike looming, it’s no longer economically feasible to keep the theater going. Friday, October 31st at midnight, will be our last regular screening, appropriately: Night of the Living Dead.

We want to thank our amazing staff, past and present, and we want to thank you, our loyal audience, for your patronage over the years. Please, PLEASE, keep supporting independent films and independent theaters.

Finally, on Friday, November 7th, we’ll be having a goodbye party starting at 6pm - free movies, popcorn, and reminiscences. Please come by!

I used to live a few short blocks from this theater, one of the only true "independent" art houses left in New York City. These guys showed everything, from
classic Kubrick and Sam Fuller, to pop horror, splatter, and grind, to thought provoking documentaries. They often supported local artists, allowing patrons to rent screens and arranging one-off screenings of no-budget features and shorts. They also screened a lot of Gay/Lesbian themed works and were a great outlet for progressive film-making.

One of my fondest memories of that place was the night I met Bill Plympton there. He was screening his latest feature Hair High (which is an incredible film, by the way, if you're an animation junkie like myself). I arrived like an hour or so early and got to sit with Bill and chat about animation, John Kricfalusi, New York, Plymptoons and much more. He signed a bunch of DVD's for me and was a truly gracious guy. To get to meet one of my heroes - and then watch him introduce his latest work - I can only thank the Pioneer for that.

The Pioneer is/was probably the only theater in New York still brave enough to house low-brow and high-art under one roof. The fact that they're closing down - regardless the reason - is a tragedy for the current New York cinema scene. It will truly be missed.

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