Brooklyn mourns the sudden closure of the Court Street Regal Cinema
On a recent morning, Regal UA Court Street in Brooklyn was unusually quiet. Posters for “Jackass Forever” and “American Underdog” hung in its windows, but the curved marquee had been stripped of its lettering and its glass doors were locked. Looking inside, you could see a scattering of dead leaves on the dark lobby floor, like tumbleweeds in a western.
Two teenagers, Kimani Augustin and her friend Demarcus Cousins (yes, like the basketball player), stood outside and reminisced about the good times they had there. “It could get crazy,” Kimani said, “but it was still amazing.”
The theater closed last Sunday, taking regulars by surprise. Immediately, Twitter tributes poured in, many of them written in a tone of ironic amusement. Dean Fleischer-Camp, a filmmaker, said his favorite cinematic experience involved people “screaming, laughing, singing” and “throwing popcorn” during a 6 p.m. showing of “Drag Me to Hell.” Lincoln Restler, the newly elected councilman whose district includes downtown Brooklyn, shared a photo of a moving van parked outside. “For the screaming action movie experience,” he wrote, “there was no better place!”
Cyrus McQueen, comedian and author of “Tweeting Truth to Power,” a book of essays on race and politics in America, was as struck by what these commentators didn’t say as by what they did. . “I’m an African-American male, so I speak clearly,” he said. “It was a black theater. You shouted at the screen and people spoke. A longtime resident of Crown Heights, McQueen considered a sold-out screening of “Black Panther” at the Regal one of the highlights of his life.
“A major component of black existence is forced behavior in white spaces,” he said. “There is a comfort derived from taking off the disguise, even if only for a few minutes at the movies.”
For more than two decades, the 13-story megaplex has been a cultural mainstay in downtown Brooklyn, a shopping destination for residents of the borough’s predominantly working-class black neighborhoods. Residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Flatbush, and Brownsville traveled there by train, bus, and dollar vans, occasionally stopping to shop or eat at the nearby Fulton Mall.
But soon after the Regal opened, developers began transforming the neighborhood, pushing aside local businesses to make way for luxury condo towers. At the Alamo Drafthouse, a theater that opened in one of those towers a few years ago, you can watch your movie while sipping dry rose cider and eating margherita pizza in a plush recliner. “It’s a bit hoity-toity,” said RJ Adams, a freelance photographer from East New York. “Everyone is stuck. At Court Street, everyone was just relaxed.
The Court Street theater closed without warning or explanation. Whether it fell victim to gentrification, the pandemic, competition from streaming services, or some other evil remains a mystery. A representative for the channel did not respond to multiple voicemails seeking comment; a spokeswoman for Madison International Realty, the owner, wrote that the company is “gathering more information” and that it shares “the community’s disappointment.” Rendy Jones, a 23-year-old member of the Regal Crown Club rewards program, was puzzled. “I need to know what happened,” he said. “At least email me about it!” »
Mr Jones, a film buff from Crown Heights, said he cried when he first saw the news on Twitter. “I started going there before I could even walk, whether it was with my mom or my dad,” he said on the phone the other day. “I still have my ticket stubs. I watch them now. At 13, he started blogging about movies; eventually he became an accredited critic for Rotten Tomatoes, an achievement he credits to the Regal.
Like many teenagers, he took advantage of the relaxed atmosphere of the establishment to see three or four films a day, moving from one room to another when the employees were not watching. “I would plan it as a supervillain,” he said. Still, he was surprised to see people on Twitter describing the theater as “chaotic” and “turbulent”. “All I remember is watching movies and having a good time,” he said. “I never saw anything crazy happen there.”
BA Parker, a former film professor and co-host of The Cut podcast, did. Two years ago, she went to the theater to see “The Photograph,” a romantic drama starring Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield. “They showed the first five minutes of ‘Harley Quinn’ before they realized they screwed up and needed to change the reel,” she said. “The children started screaming. Halfway through the cops came in and took them out. Twenty minutes later, the kids came back shouting, “We’re back!” I still can’t tell you what happened in “The Photograph.”
Ms Parker, who is black, said three of her five worst movie experiences happened there. Even so, she was sad to see him go. “I’ve been to 70% of the theaters in New York,” she said, “and losing one is a tragedy for me.”