Cinema Village

22 East 12th Street,
New York, NY 10003

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Cinema Village

Viewing: Photo | Street View

This venerable art house has been around for decades and is virtually the last of the old Village independent cinemas that flourished during the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

After several tough years, the theater was expanded into three screens and has continued its tradition of showing independent, foreign, and classic films.

The Cinema Village evokes a different era when "independent" really meant it.

Contributed by Ross Melnick

Recent comments (view all 84 comments)

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on May 7, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Hello- the ad in the intro is not for this theater was a sister theater on 3rd Avenue. in fact previous to being taken over by the Cinema Village the 3rd Avenue theater was for a time one of the top gay porn houses in the city.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 7, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Sharp eye, bigjoe59! Yes, that ad belongs to the Cinema Village annex that was in the former Bijou Theatre, located several blocks away on Third Avenue between East 12th and 13th Streets.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on May 8, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Hello To Ed S.–

you seem quite knowledge so i have a question for you. during the good old days of gay porn two of the top gay theaters in midtown were the Eros(8th. Ave.&46 St) and the Adonis(51 St.&8th Ave.) they were both owned by a woman named Chelly Wilson(hopefully i spelled her first name right) would you happen to know she was either related to or was friends with Denise the nice lady who owned and operated the Gaiety on 46 St. they were both Greek so i figure it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 8, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Most of my knowledge comes from nearly 8 years trolling this site and doing research for some of the theaters I added here. I actually did add the listing for the Eros 2, another of Chelly Wilson’s porn houses that later became known as the Venus. I don’t recall ever seeing a mention of a Denise at the Gaiety while I was looking at old articles to dig up info on the Eros 2, but that research was completed a few years back, so I might have run across something and just forgot it!

I never frequented any porn houses (gay or otherwise), but I was a steady patron of the big theaters along Broadway and the grind houses on 42nd Street for a number of years in the late ‘70’s into the early '80’s, and have always held a fascination for the area as it was in those days.

Anyway, all of Chelly’s theaters are listed on CT and any thing of note that I might have learned would surely be posted on those pages:

Adonis

Cameo

Capri

Eros

Eros 2

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on May 13, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Hello To Ed S.–

i always remember this building being
the Cinema Village and assumed it was built
as such. but i read somewhere else that the
building was originally a firehouse which is
not mentioned in the intro. so obviously they
did a gut renovation of the original
structure. the question is- how old is the
basic structure?

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 14, 2012 at 10:03 am

Good question. A cursory review of NYC records doesn’t reveal much. The oldest viewable document online is a temporary C of O issued in October of 1964, not too long after the building was converted into a cinema. A list of prior actions on the property show a variety of building notices that reach all the way back to some “unsafe building” notices in 1905 and 1909. There’s another notice dated in 1915 and then activity picks up once again in the late 1920’s and throughout the following decades. But nothing prior to the 1964 C of O’s is viewable, so its impossible to know what those documents might reveal.

Assuming the comments near the “top” of this listing are correct that the cinema was previously a turn-of-the-century firehouse, it’s interesting that it would have been labeled as unsafe as early as 1905! Of course, one must keep in mind that the NYC DOB records from that period are very sketchy, and it is not uncommon to find documents filed under the wrong property binder.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on May 14, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Hello Again To Ed S.– i figured considering the building’s locale the original firehouse would have
been build around 1890. so i wasn’t to far off.

two new notes. 1.i guess my memory is only 99% perfect. this theater’s sister theater on 3rd Ave. was for many years the Bijou one of the leading gay porn houses in the city. i was quite familar with the Bijou. yet a stone’s throw away on 11th St. the Evergreen for a few years was known as the Sobo a leading gay porn house. now i was in college during the period the Evergreen operated as the Sobo and was frequently in the Union Square Easy Village area yet never remember the Evergreen as the Sobo. even if it was a leading gay porn house it had to have been so
for a short period. plus i’m guessing there was no marquee to speak of which could be why i didn’t take note of its gay porn period.

2.a question about the 55th St. Playhouse i ask you here since that theater’s page hasn’t been updated in a while. the theater opened in the early 30s and for almost 40 years was a leading venue for foreign and independent films. now it started its almost 20 year career as one of Manhattan’s top gay porn houses when Wakefield Poole’s BOYS IN THE SAND opened i believe the first week of Dec. 1971 and therein lies my question. i doubt one week it was a top art house for foreign and independent film than the next week it switches to gay porn. therefore i’m guessing it must have been vacant, un-used whichever the correct term is for a certain period of time before it became a top gay porn house. am i
correct?

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on May 14, 2012 at 11:15 pm

Bigjoe, the SOBO only operated in 1971 and I believe some of the shows were live/film combo nude performance art pieces that would not be considered porn today.

The 55th St Playhouse descent into hard core porn was gradual but there was no closing period. After “THE BOYS IN THE SAND” there was a fine line between gay art films and gay sex films.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on May 15, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Hello- as always i thank my fellow posters for replying to my inquiries. so Al A. if i understand you reply correctly the 55th St. Playhouse went from being a top art house to a gay porn house in short order? i suppose anything is possible in the big wide world of Manhattan real estate even the fall of 1971. its just i can’t picture the theater going from being a top art house than say two or weeks later becoming the top hard-core gay porn house in Manhattan. i naturally assumed there had to have been a significant closed up period.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on May 15, 2012 at 2:57 pm

After DEEP THROAT opened in 1972 the market changed drastically for art houses and direction the theatre operator took was more distinct between those who programmed European art films and those who programmed sexploitation or hard core and advertised it as art product.

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