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 89 comments)

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 14, 2012 at 7:03 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 on May 14, 2012 at 7:22 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

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 14, 2012 at 8:15 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 on May 15, 2012 at 10:33 am

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.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 15, 2012 at 11:57 am

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.

BullyOhio on November 18, 2014 at 7:20 pm

This theater was featured in an episode of Mad About You

bigjoe59 on November 20, 2014 at 1:54 pm


I always thought the Cinema Village which has been a beacon for film goers for at 50? years was built from the ground up as a movie theater. but I read it was actually built within the gutted skeletal structure of an 1890s firehouse. how much of the firehouse actually exists?

artpf on February 13, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Built in 1963 in the shell of a turn of the century fire station, Cinema Village is the oldest continuously operated cinema in Greenwich Village and one of the oldest continuously operated art cinemas in the city.

moviebuff82 on June 8, 2015 at 11:35 am

This theater was featured in a story on “Last week Tonight” due to the fact that this theater was the only one in the NYC area to show the Fifa funded United Passions which bombed at the box office due to the scandal surrounding the soccer federation and it’s outgoing leader Sepp Blatter.

moviebuff82 on June 11, 2015 at 11:32 am

i know. Once in awhile this theater shows crappy movies….

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