Public Theater

425 Lafayette Street,
New York, NY 10003

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Public Theater

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From about the late-1970’s until the 1990’s, the Little Theatre at the Public Theatre had one of Manhattan’s most imaginative movie schedules. The daily shows in the tiny auditorium included off-beat new films, forgotten older works, and special series of films.

Film programmer Fabiano Canosa brought quality films here for well over two decades. Originally the cinema was created by Anthology Film Archives, with seats that included high partition-like sides, to avoid being distracted by anything around you and enabling full concentration on the movie.

Today the Public Theater building houses five performance spaces:Newman Stage (proscenium stage – 299 seats), Anspacher Stage (thrust stage – 275 seats), Shiva (black box – 99 seats), Martinson (set black box – 199 seats), Luesther Hall (loft – 160 seats).

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca

Recent comments (view all 30 comments)

hardbop
hardbop on May 14, 2005 at 10:21 am

There is a new director running the Public complex and I wonder if film will make a comeback. I believe it was George Wolfe who pulled the plug on the cinema and he’s now history so…

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 28, 2005 at 6:46 pm

The current location of Anthology is not listed on this site. Can someone who is familiar with it please add it?

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on July 5, 2005 at 8:48 am

The “Invisible Cinema” is mentioned in this week’s Boston Sunday Globe Ideas section:

Isolation Cinema
By Joshua Glenn | July 3, 2005

So you’d like to beat the heat this summer by going to the movies, but can’t stand rubbing elbows with yakking popcorn-munchers? Avant-garde filmmaker Peter Kubelka felt the same way 35 years ago, so he designed and built the Invisible Cinema: a movie theater with peripheral blinders between the seats intended to eliminate distraction from either side. Did it work out? According to an oral history of the Invisible Cinema by cineaste Sky Sitney that appears in the current issue of Grey Room, a quarterly of art and politics published in Cambridge by the MIT Press, yes and no.

In 1969, Kubelka joined with Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas, P. Adams Sitney (Sky’s father), and other filmmakers and critics in founding Anthology Film Archives, a museum of experimentalist film in downtown Manhattan. They leased a cinema on Lafayette Street and covered the walls, ceiling, and Kubelka-designed seats with black velvet. In addition to the barriers between seats, latecomers weren’t permitted to enter the theater. Confirming that the seat design cut down on chatter, Brakhage tells Sitney that ‘'people really had a sense of drifting in a black space, a black box, and black ahead of you, nothing visible except the screen."

Another Brakhage memory, however, may explain why the experiment wasn’t repeated after the archives moved to a new location in 1974: ‘'There was a nervousness about it. The minute they tell me I can’t pee, for example, I suddenly have the sensation that I have to. If you get up and leave, you can’t get back in. So there you are, parted between the vision you are seeing and bodily functions. Quite a strain, I thought, in that sense."

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 5, 2005 at 12:54 pm

This link takes you to the later and current 2nd Avenue location of Anthology Film Archives.

dburall1
dburall1 on December 29, 2007 at 2:58 am

This is where the original Japanese language version (no Raymond Burr) of Godzilla was shown in 1981 as part of a “Summer in Japan” series of Toho films. I believe this was one of only a handful of venues for this film (original language, unedited version, 1954, GOJIRA) until Rialto’s distribution of it ca. 2004-2005.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on February 11, 2008 at 7:03 am

Bernardo Bertolucci’s first film, the 1962 La commare secca (The Grim Reaper), had a belated American commercial premiere at the Public in 1982. The ad misspells screenwriter Pier Paolo Pasolini’s middle name.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 8, 2008 at 10:29 am

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1967 Oedipus Rex didn’t have its New York commercial first run and American premiere until 1984 here at the Public. Fabiano Canosa often dug up unseen important films such as THIS ONE.

KingBiscuits
KingBiscuits on May 14, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Those seats look very Orwellian.

Also, was the George C. Wolfe that ended the film series the same George C. Wolfe that directed Lackawanna Blues and Nights In Rodanthe?

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on January 15, 2010 at 8:00 pm

There was another Public theatre on second avenue and fourth street in the thirties that occasionally showed movies.

DaveM
DaveM on November 18, 2012 at 9:52 pm

This was a splendid little theater. In 1979, I saw a pristine print of Orson Welles' Othello here, at a time when it was virtually impossible to see. It was on a double bill with Welles' latest, his last completed film, Filming Othello. Sadly, Welles' reputation was at its nadir then, and this historic booking got almost no press coverage.

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