The historic theater presiding over the southern end of Prospect Park West has a rich history, from the glory days of the 1920s when it was known as The Sanders Theater, to the Pavilion period most of us are familiar with. Tonight, however, begins a new era for the grand old house, with the opening of the highly anticipated Nitehawk Prospect Park. We were invited to a press preview this week, and here's what we saw and learned about the $15 million, gut-renovated, thoroughly scrubbed (no more bed bugs!), completely rebranded space.
There are seven theaters within the Nitehawk Prospect Park, ranging from about 50 to more than 180 seats each. The basic footprint of the Pavilion remains, though the two screens on the main floor were removed to make room for the kitchen. The theaters with the smaller screens tend to have a flatter grade—the sight lines are still fine, even with someone tall sitting in front of you—while Theaters 1 and 2 are the big stadium seating venues. The latter will be ideal for blockbusters such as Mary Poppins Returns and Aquaman, both showing this week, while the former is just fine for the likes of the superb Japanese film Shoplifters, also now playing.
Four of the theaters, including the two largest ones, have 35mm projectors in place, in addition to their digital systems. One of these, in Theater 2, was formerly owned by Martin Scorsese.
Bucking trend, the seats at the Nitehawk Prospect Park are NOT recliners (same as their Williamsburg spot), though they are firmly-padded, high-backed, and generous in the hips. Leg room is ample in every aisle, mostly so that your server can freely squat and scurry before you during the movie without being too disruptive. Each theater has its own color scheme, including a purple one as an homage to the Pavilion. Your food tray is set higher than feels natural, though it does work nicely if you're dining while watching a movie.
The menu is pretty much the same as at the Nitehawk in Williamsburg, with snacks and sandwiches (cheese plates, a burger, hummus, pretzel dogs, a quesadilla) dominating the selections. There are also specific movie-themed specials each week, like the Lamplighter's Lunch (meatloaf, popover, gravy) for Mary Poppins. A wide variety of cocktails, beer, and wine are available in your seat throughout the movie, via Nitehawk's silent, hand-written ordering system, as well as in the bar area on the second floor, where you'll also find a cozy balcony.
In the 1920s. (Courtesy of Nitehawk)
There are nice aesthetic and historic touches throughout the venue. The wall of VHS tapes on the way to the bathrooms, culled from the Nitehawk's vast collection ("the largest anywhere," per our tour guide) is definitely nostalgia-inducing, and the backlit "Lightreel" installations by artist Alan Strack are kind of fun. There are also vintage posters and architectural flourishes from the Sanders days throughout—you'll even see some of that old balcony.
The best new feature of the food and drink service is Nitehawk's revolutionary Dine & Dash option: if you purchase your ticket in advance online, just click the Dine & Dash box and your card will automatically be charged for whatever you order during the show. You can even add a tip percentage at this stage. No more fussing with a check at the end of the movie! All theaters are currently general admission, though reserved seating is coming early in 2019.
(Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
The Nitehawk Prospect Park is located at 188 Prospect Park West at the corner of 14th Street in Park Slope. Tickets, showtimes, menus, and a special events calendar at nitehawkcinema.com