Following up on my recent post about the Theatre Condos, I watched Jim Jarmusch's 1980 film Permanent Vacation, in hopes of getting a good look at the old St. Marks Cinema where Jarmusch was once an usher. Unfortunately, no exterior shots, but there were a few interiors. Does anyone remember these green and yellow walls?
A small popcorn was 75 cents and they had a machine that dispensed ice cream:
Permanent Vacation is a student film. It's pretty slow and not much happens. It is, however, a great record of the Lower East Side and "Nolita" back when it was a burnt-out wasteland.
The DVD also includes a German documentary from 1984, in which Jarmusch notes how much the city had changed in the 4 years since he shot the movie. He says, "A lot of places that we shot aren't even there anymore, New York has changed so much. It's kind of eerie."
He points out a new apartment building that he says looks like "a prison yard" and that replaced a field that once sprang up in a vacant lot he used in the movie.
Perhaps a kindred vanishing-city obsessive, he mentions the same loss in this 1992 New York Times article:
"See that big red building, it's like an apartment complex?" he says, pointing down Spring Street. "That didn't used to be there. I filmed scenes from my first film, 'Permanent Vacation,' in that lot when it was an empty lot. Then they built that building. There were these big signs that said 'Little Italy Restoration Association,' which spells 'lira.' " He chuckles dryly. "Hmph. Dubious."
While he was filming "Permanent Vacation" in an apartment on East Third Street, the late painter Jean-Michel Basquiat took to using the set as a crash pad. "Every time we did a reverse angle, I'd have to drag Jean-Michel in his sleeping bag under the camera so he'd be out of the shot," he says. "He'd grunt and go back to sleep."