Monday, November 10, 2008

Pioneer Theater

Friday night was the going-away party for the Pioneer Theater. After a decade on Avenue A, they are closing their doors, unable to manage the high cost of living in Newer York. Two Boots pizza and the video store are supposed to stay, but as you can see in this real estate listing, their spots appear to be on the market.



For the celebration, they showed free films from 6:00 to midnight and gave away popcorn, soda, and candy. I stayed for the first two movies: Truffaut's "The 400 Blows" and Michel Gondry's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," a personal favorite. (Later would come "L'Atalante" then "Donnie Darko.")



Before the film, theater co-owner Phil Hartman said a few words about the occasion. The farewell party was originally to be a chance to watch his favorite films with family and friends, but, he said, "you are all family and friends," so he opened it to the public. He asked us to enjoy the free stuff and "be cool, you know, don't ask for a giant jug of soda to take home or stuff Milk Duds down your pants."

In between screenings, pizzas flowed in from Two Boots and the growing crowd grabbed up the slices. Thanks Phil--for the good night and for giving it a go these past 10 years.



Munching Raisinets and watching "Eternal Sunshine," I could not help but see vanishing New York in its metaphor of erasure. Boom, boom, boom, the lights go out on one memory and another. People, places, objects of love suddenly disappear. You run around, frantically trying to hold on to it, but in the end, it all collapses, taken away by a force more powerful, unstoppable.



Outside, after the movie and a last slice of pizza, I remembered when the condo building that houses the Pioneer went up (1995, 1996?). Across the avenue in the Cafe Limbo (vanished), I used to sit and write in a notebook, watching the construction.

But I can't remember what came before. Was it a vacant lot or was there something standing there? I do recall that you could see a church tower from the cafe and that I disliked having that view disappear. But the rest, like too many of my city memories, has been erased.

15 comments:

EV Grieve said...

Wish that I could have been there. Nice slate of films for free too. I'm really going to miss the Pioneer.

And I can't seem to remember what was here before...Just a vacant lot?

Steph said...

I used to go to Cafe Limbo! Loved that place. I used to see Quentin Crisp there all the time. I haven't thought about that place in a long time. Sounds like a great night at the Pioneer.

bs said...

Man, I can't read this blog anymore it's too depressing.
Hadn't been to the Pioneer in a while but I saw many great movies there.
I remember one series of French gangster movies they showed about five years ago...so good.

rr said...

Any word on if they might be moving somewhere else?

So so sad. The Dwindling of the East Village continues. We're moments away from the Avenue A outpost of Marc Jacobs...

Anonymous said...

and before the Pioneer, Theatre 80 on St Marks....but don't mourn organize....go to Anthology Film Archives, the Quad or Cinema Village and give those independant film houses your support. Spend your $$ with independant bookstores, coffeshops etc. The mallifcation of New York is built on consumer choice.

Jeremiah Moss said...

theater 80 was the best. double features!

Anonymous said...

was the Cafe Limbo called something else? We used to hang out there around '94 in the back room waiting for our phone calls on the pay phone since we didn't have a working line in the apartment.

Anonymous said...

so what do we get from all this yunnie/vonch/genrti bullshit--no good places to eat and hang out and rents too high to live--

BaHa said...

On the corner was a building that had been vacant for many years, next to that was a furniture store. (No credit to me, I couldn't remember but my husband could.)

Anonymous said...

Yesterday a guy approached me on Ave A while walking my dog. He was asking for signatures for a new bar/restaurant to take over the Mo Pitkins space. . .

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I loved the Pioneer and will miss it greatly. I don't see this blog as depressing. I think that if enough people see how their city is vanishing, they'll get up off their behinds and do something about it. I think the best thing for the Pioneer to do is have "Pioneer Film Nights" at bars, or even maybe other theaters. This was a very special place and no theater now does what they did. I blame the rise of Netflix too, though I am guilty of enjoying it as well. Lord, I hope they never take away the Film Forum...

Anonymous said...

Yes, Two Boots has been on Ave A for ever, but I think it's when Pioneer Theater showed up in that condo is when the whole vibe changed. I used to have to step over dead rats and dodge junkies to get to where I was going, and when I saw limos on Ave A on New Years eve 1995, I knew it was all over.

Anonymous said...

Two Boots showed a short film I made in 2000, and I attended many screenings of friends' shorts there. What a gift it was to have such a screen, such an audience, such a support for the little projects that were so hugely important to us. Thanks, Pioneer, and thanks, Jeremiah for seeing the symbolism in the closing; as much as I love NY, I know it's not the nurturing mecca for not-yet-successful artists it used to be. We are all diminished by the vanishing Pioneer spirit.

Anonymous said...

"But I can't remember what came before. Was it a vacant lot or was there something standing there?"

^A question I ask myself about 20 times a week these days. F*cking depressing is what it is....

Danny R. said...

Limbo was quite a little scene. Lots of Vassar folk, and, yes, Quentin Crisp. I remember seeing Noah Baumbach there a lot and Tatiana von Furstenberg, I think, actually worked there. It was the first West Coast-style coffee hangout in NYC, just at the dawn of the Starbucks invasion. On one hand it was the beginning of the yuppification of the EV and also, at the time, a welcome alternative to Odessa.