Implementing COVID-19 safety protocols, personalizing the moviegoing experience, restoring and renovating their theaters, and offering quality films at affordable prices is their mission.
“My commitment to the Cinemart and our community is neverending, regardless of post-COVID consequences, economic or otherwise,” said the elder Nicolaou. “Together with our communities we have built a strong base, and I am optimistic we will withstand all difficulties to come.”
“It would be a sad day if local movie houses no longer exist,” he added. “I think of how devastating it would be to teenagers to senior citizens who come to our neighborhood cinemas and see it as their refuge, sanctuary, social life, and a retreat from the world.”
In 2019, Nicolaou’s perseverance captured the interest of producer and director Abel Ferrara. The documentary “The Projectionist” documentary chronicles his success in rescuing classic movie theaters to prevent them from becoming part of a chain or undergoing demolition.
The Cinemart was founded as Small-Strausberg Circuit’s Metropolis Theatre, a 1,300-seat motion picture, stage, and musical venue, designed by Harrison G. Wiseman. During the Great Depression, the theater was acquired by the Spur Amusement Company, and it was renamed the Inwood Theatre in 1931.
Its succession continued with the Inwood Art Theatre in 1960 and the Cinemart in 1964. In the mid-1960s, the theater was owned by Nicolaou’s grandmother, Goldie Tzustakis. Her son, also named Nick, spearheaded its operations until his passing in the mid-1980s, and by the late 1980s, the Cinemart was passed on to Nicolaou.
In recent years, Cinemart renovations include new motorized recliners and digital projection, sound and screen upgrades, and a classic retro style lobby and 1920s-era themed restrooms. Nicolaou plans additional upgrades, including a new box office and adding a second floor to the neighboring Theater Cafe for private parties.
“We never completed our plans of connecting the Cinemart and the Theater Café, since we are still awaiting approval from the Department of Buildings,” he said.
For two months over the summer, the Nicolaou family kept the spirit of the Cinemart alive by hosting outdoor screenings. Patrons sat socially distanced in front of the Theater Cafe facing a screen under the marquee.
“It was wonderful having all our neighbors there,” said the younger Nicolaou. “I had the opportunity to interact with everyone walking down Metropolitan Avenue and saw lots of familiar faces and made new friends. I like the idea of playing classic cult-favorites and long-forgotten films in conjunction to first-run films in the theater. We even played silent films.”
Cinemart is part of CinemaSafe, an alliance of 400 companies representing over 3,100 locations nationwide committed to implementing expert-backed, industry-specific health and safety protocols.
“Closing theaters was no doubt the right thing to do,” said Nicolaou. “We are most likely one of the few states in the country that is following proven methods that keep COVID-19 under control, and we should be thankful.
“Movie theaters with very high ceilings are way safer than restaurants and gyms,” he added. “We are reopening movie theaters very carefully, since New Yorkers are smart and we get it. It will be with extreme caution, and we are very excited and pleased.”