Cinemart Cinemas on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills recently reopened, delighting neighborhood movie-goers as well as owner Nicholas Nicolau.
After being closed since March of 2020, the theater finally received permission from the state to open its doors in April, but waited until May. Most COVID restrictions are lifted, but a few still remain in place.
“Despite all the restrictions being lifted, we also learned a lot during COVID and we still require customers to wear masks until they get to their seats,” said Nicolau.
“I think as long as everyone is cleaning up after themselves and using hand sanitizer and staying protected, I think that’s good,” said Valentina Sifontes, who caught a film at Cinemart this past weekend. “it’s just a good experience hanging out with my friends and being somewhere and watching a movie with them.”
Nicolau has worked in the movie business for more than 40 years, and owns two other theaters in addition to Cinemart Cinemas. He said it was hard as an independent business to survive the pandemic, and he had to close Alpine Theater in Bay Ridge.
On top of the pandemic, there has been a push to release new movies on streaming platforms, leaving the future of theaters in question.
“My position is that all of the television and the streaming services are fine with me and should be available to people who chose to stay home,” said Nicolau. “But as a movie theater, we don’t benefit from this in any way.”
Eliana Borukhov and Magghi Mae Blackvargas are longtime patrons of Cinemart Cinemas. Borukhov said she prefers going to the theater over streaming.
“It’s just a different experience.” said Borukhov.
Nicolau immigrated from Cypriot to New York when he was just 12. His first jobs were in movie theaters.
“At an early age, I knew that this business is really something that I felt close to,” said Nicolau. “I started thinking and planning how I could open a small theater.”
Nicolau said independent movie theaters create a sense of community.
“The experience of watching this together and the energy it creates between the people is something that I believe some of us would like to maintain and would be better off with for a healthier society,” he said.