Metrograph Theater in Lower Manhattan makes old films new again

CHINATOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- Manhattan now has its first independently-operated movie theater in more than a decade, with the Metrograph celebrating its grand opening on the Lower East Side Wednesday night.

With so many great films available on demand or on DVD, you might think movie theaters could soon be extinct. So it might come as a surprise that a fashion designer with a passion for motion pictures has built a new theater to show old movies.

On a quiet block where Ludlow meets Canal, Alexander Olch converted an old warehouse into the Metrograph.

"This is a passion project," he said. "And it took six and a half years to get to this point."

Wood beams salvaged from an old factory in Brooklyn were used to make the seats.

"Which I hope are the most comfortable cinema chairs in New York," Olch said.

There are two intimate theaters, financed by Olch and his friends, with a common purpose.

"So we could all watch movies the way we want to watch them," he said.

Taxi Driver and The Purple Rose of Cairo were the first films to be shown, and it's no accident both are set in the Big Apple.

"We try to find the best copies of each film from around the world," film programmer Aliza Ma said. "So you're not just seeing the same thing that will be broadcast on your HDTV."

Students of film will appreciate the old-school approach, and there is even a window to watch the projectionist get ready. All of the attention to detail is a way of taking theatergoers back to the future.

"There's always new films to be discovered," film programmer Jacob Perlin said. "And they're also young people who haven't seen certain films, and older people waiting to be drawn back."

A cinema bookstore still being built alongside a restaurant and a bar will make the Metrograph more than just another movie theater.

"And what we're trying to create with our programming here is an atmosphere where people can fall in love with movies and movie-going and the cinema again," Ma said.

Those in charge of the film program pledge to show a diverse slate of movies from around the world -- including Africa, Asia, India and points in between -- all in an effort to attract patrons from different cultures.

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