A four-screen cinema in Mid-City is set to begin screening a mix of Hollywood titles as well as independent and foreign films this weekend after nearly two years of planning.
The Broad Street Theater, situated in a nearly century-old building on North Broad Street, joins Uptown’s Prytania Theatre among the few independent cinemas in a city that once had dozens.
Brian Knighten, 42, decided to open a theater to fill the void left after another independent cinema in Mid-City, Movie Pitchers, closed more than a dozen years ago. It just took time to get started.
“No one would give a 23-year-old kid a loan for the amount of money needed to build something like a movie theater,” he said, acknowledging that it’s “not a project or a business that is opened regularly.”
Knighten said he’s secured a long-term lease with the owner of the property, a warehouse that dates to the early 1920s. It formerly housed the Charitable Bingo Hall for Developmentally Disabled Children and a heating and plumbing company called Sciambra & Masino. It’s been largely vacant for at least a decade.
The theater’s opening marks another chapter in the recent revival of that section of North Broad Street, along the edge of Treme. The cinema is about one block from the Lafitte Greenway, the nearly 3-mile bicycle and pedestrian path that opened last year after more than $9 million in work.
Knighten, whose career is in residential development, said work to the building cost about $1.4 million. That included updating its electrical, plumbing and sprinkler systems. The 12,400-square-foot cinema has seating for about 300 people, he said.
“The city’s really without an art house cinema,” he said. “We’re trying to be that space, but we also need to do films that the general community recognizes and films for the sake of enjoyment.”
To start, the theater owner plans to have a nightly schedule and eventually matinee shows. This weekend, it’ll screen the Tina Fey comedy “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” as well as two Oscar-nominated foreign films, “A War” and “Mustang,” and American science-fiction comedies “Spaceballs” and “Galaxy Quest.” Movie tickets cost $10. The theater has a full bar and plans to eventually offer food for sale, Knighten said.
“We’re just trying to be a little more approachable, I guess, than sort of the new trend of the dine-in movie theater,” he added.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.