Volume 73, Number 33 | December 17 - 23, 2003

De Niro and partners buy Tribeca’s Screening Room

By Josh Rogers

Villager photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio

Craig Hatkoff, above, has just bought The Screening Room with Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal. They have renamed it Tribeca Cinemas.

Maybe all closings should end quickly too.

When the owners of The Screening Room closed their doors a month ago, they put up a sign on the marquee saying “All farewells should be sudden,” but now almost as quickly, actor Robert De Niro, perhaps Tribeca’s favorite son, and his Tribeca Film Festival partners, Jane Rosenthal and her husband Craig Hatkoff, have bought the movie theater and hope to open next month.

“It’s great for the community,” said Hatkoff, who closed on the deal at 54 Varick St. last week. “Everyone wanted us to save this use.”

Hatkoff said the new Tribeca Cinemas will be different than the Screening Room in that it won’t be an art house with nightly showings of commercial films open to the public. Instead, there will probably be a mix of private and public screenings and film panel discussions, Hatkoff said, while he gave a reporter a tour of the space. The restaurant area will be used for parties and events to support the cinema events.

The programming for the three theaters of 130, 101 and 15 seats is being developed now. Hatkoff said there may be a pre-opening event this month and there is likely to be a children’s screening sometime in January. He said there has been some discussion about having children’s movies regularly on Saturday mornings; the Screening Room’s Sunday morning showings of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” will not resume.

Hatkoff said The Screening Room’s owners, Henry Hershkowitz, Steven Kantor and Nancy Yaffa, made a great addition to the neighborhood seven years ago, and he and his partners want to build on that.

A spokesperson for De Niro said the actor would not comment, but according to Hatkoff, “He said we gotta do a lot of work, but it’ll be great. That’s classic Bob.”

The theaters will be used to support the Tribeca Film Institute, a nonprofit organization for independent filmmakers, the Tribeca Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Center, which De Niro co-owns.

De Niro is also planning to build a boutique hotel on Greenwich St. next to the film center. The hotel site, which has served as a hospitality area for the festival’s first two years, will likely be a construction site this May, so the Tribeca Cinemas will likely be the new hospitality area, Hatkoff said. He said it will be nice to have a more active presence at the corner of Canal St. for this year’s festival, which runs from May 1 - 9. “This is so visible,” he said. “This is the gateway to Tribeca.”

The Screening Room, like many of the festival venues, donated its space for the festival in exchange for sponsorship credit and publicity, said Hatkoff.

The Parks Dept. is also building a new Lower Manhattan Development Corp.-funded park in the former parking lot triangle just north of the theater. The triangle at Varick, Laight and Canal Sts. is expected to open next year.

Tribeca Cinemas will have the option to renew the lease with the landlord, Amram Nowak of Mazda Realty Associates L.L.C., through 2023. Hatkoff said the deal was put together in less than a month after Keith Weckstein, the Tribeca Film Festival’s coordinator, forwarded an e-mail from Hershkowitz about the theater’s closing.

Hatkoff did not disclose terms of the deal, but said they were “Very attractive. Not as much as they wanted and more than we wanted.”


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