Photograph by Sakeenah Saleem

The Marathon. The Sanders. The Pavilion. Known by many names throughout the decades, there has been a theater on at the corner of Prospect Park, continuously serving the changing theatrical taste of New Yorkers, for over a century.  The latest iteration of 188 Prospect Park West began to take shape in 2016 when a major two-year renovation project began to turn the former vaudeville theater into a new location for Nitehawk Cinema, a New York City-based dine-in movie theater company which opened its original location in Williamsburg in 2011. Though the theater now features seven state-of-the-art screens, two bars and a full-service kitchen for the most technologically advanced movie viewing experience, the design honors the building’s legacy and retains elements that date back to 1928. In the photos below, you can compare parts of the theater from before the renovation to today and see how remnants of the building’s jazz age past are incorporated into beautiful spaces built for the modern movie-goers.

You can also see these updates for yourself on a special behind-the-scenes tour of Nitehawk Cinema Prospect Park with Untapped Cities. The tour will be led by the founder of Nitehawk Cinema, Matthew Viragh and the Co-President of the firm who managed the restoration process, Denham Wolf’s Jon Denham.Guests will also be able to take advantage of $10 movie tickets to enjoy the Nitehawk dine-in experience for themselves after the tour! You can join this tour for free if you are an Untapped Cities Insider.! Not an Insider yet?Become a member today to gain access to free behind-the-scenes tours and special New York City events all year long!

The Pavilion Theater before renovation in 2017

The original structure built at the site in 1908, known as The Marathon Theater, stood there until 1927. The Marathon was replaced by the Sanders Theater in 1928 and then, after nearly twenty years of neglect, the Pavilion restored the structure in 1996. Many original architectural features of the 1928 theater have been retained through the $15 million renovation by Nitehawk Cinema. Visitors to the theater, the largest of Nitehawk’s locations, will see original ceiling medallions, decorative balconies, the curves of a former VIP lounge, and Moorish Alhambra-esque plaster details in the lobby and lounge areas. There are also two marble staircases in the lobby that are left over from the theater’s past.New decor elements such as the exterior neon marquee and millwork in the bar area were crafted locally.

In photos from Untapped Cities visit to the construction site in 2017 and photos post renovation courtesy of Nitehawk Cinema, you can see how 1920s era details have been saved and incorporated into the new design. Below you can see intricate plaster detailing on the ceiling above the theater’s bar.

Photograph by Sakeenah Saleem

The Sanders Theater of 1928 had just one single screen. When the Pavilion renovated the space, twenty years after the Sanders closed, more screens and seats were added, bringing the total number of screens to nine with 1,350 seats throughout. Nitehawk Cinema boasts seven screens with roomier accommodations in which guests can experience Nitehawk’s signature dine-in experience. The new individual theater spaces were kept roughly in the same spots as the former ones.

Photograph by Sakeenah Saleem

The mezzanine level of Nitehawk now offers views of the nearby Prospect Park and a second level bar. In order to make the upper level accessible and still adhere to landmark regulations, the renovation team had to get creative. The elevator that Nitehawk added to the building, which makes the structure totally accessible to for the first time in its history, pops-out slightly from the original structure.

Photograph by Sarah Casey

Photograph by Sakeenah Saleem

The concession stand, box office and lobby will also be in relatively the same location they were in previously. In a press release announcing the opening of the new Nitehawk location, Nitehawk Cinema’s founder Matthew Viragh said that the Pavilion inspired him to open Nitehawk, and he reminisced about smuggling booze into a screening, something Nitehawk moviegoers don’t have to do anymore. Nitehawk Cinema is credited with overturning the prohibition-era New York State liquor law that made serving alcohol in motion picture theaters illegal in 2011 so guests can enjoy specially crafted cocktails in their seats as they enjoy Nitehawk’s selection of first run and classic films.

Photograph by Sarah Casey

Photograph by Sakeenah Saleem

Join Untapped Cities for a special behind-the-scenes tour of this unique theater to see the renovations for yourself! The tour will be led by the founder of Nitehawk Cinema, Matthew Viragh and the Co-President of the firm who managed the restoration process, Denham Wolf’s Jon Denham. Guests will also be able to take advantage of $10 movie tickets to enjoy the Nitehawk dine-in experience for themselves after the tour! You can join this tour for free if you are an Untapped Cities Insider.! Not an Insider yet? Become a member today to gain access to free behind-the-scenes tours and special New York City events all year long!

Next, check out Vaudeville Remnants Inside Construction of New Nitehawk Cinema on Prospect Park West

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