For the very first movie shown at the Loew’s Alpine Theatre in Bay Ridge, a ticket cost only 25 cents. On opening night, June 6, 1921, theater owner Marcus Loew brought 25 famous movie stars as his guests. The first film to grace the screen was Thomas Meighan’s, “The City of Silent Men.” While we may not recognize the stars on the guest list, may have never seen Meighan’s movie, and have to pay much more for a ticket today, the Alpine Theatre still stands more than 100 years later at Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn as Alpine Cinemas.
Experienced theater architects Carlson & Wiseman designed the building. Less is known about Arthur C. Carlson, but Harrison Wiseman designed over twenty theaters across New York City including the former Pavilion Theater (now Nitehawk Prospect Park), Village East Cinema which used to be a Yiddish Theater, and the Kameo Theater in Brooklyn which now houses a church. All three of those theaters are still standing.
An article in The Brooklyn Citizen from the day after opening called the Alpine “one of the most beautiful structures in the borough.” Though the theater has undergone many changes over the past century, you can still see glimpses of its glamorous past. Above the concession stand, lights hang from the center of detailed ceiling medallions. The walls boast detailed molding and plaster embellishments. The exterior facade, though missing its historic “Loew’s Alpine” marquee, has remained largely the same. A modern marquee now hangs below a large arched arrangement of white bricks that border a central decorative piece.
Loew opened more than 20 theaters across New York City in the same year the Alpine debuted. What set this theater apart was that it was the first of Loew’s theaters to have all of its seating – 2,200 seats – on one floor. There was no balcony or gallery and no boxes. At its widest point, the tapered auditorium floor measured 100 feet. The spectacular Wonder Theaters that Loew is known for were built later in the decade.
In the 1970s, the theater was split in two. Additional screens were added in the 1980s and today there are 8 separate theaters inside. Loew’s sold the theatre in 1986 and it is currently independently operated. When the current owner Nick Nicolaou purchased the theater in 2006, it was rundown and on the brink of closure. In June of 2021, neighbors finally got to see the result of long-awaited renovations. Taking advantage of the COVID shutdown, Nicolaou and his crew were able to reopen just in time for the theater’s 100th anniversary with a bunch of new upgrades including higher ceilings, new floors, new countertops, and a new ventilation system.
Alpine Cinemas in Brooklyn embodies the old and the new in its architecture and its prices. Movie theater tickets are just $10 – more than the original 25 cents, but still lower than other modern-day movie theaters. Nicolaou doesn’t plan on ever raising ticket prices.