Next time you find yourself under the marquee at Alpine Cinemas, Brooklyn’s oldest movie theater, look up. Underneath the marquee, you’ll see a subtle new art installation by Untapped New York’s Artist-in-Residence Aaron Asis. Titled Alpine: Under the Marquee, the site-specific installation features a black-and-white photo of Alpine Cinemas and the businesses that surrounded it in 1941.

Alpine: Under the Marquee, Brooklyn's oldest theater
Brooklyn’s oldest theater

“The Alpine is one-of-a-kind. A throwback and a gem,” says Asis. Through this project, the theater is “rediscovering its own past — and reminding us that history is everywhere!” The theater was chosen as the location of the installation due to its long history and important place in the Bay Ridge community

The enlarged historical image was shot from Bay Ridge Avenue looking up 5th Avenue toward the theater. In the shot, you can see a vintage car, a woman walking her dog, a lady pushing a baby stroller, a man in a hat, and other Brooklynites going about their day. Asis searched through a variety of photos for the perfect one to fit the site. Combing through images provided by the theater’s owners and images from various collections, he finally found the perfect fit at the New York Transit Museum archives.

The ornate marquee that hangs from the theater notes its name as the Alpine Loew’s. Originally opened June 6, 1921, this theater was unique from the dozens of other New York City Loew’s theaters because it was the first to have all of its seating – 2,200 seats – on one floor, with no balcony or gallery or boxes.

Alpine: Under the Marquee, black and white photo of Brooklyn's oldest theater

The theater evolved many times throughout the ensuing decades, starting with a duplex conversion in the 1970s. Despite many changes, the Alpine endured as a theater, unlike many other Brooklyn movie houses that have since been transformed into gyms, stores, and event halls. Today there are 8 separate theaters inside the Alpine and it is independently owned by Nick Nicolaou, who purchased the theater in 2006 when it was on the brink of closure. The most recent renovation of the theater was completed in June of 2021 when the theater reopened after the COVID shutdown, just in time for its 100th anniversary.

Alpine: Under the Marquee is part of Bay Ridge Through an Ecological Lens, an interactive, public, community art exhibition featuring artists from the New York area. The exhibition will feature neighborhood walks and community art interventions at locations throughout the Bay Ridge community. On June 8th, a film festival hosted by Stand4 Gallery in collaboration with ecoartspace will take place at Alpine Cinemas.

Alpine: Under the Marquee, black and white photo of Brooklyn's oldest theater

“Art can make the invisible visible,” says Asis, “and this project creates an opportunity for us to experience the past and present — in the same moment — underneath the marquee.”

Next, check out 10 Forgotten Theaters of Brooklyn, 14 Forgotten Theaters of the Bronx, and learn more about Brooklyn’s Oldest Theater