The weathered Waverly Theater, shuttered for two years, stands just a few doors south of a string of seedy shops on Sixth Avenue and Third Street. Letters on the marquee read “Closed for Renovation,” with the “R” dangling precariously.
Clearly the theater and the neighborhood have seen better days, but the Independent Film Channel plans to change all of that when it reopens the erstwhile arthouse venue as its brick-and-mortar presence in spring.
In the works is a main 200-seat theater, a smaller 110-seat venue, a 65-seat screening room as well as film-editing suites and a cafe.
The addition of IFC Center in Greenwich Village will make the area one of the most heavily screened in Gotham, with competing indie venues such as the Angelika, the Sunshine, the Quad and the Film Forum all close by.
But competing in that arena isn’t the reason for the refurbishment. IFC and corporate parent Cablevision — which owned the Waverly through its Clearview Cinemas unit and recently transferred the property to IFC — are more interested in creating a presence in the indie film community.
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“Yes, we could make more money out of our three screens by booking commercial films,” says IFC Entertainment prexy Jonathan Sehring. “But that’s not in our plans. We are looking for this to be a gathering place for people who love independent cinema. Our hope is that the bar and cafe area, for example, will attract filmmakers and lovers of film.”
Company also hopes the center will boost IFC’s profile, given that IFC may be known more for its cable TV offerings, such as John Favreau-hosted “Dinner for Five,” than the high-profile films it has distributed or helped produce, including “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Monsoon Wedding.”
An IFC-branded theater in Greenwich Village reaches its target audience, with NYU adjacent to the theater and Tribeca a 10-minute walk.
“There are more filmmakers per square mile around there than anywhere else in the country,” adds the project’s architect, Larry Bogdanow.
As a vertically integrated company, there will be more options for IFC. An IFC-backed film could have its Gotham premiere at IFC Center. It gives the company a guaranteed theatrical release — a big driver for ancillary revenue — for all its films.
But Sehring stresses it’s not just about IFC’s own films. If all goes as planned, you should be able to wander into the IFC Center on a given day and catch a premiere (digitally or traditionally projected), a classic film, a workshop with filmmakers or a discussion with your favorite film critic.