An Old NYC Firehouse, A New Place to Watch Documentaries

May 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

Downtown Community Television Center (DCTV)

Breaks Ground On New Theater Located at 87 Lafayette Street

(Between Walker and White)

“The NEW DCTV CINEMA will be a state-of-the-art fully interactive digital cinema, and the first “ALL DOCUMENTARY/ALL THE TIME” Academy Award eligible cinema in New York City!”

Earlier today, May 7, 2013 , New York City officials Kate Levin, Scott Stringer, Margaret Chin and Gale Brewer were joined by acclaimed filmmakers Michael Moore (Bowling For Columbine); Matthew O’Neill (China’s Unnatural Disaster, Redemption), and Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) at a ceremony to mark the groundbreaking of Downtown Community Television Center’s new documentary-only theater.  The groundbreaking marks a significant milestone for Downtown Community Television (DCTV), a cultural fixture in Lower Manhattan since 1972 founded by the award-winning filmmaking team Jon Alpert & Keiko Tsuno.

The first of its kind in the United States, the 73 seat, fully-interactive, digital cinema will be the state-of-the-art venue specifically for documentaries in New York City, and will provide theatrical runs to non-fiction filmmakers for Academy Award qualification.

“The cinema will be built on the first floor of one of the most beautiful buildings in New York City, the 1896 firehouse that houses DCTV.  The cinema will feature world-class documentaries made by prestigious filmmakers from around the globe.  The cinema is expected to attract 20,000 attendees in its first year and millions more online.  It will be the premier presentation venue for documentary filmmakers and an important component of the New York City Arts community. This documentary-focused Cinema will be unique with top-of-the line digital 4K projection systems, and the capability to both broadcast live events and, at the same time, invite participants to the conversations via the internet from anywhere in the world.”

“Yearly, DCTV serves over 13,000 New York City media artists, disadvantaged youth, and residents each year. Our documentaries have earned two Academy Award nominations, 15 Emmy Awards, and are viewed by millions around the world. DCTV’s PRO-TV is the most honored youth media arts program in the country.”

“The cinema, expected to open in early 2015, will mean a significant expansion of DCTV’s public services to include theatrical distribution along with its already highly attended workshops, screenings, master classes and access to affordable equipment and studio rentals, making DCTV a central hub for documentary filmmakers.”

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About DCTV:

“Founded in 1972 by husband and wife filmmakers Jon Alpert and Keiko Tsuno, DCTV has grown into one of the leading documentary film education and production centers in the country, providing resources for thousands of filmmakers and students, including equipment and facility rentals, screenings, master classes, post-production services and educational programs.

DCTV is a unique space where community screenings, master classes, youth programs and affordable production resources all occur side by side in the firehouse with the award-winning documentary work. DCTV’s film and television work has been recognized with 15 National Emmy Awards, three duPont-Columbia Awards, and two Academy Award Nominations, a Peabody Award, 6 New York Emmy Awards and many other accolades at film festivals and competitions around the world.”

“New York City is the worldwide capital for documentary filmmaking. We have more documentarians per square inch than any place on the globe. For people who love docs, this is their home,” said DCTV co-founder Jon Alpert. “This theater is a place that celebrates their work.”

“Innovative cultural institutions like DCTV are an enormous part of what makes New York City a great place to live, work and visit,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “This new space will be another gem on our landscape of places where creative people can thrive and contribute to New York City’s unique cultural landscape.”

“At a time when documentary film-making is flourishing as never before, I am pleased to salute the new documentary-only theater that DCTV is opening here in New York City,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer. “This theater, which will be the first of its kind in the United States, offers an exciting new venue for an art form that has increasingly come to play a major role—not only in the world of film, but in the discussion and exploration of public issues that affect millions of people around the world. I was proud to offer support to this worthy project and I know it will provide an important forum in our City for years to come.”

“For over 40 years, DCTV has helped New Yorkers shape and share their stories through an unwavering commitment to documentary film making,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin. “The City is thrilled to join the public-private partnership that will transform space in this extraordinary landmark into a state-of-the-art cinema to serve professional filmmakers, talented students and countless audiences from across the five boroughs and beyond.”

“New York City is one of the world’s greatest hubs of culture and entertainment, and today’s groundbreaking is the latest example of how the City is investing in projects that promote the arts while spurring economic growth,” said NYC Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “The Downtown Community Television Cinema will be a great attraction for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and countless visitors. I congratulate all those involved in this project and I will continue to support projects that promote the arts along with my colleagues in the City Council.”

The theater, designed by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership  will be built on the ground floor of the beautiful 1896 firehouse that DCTV has called home since 1979 and will boast a state-of-the-art 3D and 4K Digital Cinema projection system, and the ability to share live events with millions of people around the world via the Internet. It is expected to open in early 2015.

Supporters of the cinemas included: Lower Manhattan Development Corporation—funded through Community Development Block Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Office of the Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg; Office of the Speaker of the New York City Council, Christine Quinn; The New York City Council; Office of New York City Council Member Margaret Chin, Office of the Manhattan Borough President, Scott Stringer; The Rockefeller Foundation Cultural Innovation Fund; The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council; The Samuel Rubin Foundation; New York State Assembly Member Deborah Glick; The New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State legislature, Hyde & Watson Foundation, and SONY.

Advisory Council

The organization also announced the formation of their first Advisory Council, which will be made up of some of the brightest and most passionate members of the New York City filmmaking community.

In addition to aforementioned filmmakers Garbus (The Farm: Angola U.S.A.), Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side), Moore (Bowling for Columbine), O’Neill, and Spurlock, the council will include: actors Brooke Adams and James Gandolfini, Emmy-nominated filmmaker Daniel J. Chalfen, producer Abigail Disney (Queen of Versailles, Pray the Devil Back to Hell), Emmy-winner, Ellen Goosenberg (Alive Day Memories & Wartorn: 1861-2010), Oscar-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple (Harlan County U.S.A. & American Dream), Cáitrín McKiernan (Bringing King to China), HBO Documentary Film president Sheila Nevins, filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi (Journey’s With George), Academy Award nominee Sam Pollard (4 Little Girls), and Oscar-winners Alan and Susan Raymond (I Am A Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary School).

Technologically Advanced Theater

 In keeping with DCTV’s mission to democratize access to digital film technology, the DCTV Cinema will create an affordable, high-end screening venue where independent filmmakers can exhibit their work to the public in 3D and 4K – the highest resolution available.

By focusing exclusively on documentaries, the DCTV Cinema will dramatically expand the total number of showings of nonfiction films in New York City. The cinema equipment and space will be fully DCI compliant and fulfill all rules to be eligible for official Academy Award qualifying runs. The DCTV Cinema will “open the door” for independent documentary filmmakers to qualify their films for an Academy Award nomination, giving them the best chance to bring their work to the widest possible audience.

Furthermore, the interactivity of the theater will allow anyone in the world to participate in the discussions that take place in the screening room. “We’re trying to cast a very wide net,” said Alpert. “This is a place where the tech measures up to the quality of the work. There aren’t as many fine theatrical settings as there should be for documentaries and this is one attempt to rectify that.”

Joining the above-mentioned filmmakers and other guests at the ceremony were:  Kate Levin, Commissioner of NYC Department of Cultural Affairs; Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer; New York City Council Member Margaret Chin; Cora Weiss, President, Samuel Rubin Foundation, and Alec Shapiro, President of SONY Braodcast.

Reflecting on the all-star doc lineup of support for the theater, Alpert remarked that “The entire doc community has put their shoulder behind this project,” adding that since documentary directors are often a solitary bunch, “there isn’t often an opportunity for us all to work collectively.”


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