Blu-ray Review: The Projectionist

STUDIO: Kino Lorber | DIRECTOR: Abel Ferrara
RELEASE DATE: March 31, 2021 | PRICE: DVD $13.99, Blu-ray $19.99
BONUSES: Cinevangelist: A Life in Revival Film short, trailers
SPECS: NR | 82 min. | Documentary | widescreen| stereo | English and Greek with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  1/2 | Audio  1/2 | Video  1/2 | Overall  1/2

A surprisingly sweet outing from the frequent master of cinematic bleakness Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant, King of New York), finds the former New York City filmmaker back in the Big Apple after a decade-long absence, hanging out with Nicolas “Nick” Nicolaou, the subject of The Projectionist, now seeing release following an enthusiastic festival rollout in 2019.

Nicolaou, a Cypress native and movie fan, lived out his dream when he came to New York during his young teen years. He immediately immersed himself in the world of movie exhibition, where he found employment that ranged from running errands and sweeping floors in cavernous movie houses, to managing small porno and art theaters, to owning his own movie emporiums across New York’s boroughs.

Dressed similarly in white shirts and black sports jackets, Ferrara and Nicolaou kick off this effort in the old country, where Nick revisits the places he recalls from his childhood in Cypress, from his old house to the movie theater in which he originally caught the movie bug. Then, we head to Manhattan, where both men tour the sites where Nick either worked or owned, including former movie palaces like the Upper East Side’s Baronet and Coronet to tiny XXX screening rooms in and around the once-notorious 42nd Street neighborhood. To enhance Nicolaou’s recollections, Ferrara offers terrific photos of the old theaters and inserts film clips throughout, ranging from Taxi Driver and European arthouse favorites to his own own 1979 exploitation flick The Driller Killer to all manner of XXX outings.

When not discussing the side of the movie business rarely talked about outside of trade publications, Ferrera hangs with patrons going to current Nicolaou-owned theaters (including Greenwich Village’s Cinema Village and Bay Ridge’s Alpine Cinemas). Nicolaou also spiels about the history of movie theaters in Manhattan—including Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s cleaning up of “The Deuce” in the 1990s and tactics used by theater chains to nearly destroy independent operators.

Although there’s little about being a projectionist in The Projectionist, the title seems appropriate. Towards the end of the film, Nicolaou states, “Movie theaters give character to neighborhoods.” So simple and so true.

Also included on the discs is 2018’s Cinevangelist: A Life in Revival Film, Matt Barry’s charming short documentary on the life and work of Baltimore film historian and repertory programmer George Figgs.

Buy or Rent The Projectionist

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.