While the choice of beer wasn't much of a surprise, it was out of the ordinary to be comfortably and legally enjoying an alcoholic beverage while watching a movie in a New York City cinema. There is technically a law against serving booze in movie theaters that stems from an ancient Broadway lobby (as in political lobby, not theater lobby), but while this makes it currently impossible for an Alamo Drafthouse franchise to open up anywhere in the state, places like the reRun, which is a part of a larger establishment called reBar, can operate as substitutes given that they're bars that show movies rather than cinemas that serve liquor.
"We're not really a movie theater," claims reBar and now reRun owner/founder Jason Stevens in an email to Cinematical. "We serve alcohol just up to and just after the films, but don't serve during the actual movie itself because it's rude to the filmmakers who will often be there -(noise, getting up and down, etc.)."
Stevens also says the excitement of his new venture comes with the date night convenience of integrating the fun scene of a bar with the option of also seeing a movie. There's no difference between this and the usual occurrence of a couple getting dinner and drinks at one place and then seeing a film at another, except at reRun the experience is all under one roof.
"I think Brooklyn has been screaming for a venue like this," programmer Aaron Hillis tells me, also via email. "Both film culture and bar culture have long been integral parts of the New York social experience, and blending the two only makes for a more entertaining communal sport -- especially if you're tipsy. Who doesn't love to chill out with a movie and an ice-cold adult beverage in their hand?"
Hillis, a critic, filmmaker and vice president of distributor Benten Films, lived for a time in Austin, which of course we all associate with the blending of film and bar culture thanks to its Alamo brand of drafthouse theaters. But he says its a coincidence that he's curating a gastropub theater with indie films like Audrey, a title that first screened at an Alamo as part of SXSW back in March. He credits the connection simply to the fact that that film fest "has consistently top-notch programming," while noting that future bookings are more generally selected from a crop of undistributed gems from the festival circuit.
Despite the fact that the reRun is not the first NYC bar to screen films, the main appeal for Brooklynites, initially anyway, will certainly be the booze factor more than the benefit of seeing the otherwise unavailable films programmed by Hillis. And maybe the interesting menu of snacks, including popcorn with bacon fat and pretzels stuffed with garlic mashed potatoes, will be a major sell too. But yeah, given that we aren't as used to this kind of experience as film fans in Austin and other parts of the country are, it's primarily the liquor that's garnering our attention. Not that this is a bad thing if it gets people in there and exposed to the work of little-known filmmakers like Frank Ross (Audrey the Trainwreck) and Brett Haley (The New Year).
Of course, we'll be also watching for the reRun to be a huge success for how it could influence the State of New York to turnover that law against booze in "real" cinemas. The gastropub theater only seats about 60 and it's likely to be a big deal, so we could certainly use a few more venues, maybe even finally an Alamo branch, to cater to this popular combination of alcohol and movies. There's no reason why the best city to see films in shouldn't also be the best city to see films while drinking beer in.