Documentary Film Lovers, Here’s a New Theater Just for You

The Downtown Community Television Center (DCTV) is officially launching its own nonprofit documentary cinema in New York City.

Starting September 23, the Chinatown-based theater Firehouse: DCTV’s Cinema for Documentary Film will offer a dedicated space for documentary films featuring first-run debuts and curated programs, making it one of the few documentary-centric theaters in the world. DCTV was co-founded in 1972 by Academy Award-nominee and documentary stalwart Jon Alpert (“Life of Crime: 1984 – 2020”) and Keiko Tsuno, who both currently serve as the organization’s Co-Executive Directors and who together have received 16 Emmy Awards.

“We used to show our documentaries on the corner of Canal Street from an oíd mail truck we bought for $5,” Alpert and Tsuno said in a joint statement. “We had two black and white TV sets and a sound system that was like two tin cans and a piece of string. It took 50 years to build the DCTV Firehouse Cinema, this beautiful palace for documentary films. We want to thank everyone who helped us get here and can’t wait to show you around.”

The Firehouse theater will feature a single screen with 67 seats, 4K projection, 7.1 surround sound, and interactive features to connect audiences worldwide, with concessions and an adjoining event space. Dara Messinger, the organization’s longtime Director of Programming will oversee the theater’s first-run and curated programming.

Messinger shared, “I’m thrilled by the opportunity to program for Firehouse, and to help build a new home for documentary exhibition. My hope is for the theater to become a go-to destination to celebrate, engage with, and reflect upon all that nonfiction film has to offer.”

DCTV’s early public screenings and first docs, often made by residents gathering together to collectively film local issues, helped bring crucial changes including ousting corrupt school boards, securing community control over their local hospital, and fighting for the rights of taxi drivers and sweatshop workers.

Per an official statement, the Firehouse Cinema will be an “extension of this ethos” and mark an opportunity to help shift a disempowering, commercial culture where filmmakers and film lovers can come together in appreciation of, and with curiosity for, nonfiction film.

Original elements of the historic Firehouse building add cinematic touches to the theater, including the repurposed wood in the lobby sourced from the original stable house inside the firehouse, plus using a donated historic ALF fire truck cab from the Town of Tazewell Fire Department, in Tazewell, Virginia to be a concession stand. The wood slats that adorn the theater wall are also donated by documentary filmmaker, Hart Perry.

For more information, visit DCTV’s website.

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