The Quad Cinema originally opened on October 18, 1972. It was the brainchild of Brooklyn-born inventor and entrepreneur Maurice Kanbar, the creator of Skyy vodka, inventor of D-Fuzz-It comb for sweaters, the Tangoes Puzzle Game, a hypodermic needle protector, a cryogenic cataract remover, and a new LED traffic light.
Kanbar saw a problem and found a solution: he noticed New York’s 1200 seat theaters had roughly 120 patrons for shows, so why not have multiple smaller theaters that fit 120 customers?
The Quad, reportedly a favorite theatre of Andy Warhol, became the first-ever multi-screen movie theater on the East Coast. The theater’s first advertisement called it: “A new way to go to the movies.”
That business model helped it outlive many of its competitors, and it found many imitators in the new so-called multiplexes.
This model also allowed for variety in the programming and increased flexibility. The programming included older films, new American films, acclaimed films from Europe—all under one roof. The audiences became as diverse as the programming, drawing large multiethnic and LGBT crowds.
The 1972 cult film Kentucky Fried Movie wasn’t a success when it first opened there, but its appeal built over time. Lina Wertmuller’s The Seven Beauties ran there for five-and-a-half months.
Former New York Mayor Ed Koch used to hang out in the lobby and talk to guests. He knew the staff on a first-name basis and was issued a free yearly pass. He called the theater, “One of New York’s best off-beat film houses.”
The Quad has two longtime managers Eva Rode (since 1983) and Robin Keegan (since 1984). Eva once sold popcorn to Jacqueline Onassis at the theater.
Most recently, Cohen Brothers Realty President Charles S. Cohen purchased and completely renovated the theater, restoring the venue in a way comparable to his extensive work restoring classic films.
The renovation includes a stunning new video wall with unique programming, seats imported from Norway, 4k Christie digital projectors, archival-quality 35mm and 16mm projection for classic films, and a wine bar.
The new logo and theater design is by Pentagram & Paula Scher, who designed new identities and campaigns for the Public Theater, the Metropolitan Opera, and the New York City Ballet.