Charles Cohen can remember the exact moment at which he fell in love with cinema.
“I was 3 years old and my grandmother took me to see the Walt Disney ‘Cinderella,’” he recalled in a telephone interview last week. He laughs and adds, “I made her sit through it twice.”
That fascination, as he calls it, has carried throughout his life, leading him to add to his lengthy portfolio of real estate, construction, law and banking careers the creation of a film distribution and production company, Cohen Media Group, which includes the Cohen Film Collection, a library that already numbers 700 titles.
Now, Cohen has taken on another cinematic challenge, this time at the other end of the process, acquiring Quad Cinema at the end of August.
“It has always been another dream of mine to be an exhibitor,” he said. “It’s the right size and right location, a movie theater with a great legacy and heritage.”
When the Quad opened in 1972, it was New York City’s first four-screen theater. Unlike many of the multiplexes that followed it, the Quad was built as a multiple-screen venue rather than carved out of an already extant larger house; thus it had the advantages of proper soundproofing and sightlines.
Cohen and Maurice Kanbar, the Quad’s founder and previous owner, negotiated “for 18 months,” Cohen said. “This is one of [Maurice’s] babies. He could have sold it for retail at a higher price to a developer, but I promised to keep it a movie theater.”
Although Cohen was vague about the details of the planned renovation, in part, he said, “because the plans are just being formalized now.” The schedule for renovations should see the theater closed at the end of January, with work beginning on Feb. 1 and completed in “five to seven months,” he said.
Cohen has insisted that certain elements will remain unchanged, though. The theater will continue to be a four-screen house and the name will remain the Quad Cinema. He also promises that the theater will maintain its policy of showcasing independent and foreign art-house titles.
One of the less remarked-on but significant aspects of the theater is its devotion to Jewish-themed programming. In last week’s edition of The Jewish Week alone, there were reviews of two new films, both of which opened at the Quad.
Cohen reaffirmed the theater’s commitment to that programming policy as well.
“We’ve had tremendous success distributing Jewish films,” he noted. Among the films his firm has distributed are “The Attack,” “The Last of the Unjust,” “Amen” and “Chasing Madoff.”
“Jewish filmgoers are intelligent filmgoers, and they are starved for good films,” he said. ”We want the Quad to be in the forefront of places to go for a good film experience.”
He paused, then joked, “We’ll continue showing Jewish films or my name isn’t Charles Cohen.”