How Film Forum Became the Best Little Movie House in New York

It’s just before 8 p.m. on a recent Friday night in Manhattan, and a crowd of moviegoers is lined up to see “Great Freedom” (2021), an Austrian film that tells the tender and terrible story of a concentration camp survivor in Germany who’s repeatedly imprisoned for his sexuality. Sebastian Meise, the film’s director, and its star, Franz Rogowski, will be giving a Q. and A. after the showing, so there’s a palpable sense that this is an event.

Outside on West Houston Street, the glow of the marquee — “Film Forum” written in curving, blue neon letters — beckons like a spaceship. Upon seeing it, I feel the thrill of catching a movie in an actual cinema: It’s my first visit to Film Forum since it reopened in 2021 following a nearly 13-month closure on account of Covid-19.

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