08/11/16 10:44am
Rooftop Films started showing movies at Industry City in 2015. Photo: Ethan Judelson

Rooftop Films started showing movies at Industry City in 2015. Photo: Ethan Judelson

It all started with a few flyers, a bed sheet and a rooftop.

In the summer of 1997, Mark Elijah Rosenberg founded Rooftop Films on the top of his East Village apartment building. He and a few friends, he said, “used a 16mm projector, tied a sheet to the wall, opened the door to the roof, and we had a film festival.” The turnout to see the collection of short films that Rosenberg had selected for the evening, driven mostly by word of mouth, was much larger than expected–so many people showed up that Rosenberg’s landlord promptly evicted him.

Even without a rooftop of his own, the film-obsessed recent Vassar grad and native New Yorker realized that he was hooked on curating screenings. It was, he recalled in a phone interview, “a real pleasure to watch strangers come and appreciate the night.”

Fortunately Rosenberg had friends to turn to. Joshua Breitbart and Dan Nuxoll, current Rooftop Films program director, were working to convert an old warehouse space on McKibben Street on the border of Bushwick and East Williamsburg into lofts. They allowed Rosenberg and Breitbart to build a screen and show films on their roof.

“There were no hipster restaurants let alone Michelin restaurants,” Rosenberg said wryly. “It was derelict buildings and car fires…for better or worse we were part of the change in that neighborhood.” (more…)