Cinema, Medical Horrors & Victorian Cocktails Come Together In Downtown Brooklyn

Photo via Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Facebook page.

After much anticipation, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema will officially open its downtown Brooklyn theater this Friday.

Brooklyn moviegoers have a new spot for indie classics (and not so classic films) like Suburbia, Heavenly Creatures, and the Greasy Strangler. Alamo Drafthouse’s initial cinematic line-up looks fun and wide-ranging.

And whether you’re a movie buff or not, Alamo Drafthouse, located in the underwhelming new City Point development near Flatbush Avenue and Fulton Street, also seeks to lure Brooklynites with a thirst for 19th century horror.

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Tucked away on the fourth floor of the building, off the lobby of the cineplex, is a bar called House of Wax. The new watering hole, which was just reviewed by the New York Times, describes itself as “combining mixology with the macabre…Brooklyn’s newest, and most curious, full-service bar.”

The most curious bar in Brooklyn? That’s a big claim, but the bar is home to a remarkable collection of 19th century European wax anatomical models with a focus on medical curiosities.

The collection, which includes everything from death masks to models of women giving birth, was created in the late 19th century in Germany and shown at Castan’s Panopticum, a Berlin exhibition hall, the Times notes.

From the House of Wax exhibition. (Photo by Daniel Schvarcz)

The Panopticum collection was recently purchased by House of Wax owner Ryan Cohn, and was first exhibited in New York at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Gowanus. As our editor Donny Levit writes:

Panopticons were popular in Europe from the 18th through the early 20th century. They are similar to what in the U.S. have been referred to as “dime museums.”

Perhaps most well-known was the American Museum in New York run by P.T. Barnum and Charles Willson Peale. The museum existed in the mid-19th century, displaying a combination or circus, theater, and “freakshow” under the auspices of moralistic education….

[Morbid Anatomy Museum creative director Joanna] Ebenstein explains that the panopticons were “museums as popular for the masses. They were both educational and entertaining. They sit on the flickery, amorphous edge between spectacle and education.”

House of Wax has attempted to create a setting that is appropriate for this antique, yet disturbing, collection of objects.

alamo drafthouse
Photo via ariansaleh

“The place has an elegant Victorian décor, with elaborate woodwork, a tin ceiling, chandeliers, ornate rugs and leather banquettes,” the Times writes. “Handsome cabinetry displays a bizarre collection of graphic replicas of medical marvels and abnormalities.”

House of Wax features a full menu, cocktails, and beers. If you are a history lover, or are just weary of the usual drinks on offer at Brooklyn bars, the cocktails definitely sound intriguing — several use 19th-century ingredients.

Check it out and let us know what you think!

Alamo Drafthouse Brooklyn opens this Friday, October 28. The cinema is located in City Point, 445 Albee Square West, between Fulton and Willoughby Streets.

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