(2021) Iconic, elegant, and populist all at once: the Automat (aka Horn & Hardart) revolutionized American dining a century ago, long before there was fast food or hipster coffee shops. An eclectic mix of New Yorkers inserted nickels into slots, and slices of lemon meringue pie, mac & cheese, baked beans, and creamed spinach magically appeared from a grid of gleaming chrome windows.
Then there was the eatery’s signature 5-cent coffee, cascading from ornate dolphin-headed spouts. Mel Brooks (who sings an homage he wrote specifically for the film), Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Colin Powell, Carl Reiner, and others pay effusive tribute to this communal Art Deco home away from home. Says Brooks: “You didn’t need a lot of money. You needed a lot of nickels.”
Debut filmmaker Lisa Hurwitz collages rare artifacts, images, and memorabilia (including personal photos and deeply affectionate stories from former employees and the founding family) to create a love letter to the New York many of us still remember.
The Automat opens on Friday, February 18th. The Film Forum is located at 209 West Houston Street, NYC. Click Here For Tickets!
In-person Q&A with Filmmaker Lisa Hurwitz on Friday, February 18, 7:00 show; Saturday, February 19, 7:30pm show; and Sunday, February 20, 5:40pm show.