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Can’t ‘The Dog’ have his day in Brooklyn?

Walk the dog: If John “The Dog” Wojtowicz wanted to see the documentary made about his attempted bank robbery, he’d have to travel 10 miles from the old Chase Manhattan on 450 Avenue P in Gravesend to Manhattan theaters showing the flick, if the film’s distributors had their way.
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A film about Brooklyn’s most famous bank robbery barely made it to borough theaters.

“The Dog” — a documentary about the Brooklyn man who robbed a bank in Gravesend to finance his lover’s sex change and inspired the 1975 film “Dog Day Afternoon” — opened in Manhattan theaters on Aug. 8, but it didn’t hit the big screen in Brooklyn until Aug. 15, and that was only after a cinema owner had to hunt down the film’s distributor.

“They didn’t reach out to us, but the more we read about it, the more it sounded like it would be an amazing pick for our theater,” said Matthew Viragh, owner of Williamsburg dinner-theater Nitehawk Cinema.

The hip movie house, known for showing indie flicks and off-beat documentaries, never got a call from distributor Drafthouse Films about screening “The Dog,” and Viragh asked the Austin-based company to throw him a bone on Aug. 7 — one day before the film’s New York premiere.

Brooklyn Heights Cinema got snubbed too, its owner said.

“God knows who they reached out to — not us,” said Kenn Lowy. “Honestly, as far as movie theaters in Brooklyn go, we’re the one that people go to because they know we play things like that.”

The film, shot over 10 years, lays out the events leading up to the fateful day in August 1972 when John Wojtowicz — also known as “The Dog” — and an accomplice attempted to rob the Chase Manhattan Bank at 450 Avenue P. Told via interviews with eye witnesses, family members, and Wojtowicz himself, the documentary explores The Dog’s time as a gay rights organizer and his attempts to land a job following his release from prison.

The film’s ties to Brooklyn are obvious, Viragh said.

“He’s born and raised in Brooklyn and seems like one of those really interesting, kooky local character that seems to be disappearing from the borough.”

The film distributor’s parent company, Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, is building a seven-screen dinner-theater in Downtown Brooklyn slated to open next year.

Drafthouse Films declined to comment.

“The Dog” at Nitewhawk Cinema (136 Metropolitan Ave. between Berry Street and Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg, www.nitehawkcinema.com) Aug. 15–21 at 5:05 pm. $11.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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