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NYC movie buffs have sweet marquee engagement at IFC

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It was a marriage proposal of cinematic proportions.

Over the weekend, a casting director surprised his film-buff girlfriend by getting down on one knee in front of the newly reopened IFC Center in Greenwich Village.

Melanie Bowen thought she and boyfriend Joe Pinzone were heading to a screening of the Oscar-nominated “Mank” — until she read the theater’s marquee: “Melanie, you are my star, hero and love. Will you marry me? Joe.”

“I saw my name and it’s like you black out, like, ‘OMG, this is happening.’ ” Bowen told The Post.

Bowen said yes — and they never made it inside to see the flick about “Citizen Kane” screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, which would have marked their first trip to the movies as a couple.

The pair, who both live in Astoria, had their first date on March 11, 2020 — days before NYC and the rest of the country went into lockdown.

As a “super germophobe,” Bowen was wary of a hug, let alone a kiss, during the initial two-hour chat fest in their neighborhood.

Casting director Joe Pinzone proposes to film buff girlfriend Melanie Bowen outside movie theater on Sunday.
Casting director Joe Pinzone proposes to film buff Melanie Bowen in front of the IFC theater on Sunday.
Courtesy of Melanie Bowen

The couple kept in touch through phone calls and texts until their second date — a walk around an Astoria park — three months later in June.

“All I could see were his eyes,” recalled Bowen, 38, of the masked meet-up. For dates three and four, it was more socially distanced walks and outdoor meet-ups.

“I wasn’t grabbing her hand or anything like that,” said Pinzone, who copped to planting a kiss on date four — through their masks — in mid-July. “It’s like, ‘Do we kiss?’ We did a kind of Spiderman kiss,” recalled Pinzone, 41.

By date number five, Bowen’s patience had waned: “I pulled his mask down. I was just like, ‘Screw this.’ “

The unusual courtship was a blessing in disguise for the couple, who said they got to know each other without the usual artifice and distractions of dating. “We built a really great foundation. Every time we talked it got better and better — our values and the way we looked at the world really aligned,” said Bowen.

“He would see me in my sweatpants and a T-shirt and always said, ‘You look beautiful.’ “

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Since the first kiss on date five, the couple have been inseparable — and watching movies together at home has been a big bonding experience for them. She had him watch the musical “Hamilton” on Disney+, while he introduced her to “Wolf of Wall Street” and “Hot Tub Time Machine.”

They loved the Netflix movie “Prom” so much that Pinzone clapped at the end. “We both like each other’s taste,” said Bowen. “He was nervous to show me ‘Hot Tub Time Machine,’ but I really liked it.”

When it came time to propose, Pinzone knew he needed to appeal to the tastes of his cinephile sweetheart, who double-majored in film and theater.

The cinephile sweethearts moments after the proposal.
The cinephile sweethearts moments after the proposal.
Courtesy of Melanie Bowen

“I definitely wanted to have something with a movie sense to it — I was so happy to get the marquee,” he said. And so he guided their stroll past the Village theater on Sunday, which, unbeknownst to him, was one of Bowen’s favorites.

“He was very slick,” recalled Bowen. “I thought he was looking at the showtimes.”

Pinzone dropped to one knee and placed a diamond ring on her finger as a few waiting friends caught the proposal on camera. The group then headed over to the nearby restaurant Market Table to celebrate over brunch.

“He definitely got me,” said Bowen, who works in HR at a hedge fund.

“He always calls me his hero. It always makes me giggle that he does that,” she said.

The couple are now planning for a December wedding — indoors.

“The craziest thing is that we haven’t gone to the movies or the theatre yet,” said Pinzone.

They vow to return to the IFC Center — and plan to stream “Mank.”

“I told him yesterday that we have to watch ‘Mank’ now,” Bowen said. “It’s up for a lot of Oscars.” 

“He doesn’t like awards shows, but I’m forcing him to watch with me,” she added. “I guess I do force him to watch a couple of things.”

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