After a slight ordeal, I found my bright red card in the mail one Monday morning, which can only mean one thing: playing catchup.
And that means getting cozy with the local AMC because we have Murder on the Orient Express Monday, Ragnarok Tuesday, Justice League Wednesday, and Blade Runner Thursday and Lady Bird Friday… Right?
We’ve all heard the story of AMC’s frustrations over MoviePass’ system and their subsequent inability to shut it down. What we haven’t heard about is the wealth of NY art-house and independent first run movie theaters that are also on the MoviePass roster.
And that can only mean one thing: a listicle of awesome movie theatres to check out!
Originally the Waverly Theatre, built in 1937, and home to only one screen, this humble theatre brought many foreign films to the neighborhood, especially the works of the Italian greats DeSica and Fellini, but it wasn’t until the 70’s when it really made its mark as the original home for cult hit The Rocky Horror Picture Show where it ran midnight showings for years. The Waverly was also home to many other cult and indie films throughout its run, until the theatre closed down in 2001 and would remain closed until 2005, when it reopened as the IFC Center. After some more renovations, the IFC center became home to 2 additional screens in December 2009, making it the 5-screen haven for documentaries, indie features, and late night cult films that it still is today.
NY’s original Multiplex cinema circa 1972, and newly renovated as of April 2017. One key upgrade besides the 4K Barco and Christie projectors and new Norwegian imported seating, is the Quad bar, a great spot to socialize before or after screenings, which range from retrospectives to new films. The space itself hosts a 'First Encounters' series, in which a notable New Yorker is invited to choose a film they have never seen before and enjoy it with the audience. Occasionally people stop by to view films of their own. The screening is followed by a talkback with the notable guest. Past guests have included Greta Gerwig, John Turturro, Lee Grant, and Kenneth Lonergan.
Much more than the average multiplex, the Brooklyn Academy of Music hosts everything from films and music, to theatre, dance, and even live broadcasts of opera’s from the Met. BAM's rich history dates back to 1861, making it 'America's oldest performing arts center.' After converting its grand music hall to accommodate the silver screen (4 actually) in 1998, BAM continues to show off its its ability to withstand the test of time with ease.
Unassuming at first glance, this basement theatre space has been running foreign and independent greats since its opening in 1981. But rather than carrying notable classics in rep, Lincoln Plaza focuses on the new filmmakers of today and unites them with their audience through many Q&A's. Lincoln Plaza's definitely one to keep tabs on because it often showcases films you won't find playing at other theaters. You can still catch the oil painted feature Loving Vincent, and Dee Rees' Netflix contender Mudbound among others.
A longstanding center for independent and foreign films, the Angelika first opened its doors in 1989. (It's been immortalized for me as the place I first saw the Italian masterpiece The Great Beauty). Like the Lincoln Plaza, the silver screens are located in the basement, but the Angelika also hosts a spacious café on the main floor complete with tables, booths, and decorated with classic movie posters.
Film critic Vincent Canby hails it as "Manhattan's most attractive and most elegant moviehouse since the Roxy*... bridging the gap between art and commerce." Opened in 1991, the Walter Reade Theatre was the original home for the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and still operates under its curation.
Lincoln Center's landmark center for the film world, Film Society's Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center opened in the summer of 2011 and is home to 2 silver screens, an ampitheater, and a café. In addition to curated screenings of retrospectives and new films, FSLC hosts the annual Chaplin Award, the New York Film Festival, and publishes the bi-monthly Film Comment magazine.
One of the first of its kind, the Nitehawk Cinema opened in August of 2011 and brought with it the emergence of fine eating and strong drinks as part of the cinematic experience after overturning an age old liquor law (from the prohibition era, mind you) that banned alcohol in movie theaters. Nitehawk hosts many Film Series from ‘Midnite Movies’, ‘New Horror’, to a kids centered program called ‘Lil Hawk Friendly’.
One of the trendiest new theatres to hit the New York scene, the Metrograph opened its doors in high fashion to an audience including celebrities from Dustin Hoffman to Greta Gerwig on March 2nd 2016. And it hasn’t let up since. The 2nd floor restaurant and bar prove to be a dimly lit haven for date nights and deep musings on the future of cinema alike (not that they're mutually exclusive in that part of town). The Metrograph also hosts a bookstore opposite the restaurant that is home to rare biographies and film journals alike.
Known for its in-theatre dining, the Alamo Drafthouse is Brooklyn’s hopspot for current movies, artisanal beers and cocktails, and a full dinner menu all under one roof. Opened on October 28th 2016, the Alamo’s one of the newest in the line of hip movie theatres. It also features specialty screenings curated by month. (December includes Gremlins, Iron Giant, Elf, Meet Me in St. Louis, Wolf Devil Woman, and Christmas Evil, to name an eclectic few)
So MoviePass is pretty awesome, it makes going out to the movies on a tight budget more than possible. But the movie's only one part of the experience. The theater you go to, who you see it with, and where you dine before or afterwards, make all the difference between a night out and just staying in bed watching Filmstruck (or Netflix depending on the night). New York's a mecca for theaters rich in character and history, and the history's still being written.
The renovations to NY staples and new theaters prove we're in the middle of an indie art-house renaissance. And now that these theaters are part of the MoviePass repertoire, they are all the more accessible. So sure, if it takes a some less-than-subtle data mining scheme to make all this possible, then that's more than fine by me.