Travelling to New York City this winter? Then take the weight off your feet after all that festive shopping and hunker down for a movie or three. Whichever area of Manhattan you find yourself, there’ll be a theater to entertain you. And the best news? Prices are significantly cheaper than most major UK cities. From multiplexes to indie art houses, NYC has a great selection of inviting cinemas to watch your fave celluoid. Seats are generally comfortable, the rake is good, and the popcorn tends to be fresher too. But, and it’s a big but, my friends, US multiplexes also sell full meals: pizzas, hot dogs and burgers. Big size. The Yanks think nothing of a good chow down while they watch the latest blockbusters. You have been warned. My advice? Head for the smaller independents if you want peace and quiet while you digest the latest Almodovar.
Here’s a few of my favourite smaller movie theaters in Manhattan:
34 West 13th St
New York 10011
Subway: 14th St or Union Square
One for the indie crowd, this is a family owned and run movie theatre, entertaining locals and tourists since 1972. Choose from 4 good-sized screens, comfortable seats and a great selection of foreign and independent films. Neighbourhood attractions include Washington Square Park – a former burial ground – and a selection of beautiful townhouses on 11th and 12th Streets. And it’s only a stone’s throw from the delightful West Village.
323 6th Avenue at West Third St
New York 10014
Subway: West 4th St or Christopher St/Sheridan Square
Great location on 6th Avenue – a mere stone’s throw from the south (west village) and NYU (Washington Square Park). This new (1995) cinema has great seating, shows movies in High-Def digital and even boasts organic popcorn with ‘real, natural butter’. What more could you ask for? An added bonus is the proximity of my favourite Italian restaurant, Trattoria Spaghetto at 232 Bleecker, just opposite a wonderful church on the corner of Carmine St.
209 West Houston St (between 6th Ave and Varick St)
New York 10014
Subway: Houston St
If you enjoy movies that challenge as well as entertain, then you’ll feel right at home at this fabulous non-profit cinema on the borders of the West Village and Soho. Providing New Yorkers with their dose of indie since 1970, this 3-screen cinema is open 365 days of the year. It has a superb programme showing a mix of directors’ retrospectives, festival entries, American and European independents and classic works. You can also buy tickets in advance online.
18 West Houston St (nr Broadway)
New York 10012
Subway: 2nd Avenue
Attracting a cool Soho crowd that knows and fully appreciates good movie-making, the Angelika is a true art-house cinema. With regular ‘meet the actor/director’ Q&A evenings it makes the art of film-making that much more accessible. All six screens are below ground level, which means you are likely to hear the faint rumble from passing subway trains. Don’t let that put you off though. This is a great cinema, with a wonderful lobby café to discuss the finer points of the new Coen movie over a hot chocolate and pumpkin pie.
Lower East Side
143 East Houston Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenues)
Subway: 2nd Avenue – Lower East Side
The “hippest cinema in NYC” according to The Village Voice, boasts 5 screens, three with stadium-style seating. Built back in 1898, this state-of-the art movie theatre is dedicated to first-run independent and foreign films, as well as non-traditional studio programming. Highlights include its popular filmmaker evenings as well as breathtaking city views from the third floor glass annex. Enjoy popcorn and vegan cookies in the café, or saunter along to Katz’s Delicatessen for your own When Harry Met Sally moment.
260 West 23rd St (between 7th & 8th Aves)
New York 10011
Subway: 23rd Street
In addition to popular releases and art-house flicks, the Chelsea has its own ‘Classics’ night every Thursday at 7pm and 9.30pm. Hosted by drag queen Hedda Lettuce, the programme has included such greats as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Tootsie and The Virgin Queen. After the movie, pop into the iconic Chelsea Hotel – just along the street at 222 – and get the Sid ‘n’ Nancy vibe (yup, this is where he dispatched his beloved). Or for the more faint of heart, visit one of the many art galleries in the neighbourhood.
4 West 58 Street (at 5th Ave)
New York 10019
Subway: 5th Ave at 60th Street
Celebrating its 60th birthday this year, the grande dame of New York movie theatres commands respect. Best of all, it still has its own wonderful balcony. Note: there is no lobby space, so don’t arrive too early otherwise you’ll be waiting in a line outside in the cold. Geeks of all ages will enjoy a visit to the Apple store on 5th Ave, as well as toy shop supremo FAO Schwartz. After a walk in Central Park, you could always nip next door and grab a hot toddy at the plush Plaza Hotel.