fantastic movie theaters and where to find them {in new york city}

the venue: nitehawk cinema, williamsburg
the perk: everything. nitehawk is our favorite theater, and we've been there at least once a month for the past few years. a few doors down on metropolitan, skinny dennis serves up free hot peanuts, honky tonk, and spiked frozen coffee; it's the perfect place to meet before a movie. nitehawk's house popcorn (made with citric salt and truffle butter) is delectable, its pre-show content is clever, its drinks are reasonably priced, and its indie programming is consistently on point. you can't reserve seats and need to line up at least 45 minutes before your program starts if you want to be sure you won't be in the front row, but since you can bring a drink in line and the house opens for seating and orders 30 minutes before showtime, that's not really a problem.

the venue: alamo drafthouse, downtown brooklyn
the perk: assigned seats and decent table service. the location is new and alamo's servers are still getting their feet under them, so they aren't especially quick about picking up food and drink orders and keeping them straight, but i imagine that'll change. house of wax, the lobby bar, is alamo's version of philly's mütter museum, which is both cool and kind of unnerving. its layout is a little tricky, but that too might change in a few months (i hope). like nitehawk's, alamo's pre-show content is fun.

the venue: metrograph, lower east side
the perk: sex appeal. this is the kind of place you bring a first date to see a newly-restored version of, like, voyage dans la lune. the snack stand sells scorchingly-expensive but charming refreshments (think cold-pressed juice, artisanal sodas, turn-of-the-century candy, and champagne gumdrops), and the bookstore and restaurant upstairs (modeled after an old-hollywood commissary for studio employees) from the theaters are both gorgeous. metrograph's tickets guarantee specific seats, like alamo's, but their film offerings are quirkier (we saw little sister, a melancholy comedy about an ex-goth nun with a killer soundtrack).

the venue: ipic, fulton market
the perk: seriously decadent seats. a premium plus ticket is no bargain—with a mysterious "VIP fee," each one rings in at $28—but for that price you get a leather recliner with a pillow and a blanket, as well as tableside service and unlimited popcorn. a cozy pod of two chaise lounges, in turn, is $16 per person, but you have to pack your concessions in from the lobby like a commoner. we went for premium plus on our first visit, but i think i'd swap over to a pod if we go back; ipic's servers don't quite have their game together, and ours kept sneaking up behind our lounges and bugging us when we didn't need him (fine at a restaurant, annoying when you're trying to watch a movie). he also called me "my love," which would be awkward coming from my date, even.

the venue: sunshine cinema, lower east side
the perk: humble excellence. though it's part of a 56-theater group, sunshine feels like a one-off in the best way: the 1898 building is beautiful, the munchies are local and quirky, the films are consistently high- and middlebrow arthouse (in my mostly-civilian opinion, sunshine's screens are significantly larger than those at other nyc theaters with similar lineups). i rubbed shoulders with many of the staffers when i volunteered at the lower east side film festival at sunshine this spring, and they were universally delightful. a ticket stub knocks down the price of one of the eighty jillion craft beers at fools gold next door on houston, at least until the theater is shuttered and turned into condominiums (which neighborhood blogs have been howling about every other month for the last few years). get there before it is.


LPC said...

This, more than anything, reminds me how different New York is.

lauren said...

the full-service theater thing didn't really start happening here until nitehawk came to town five or so years ago; alamo was doing it out in texas, but we didn't have anything similar. what we're really starved for now is movie palaces; the ziegfeld finally closed earlier this year and left a massive hole in my heart. you guys actually do still have a few of those; have you made it up to the castro lately? what a gorgeous space.