Is there a city in the world that has a more vibrant movie going culture than New York City? It’s a city where people can unite over their love of film in all sorts of places, from huge multiplexes to tiny independent cinemas. New York is certainly not a place where one movie theatre is good enough for everybody to see every film.
The options when it comes to viewing a movie are huge. It seems like there’s a new release happening every night and the options of where to view it are endless. Some movies in some cities and countries will end up going straight to DVD, yet in New York there’s always a place to see them on the big screen, even if it is just for a few days.
The seasoned movie-goer will know that not all cinemas are created equal. Some are packed on every night of the week, some offer seats where you’ll struggle to see the screen or are so uncomfortable, sitting in them for two hours is almost a torture. Regardless of the quality of the movie itself.
Every movie theatre has its pros and cons and brings a certain something to every film it shows.
Below are some of the best movie theatres in NYC:
1. AMC Magic Johnson Harlem – Harlem
Where better to see a movie on opening night than Times Square? Erm…no. Even if seats are available it will be crowded and loud. Most people want enthusiasm for a new movie but there’s a limit.
AMC Magic Johnson Harlem is in a fantastic location in terms of public transport and restaurants for a pre-movie dinner, as well as bars for a post-movie discussion. It’s also in a place that isn’t as popular with tourists, so although the movie will be packed with atmosphere, it will mostly be enthusiastic locals giving a real flavour of NYC movie going life.
2. Regal Union Square Stadium – Union Square
If there’s one thing that Union Square has it’s an abundance of theatres. So, what makes the Regal stand out? It shows more of the bigger hits than a lot of the independents around it, that’s what.
As it has the blockbusters, it can also offer more in the way of viewing options too. There’s 2D and 3D, of course, but also 4DX, with wind and water spray as well as smells from the movie.
There’s also ScreenX, and immersive experience where the screen stretches around the seat, giving a 270 degree feel to any movie.
3. AMC LOEWS Lincoln Square 13 – Broadway
Way back in 1994 this cinema was the very first in New York to boast a giant IMAX screen. For anyone looking to catch a movie in 3D or experience it in the wide screen then this is still a great place to come.
The 600 seats make it one of the biggest cinemas in the US but it is hugely popular and often sells them out. It’s recommended to buy tickets at least an hour before the show starts to get prime seats. Anyone who gets stuck in row one is leaving with one hell of a neck ache.
4. Alamo Drafthouse – Brooklyn
Quite possibly the best movie theatre in Brooklyn.
First up, it’s easy to get to, as it’s located close to plenty of train options. Secondly, it serves plenty of craft beer.
It’s not got many luxuries but being the best place to see a movie in New York whilst drinking a beer at the same time is one of the top selling points. The other is that waiters actually bring it to the seats as ordered.
Wonder how waiters can take beer orders and deliver them to seats without disrupting the movie? Go and find out!
The draft house shows both new releases and classic old movies and has been known to have the odd celebrity pop in to introduce a movie too.
5. AMC Loews Lincoln Square – Broadway
This cinema has the largest IMAX screen in the whole of New York City. Not only that, it arguably also has the best sound. Anyone who’s a connoisseur of movie quality will love it.
It’s a pretty impressive building too, the size of the entrance rooms and the doorway designs are pretty stirring.
6. Nitehawk Cinema – Metropolitan Avenue
There’s a new thing in town, it’s called the dinner movie theatre. Whilst the Alamo Drafthouse has perfected the art of beer and a movie, the Nitehawk has gone one further and perfected the art of serving a meal whilst a movie plays.
Popcorn is on offer, of course, as are standard fare like burgers and tacos. But where the Nitehawk really comes into its own is when it serves dishes which are tied into the movie it’s currently showing!
If arriving early or staying late there’s also a couple of bars to enjoy, with one even serving the latest cocktails.
7. The Paris – Midtown
Probably the best way to describe this movie theatre is simply as ‘nice’. It’s been in town since the 1940s and while it can’t today be described as the best luxury movie theatre in NYC, it still holds the vibe of its era. That is to say ‘classy’ and ‘snazzy’ are better ways to describe it than luxurious.
Its blue velvet decoration is in keeping with its position in town, right across the street from the equally classy and traditional Plaza Hotel.
It’s also known for showing ’nice’ movies too. None of your violent Hollywood blockbusters, more of your sedate English costume dramas.
8. AMC Loews 84th Street – Manhattan
Some people don’t like the cinema as the thought of sitting still on a hard seat for two to three hours fills them with dread. What these people look for in a decent cinema is large comfy seats and the AMC Loews in 84th Street is renowned for having the most comfortable seats of any movie theatre for miles around.
There’s also acres of leg room.
The big soft leather recliners are an ideal spot to catch a blockbuster, or catch forty winks if the movie is a snooze fest.
One of the downsides of going to the movies in New York is the fight for a decent seat. This is one of the movie theatres that actually allocates you a seat, which is a great bonus.
9. Landmark Sunshine Cinema – Lower East Side
For anyone who likes gritty, independent films then this multiplex has been the place to go to since it was established back in 1909.
It’s a great place to catch new independent films or for midnight screenings of classics like Tarantino’s back catalogue or the Evil Dead series. Screen 1 also boasts stadium style seating, ensuring that a film can be seen in all its intended glory (or gory as in the case of the Evil Dead).
This place also has a famed popcorn selection, with the speciality being the salted butter variety.
Another thing that makes this a popular place for serious movie goers is the toilets. They are, by all accounts, pretty immaculate.
10. Metrograph – Lower East Side
Just along from the Landmark multiplex is a new cinema that is gaining popularity not just with movie aficionados, but with people who are interested in all aspects of film.
The Metrograph is not just a two screen cinema, it is an LA Noir celebration of the film industry. There’s a restaurant, a bar, a traditional sweet counter as well as a book store, with books solely dedicated to the critique of film.
The cinema only projects on 35mm film and its traditional feel is continued in the wooden (but comfortable) seats in the auditorium. Uniquely, there is a window to the projectionist’s room, so movie-goers can watch the magic of the projectionist’s splicing as they watch the magic of the movie itself.
11. Film Forum – Greenwich Village
Amongst the movie going community this is a firm favourite for its tendency to show films you might not have seen before at the cinema.
The films were probably shown at the cinema when they first came out, but now they’re only really available on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
Film Forum, however, gives you the opportunity to see that spaghetti western or that classic, European seventies film noir in the way that the director intended, on the big screen. They are even known to show the odd series of films, for just the one ticket.
Be aware that the seats are cramped and don’t offer the same luxuries of other more modern cinemas but where else are you going to see Gregory’s Girl, at the cinema, in 2019?
Also Read: 10 Unusual Things to Do in New York
12. Anthology Film Archives – East Village
Warning. This movie theatre is only for those serious about film in ALL its glory. It is NOT a place to go and see the latest Vin Diesel release.
A favourite amongst those studying film and hardcore film nuts, this cinema doesn’t even have a sign outside. There’s no popcorn or drinks to be had and one might even find oneself sitting on a wooden bench as opposed to an individual seat.
This is for cinephiles only, those who appreciate a good, silent Russian movie or an experimental foreign film with no subtitles.
Be warned, it’s a serious place!