2003_8_angelika.jpgWhile it's really nothing new, Gothamist welcomed Jesse McKinley's examination of the many shortcomings of the Angelika Film Center. Not only does the article outline the issues with the Angelika, it's also like a State-of-Arthouse-Cinemas-in-New-York. The Angelika was able to make its name 14 years ago as the leader in cutting-edge film programming, but in recent days, it seems so unbearable are the many other options to see niche films: The Sunshine, BAM, even the huge multiplexes on 42nd Street with so many screens they can kick one over to independent comers.

Peter Biskind, author of a new upcoming book about independent cinema as well as Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, says, "Independent film audiences are graying, and the older they get the fussier they get, both in terms of the films they like and the theaters they like to see them in. The days when they would sit on the sticky floors and tune out the rumble of subways and the static from the screen on the other side of the paper-thin wall are long gone." No kidding. It's a long way from when Gothamist first read about the Angelika (in fact, psychos that we are, we saved it - August 9, 1991), when the Times wrote an article about best movie houses to take a date and the Angelika was tops for its programming and cafe of high-end treats; Ron Alexander then called it "a smashing place" with "some of the best-looking filmgoers in town," plus "very clean" restrooms and "comfortable" theaters. Twelve years of coasting on its coattails (renovations be damned) will make anyone look tired and like yesterday's news, we suppose.

Still, one movie executive says, "I think that despite the funky smells, and small screens, and crowded lobbies, it's still centrally located and they still play great films." Yes, people will come for great films, but with independent film companies being acquired or developed by movie studios, there will be savvier distribution strategies. Time will tell if Angelika needs to find some engineer to figure out the best way to soundproof the theaters from the subways. (Hint: Get on it.)

While Gothamist's favorite movie theater is an empty (or near empty) one, so you'll often catch us at the first Saturday or Sunday morning showing to avoid crowds for that "Exclusively playing" film. But there are times when moviegoing turns social and we need to reevaluate the options. All these theaters provide great film programming, so here are some other thoughts about theaters we know:

BAM - Brooklyn hipsters and real cinephiles coming out in full force. The Times looks at its Brooklyn problem, but it's not a problem as far as Gothamist is concerned: The many new restaurants opening in Fort Greene provide for a nice pre- or post-movie meal.
Lincoln Plaza - Underground and very civilized - until you get into the theater, where you will be fighting with Upper West Side stock characters (braying couples, mean old people) for seats. Still, there is still a serene calm and intimacy to the theater and there was a point when the ticket takers knew Gothamist by name.
Sunshine Cinemas - The new downtown darling is the new Angelika; the crowds make it more difficult to get a seat on a Friday or Saturday night, and filmgoers it attracts run the gamut from downtown babes to serious film lovers from Westchester. On a recent trip, the film for Camp broke; management said, "You can see The Swimming Pool," which gives them a B for effort but C for programming alternatives. (Just because Francois Ozon is gay does not make The Swimming Pool the natural Plan B for Camp-goers.)
Cinema Village - Quintessential art house with its tiny theaters, tiny screens, uneven heating/cooling. Conveniently located.
Quad Cinema - Shows more "gay" cinema that most other art house theaters; theaters are small and old but perfectly serviceable.
Pioneer Theater - Edgier programming, but not as consistently "must see." When you do go, you're likely to be the only one there and the fact that Donnie Darko has become the midnight movie only means good things.
Village East - Not strictly arthouse, as we just saw Freaky Friday there, but Capturing the Friedmans was also playing...more manageable than Angelika but also prone to smelliness and rats. Pros: Iso and Bar Veloce yards away.
Film Forum - Crowded, lines, seats hurt your butt, no legroom, but awesome revivals. And of course 'ino a block away.