It goes without saying that New York City boasts an embarrassment of riches when it comes to movie theaters. This historically cinematic town's got everything from art houses to old-school theaters to multiplexes to one of the world's biggest IMAX screens. We've found that each of New York's cinemas, even the ones owned by major chains, has its own flavor, bringing a particular touch to whichever film it runs on its screens. In that vein, we've broken this best-of list into categories. Here are our favorites:
IMAX at AMC Lincoln Square (Tien Mao / Gothamist)
AMC LOEWS LINCOLN SQUARE 13: The One And Only PROPER IMAX
This Upper West Side multiplex was the first to boast a suitably giant IMAX screen when it opened in 1994, and while the death of the Tower Records across the street has sullied its pre-movie time-killing experience, it's still the number one spot in the city to catch a 3D or big-screen flick. The 600-seat IMAX theater is one of the biggest in the country, and while we're not advocating the 3D-ification of all future cinema lest we be looking at a world in which Jaws 19 becomes a reality, if you're going to shell out $20 to see James Franco pop out of the screen, this is the place to go. Make sure you show up at least 45 minutes early for hot tickets, or you'll get stuck sitting up front. Our advice is to grab seats as far back as you can (in the last row you'll find coveted sections of seats grouped in fours) which facilitate quick trips to the semi-secret bathrooms in the back.
AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 is located at 1998 Broadway between 67th and 68th Street on the Upper West Side (212) 336-5020, amctheatres.com/LincolnSquare).
Nitehawk (Pedro Feria Pino)
NITEHAWK CINEMA: Best Dinner And A Movie Experience
Say what you want about the recent proliferation of dinner movie theaters—waiters running around during Silver Linings Playbook might be distracting to some, but when the food and drink is as tasty as Nitehawk's, we say it's worth it. In addition to offering standard fare like fish tacos ($14), burgers ($13) and popcorn ($6), the Williamsburg theater serves special dishes and drinks themed after its featured films (spicy shrimp and grits for Django Unchained, for instance, or Victory Prima Pilsner for the aforementioned Silver Linings). Plus, you can booze before or after the film at the theater's two bars, which offer wine and beer (and downstairs, a selection of cocktails).
Sunshine Cinema, courtesy nschaden's flickr
LANDMARK SUNSHINE CINEMA: Best First-Run Art House
This LES indie multiplex, located in a handsome Yiddish vaudeville theater dating back to 1909, offers a well-curated mix of new independent films and goofy midnight classics, with highlights including midnight showings of Space Jam, Pulp Fiction or the Evil Dead series. If you're lucky enough to see a film in Theater 1, you'll get stadium seating, which seems to be a rarity in arthouse cinemas in the city (nothing kills Black Swan like the shadowed bust of the 6'3" theatergoer in front of you). Be sure to check out their popcorn selection: their classic is a salty, buttery bag of perfection, plus they've got caramel corn and slushies for a taste of something sweet. Another plus: pristine bathrooms! (Of course, some of this may change in the not so distant future.)
Via Film Society
FILM SOCIETY: Best Indie/Mainstream Mix
Lincoln Center's in-house movie theaters are definitely the snazziest of the bunch, with funky paneling, super-clean seats and sleek LCD screens. They also offer a solid mix of specialty and regular programming, showing independent and foreign films like David Riker's The Girl and Japanese films Like Someone in Love, in addition to more mainstream director/actor showcases, like next weekend's Pam Grier celebration. Check out their $25 Dinner-and-a-Movie deal, which pairs an independent film with food and wine from the Lincoln Center's restaurant, indie food and wine.
BAM ROSE CINEMAS: Best Brooklyn Movie Theater
It should come as no surprise that Brooklyn's best cinematic offering is attached to its best artistic venue. BAM's comfortable multiplex offers a mix of mainstream, foreign and independent film, but they also host well-curated film series focusing on everything from French cinema to contemporary black filmmakers. We're particularly big fans of their engaging events and Q&As; past speakers have included Lena Dunham and Whit Stillman and Dave Eggers.
BAM Rose Cinemas is located at 30 Lafayette Ave between Ashland Place and Felix Street in Fort Greene, Brooklyn (718-636-4100, bam.org)
LINCOLN PLAZA: Best Subterranean Art House Movie Theater
This gem is tucked into a massive building complex on Broadway across the street from Lincoln Center. You buy your tickets at the ground level box office and then take an escalator down to the intimate lobby and screens. Who cares if the screens are small—it doesn't smell or rumble from the subway the way the Angelika does and the audience is made up of mostly senior citizens who probably remember waiting on line for movies with Alvy, Annie and Marshall McLuhan. Speaking of Woody Allen, his movies usually play there, as do ones from Abbas Kiarostami, Michael Haneke, and pretty much every global cinema director.—Jen Chung
Lincoln Plaza Cinema is located at 1886 Broadway between 62nd and 63rd Street on the Upper West Side (212-757-2280, lincolnplazacinema.com).
Courtesy mrmoneda's flickr
FILM FORUM: Best Repertory Movie House
Fine, you can Netflix a DVD of Dial "M" for Murder, but you're only going to be able to see it in 3-D (just the way Hitch wanted you to see it) at Film Forum. The legendary theater on West Houston has legendarily cramped seating that forces you to pay attention to the screen (assuming nobody tall sits in front of you). While Film Forum does offer first-run films, its real strength is showing films of yesteryear, many themed together, like Spaghetti Westerns, French New Wave flicks or films scored by Ennio Morricone. FYI: Jean-Luc Godard's Le Petit Soldat opens on Friday and Hal Ashby's famously profane The Last Detail (starring Jack Nicholson) plays for a week later this month.—Jen Chung
The Ziegfeld (Flickr User Nameless Yeast)
ZIEGFELD THEATRE: Best "Movie Palace" Theater
Going to the Ziegfeld is like stepping back in time to the golden era of epic movie theater palaces. In fact, Cinema Treasures says the 1,131-seater, based on plans by Emery Roth & Sons, "was one of the last big palaces built in the United States." The Ziegfeld shows only one film at a time (and hosts many premieres), sports lavish chandeliers, red velvet drapes and gilded trim. Right now, the theater is screening Lincoln and fighting rumors that it will close.—Jen Chung
The Ziegfeld is located at 141 West 54th Street in Midtown (212- 765-7600 clearviewcinemas.com).
REGAL BATTERY PARK: Best Theater To Score A Last Minute Blockbuster Ticket
The Battery Park multiplex isn't the nicest of Regal theaters. Despite years of reconstruction it still has an awkward layout and takes ages to actually get into. Which is part of what makes it so great: people stay away from it. Which means when it comes to seeing the latest blockbuster that sold out everywhere else in five seconds, it is a much safer bet than say, Union Square. Bonus: You know what the Battery Park Regal has that no other theater in town does? A Shake Shack you can go to before or after the movie without having to fully brave the outdoors. Don't tell anyone though, okay?—Garth Johnston
Regal Battery Park is located at 102 North End Avenue between Vesey and Murray Streets in Battery Park City (212-945-4370, Movie info here)
VILLAGE EAST CINEMA Main Theater: Best Gem Hidden In A Multiplex
There are quite a few movie theaters with long histories in NYC, but the Moorish Revival-style main stage inside the multiplex at 12th Street and Second Avenue remains a Gothamist favorite. Originally opened as the Yiddish Art Theater in 1926, the space has in its long history housed everything from vaudeville to off-Broadway (including early productions of Grease and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas). But since 1992 the Angelika sibling has been all-movies all the time, with an eclectic mix of art house and big budget flicks in regular rotation. The smaller theaters are adequate (and used to house the Rocky Horror Picture Show for ages) but the real star is the gorgeous main theater where they'll often show whatever the biggest seller of the week is. But since those movies will often play on multiple screens we highly recommend calling in advance to make sure you get tickets to the showtime in the main theater.—Garth Johnston
Village East Cinema is located at 181-189 Second Avenue at 12th Street in the East Village (212-529-6799, villageeastcinema.com.)
PARIS THEATRE: Best Jewel-box Cinema The elegant and refined Paris Theater, located by the Plaza Hotel on West 58th Street, is one of those classic Manhattan gems that you visit once in a blue moon and wonder why you don't go there more often. The single screen theater opened in 1948, with Marlene Dietrich cutting the inaugural ribbon. It seats 517, including a balcony, and is the longest continually operating art cinema in the United States. The programming skews mainly highbrow, though currently they're screening Dustin Hoffman's Quartet. But this will be followed by Spanish director Pablo Berger's 2012 film Blancanieves, a black-and-white adaptation of Snow White by the Brothers Grimm. Roger Ebert called it "a wonderment…. a full bodied, visually stunning film," which sounds like the quintessential Paris Theatre selection. — John Del Signore
The Paris Theatre is located at 4 West 58th Street (212-688-3800)
AMC LOEWS KIPS BAY: Best First Run Theater
First run multiplexes don't have much to distinguish themselves from one another—aside from, perhaps, a convenient location—so when one does manage to leave a (positive!) impression it must really be making the effort. Given its location in a mostly residential area, one might think that this neighborhood cinema would be consistently crammed during peak hours. But for some reason the Kips Bay theater manages to always have ample seating, even on an opening weekend. (Forget about Christmas, though—pandemonium.) The large building houses 15 theaters, which are typically well-maintained and clean—an extra bonus considering the sticky floors and kernel-laden seating at other theaters around town. They do the IMAX 3D, if you're into that kind of thing, though not on a suitably giant screen. And if you're a Must Have Popcorn kind of moviegoer, Kips Bay frequently fresh pops their corn, which beats the heck out of that pre-popped cardboard filler other big cinemas rely on. —Nell Casey
AMC Loews Kips Bay is located at 570 Second Ave in Midtown (212-447-0638, amctheatres.com/kipsbay).
Loews 84th Street, courtesy Scoboco's flickr
AMC LOEWS 84TH STREET: Worst Movie Theater One dishonorable mention: I had the misfortune of seeing Skyfall at this Upper West Side theater a few months ago. The house lights stayed on a half hour into the movie, a woman stood up halfway through, started yelling and threatened to hit her seat neighbor and I spent the whole film convinced small creatures were nibbling my ankles. The theater's also been plagued by complaints of poor sound quality, dirty conditions, late movie starts, rowdy patrons, screaming babies, broken seats, unfocused projection screens, rude employees and all around unpleasantness for $14 a show. It's been described best as a "nightmare wrapped in a nightmare." Fandango at will, but don't say we didn't warn you. —Rebecca Fishbein
Loews 84th Street is located at 2310 Broadway between 83rd and 84th Streets (212) 721-6023, amctheaters.com/84thstreet).