Whenever I have family in town, they always want to do a few things to capture the real New York experience: go to a museum, go to a Broadway show, and go to the movies. That last one may surprise you, but we tend to forget just how much of a major hub for films the city is. Many great movies (even Oscar nominees) that play in Manhattan may take months to filter out to Middle America cinemas.
Access to an astonishing array of first-runs, foreign flicks, and art films is a perk that’s all too easy to take for granted. Unfortunately, if we do, we run the risk of losing theaters. Lincoln Plaza Cinema and Sunshine Cinema, two of New York’s better-known venues, will be closing at the start of 2018. The reasoning is obvious: Rents are high and viewing competition (in the form of sports, video games, Netflix, and HQ) has never been more vicious.
If we want to keep the city’s film culture in place, we all need to learn to start taking better advantage of it. Here are a few tips to do just that.
Explore Outside Your Comfort Zone
If the only theaters you ever go to are mass-market multiplexes, you’re missing out. There are more than a dozen cinemas in Manhattan alone—most with five or fewer screens—that show outside-of-the-ordinary programming that you can’t find anywhere else in the country. Several museums, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of the Moving Image, regularly screen classic and first-run films through carefully curated programs. Consider skipping the newest Marvel blockbuster or teen comedy for a shot at something a bit more obscure; it may be just as fun and twice as rewarding!
Consider a Theater Membership
Many smaller and not-for-profit theaters offer yearly memberships that either greatly reduce ticket prices or provide you free admission for the year. For $150, BAMcinématek guarantees half-priced flicks, while $300 at Anthology Film Archives gets you free entry to any movie for a year. For those of you who like to live large, $1,000 at IFC Center lands you free admission for you and a guest, plus free popcorn and a soft drink every time you visit.
If you somehow missed its mad marketing push, allow me to introduce you to the wonders of MoviePass. For the price of a Hamilton per month, the subscription service affords you a single free ticket, once a day, to most of the theaters in the country. That includes a surprising number of great NYC theaters, including Village East Cinema, Angelika Film Center, and Film Society of Lincoln Center. I have been using MoviePass for the past month and found it easy and seamless; as long as it sticks to this price scheme and breadth of content, it has me hooked for life.
Try a Dinner-and-a-Movie Combo
Money isn’t the only problem when it comes to seeing more movies; there’s also the time factor. A select few cinemas, so far mostly in Brooklyn, offer a way to beat the clock, with theaters set up to (silently) order and serve dinner while the show runs. It’s a novel idea that’s very much starting to catch on and makes for a unique date that gives you a little more time for drinks after. Give it a shot at Alamo Drafthouse, Syndicated, and Nitehawk Cinema. Or if you prefer to eat after the show, try a film at the Quad or Metrograph and then get dinner at those theaters’ adjoining restaurants. Bonus tip: All five of the above theaters accept MoviePass, which serves as a handy coupon for your night out.
Why You Should Go to the Movies More Often: There are more than a dozen multiscreen art and repertory theaters in Manhattan and Brooklyn alone…but they won’t be there forever if you don’t get out to visit. Seeing a few more movies in the theater would be an easy New Year’s resolution to keep.