In most of the country, a movie theater is merely a vessel: a behemoth structure with dozens of colossal screens showing the latest action and comedy blockbusters. Don't get me wrong — these theaters are essential to the art of cinema, and those explosions can be pretty sweet. However, despite the seemingly limitless viewing options, many film lovers find themselves asking the same question: Is this it? In New York, a handful of independent theaters have resisted the appeal of mega hits to preserve the zany side of the art form. Whether your interests lie in foreign and indie flicks, documentaries, oldies or cult classics, this city has a theater for you.

Nitehawk Cinema

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For the New Yorker constantly on the go (aka every New Yorker), there’s rarely enough time to spend an entire evening on the classic dinner-and-a-movie date. Nitehawk Cinema is here to make the whole process more efficient without sacrificing any of the luxury. The Williamsburg mainstay features a full bar, complete with film-specific specialty cocktails and rotating craft beers, along with a gourmet kitchen and eclectic movie curation. Ever had octopus ceviche at a movie theater? Didn’t think so. If new releases aren’t your style, stop by for various festivals (Big Trouble in Little China Film Feast, anyone?) or midnight showings of cult hits like Party Monster and American Psycho.

Where: 136 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg, Brooklyn

When: See showtimes here
More info: 718-384-3980; nitehawkcinema.com​

 

The Paris Theatre

Before there were thousands of TV channels attacking your eyeballs nonstop, a night at the pictures was a real treat. Relive the earlier days of cinema with a French twist at the Paris Theatre. Since 1948, this single-screen wonderland has been showing independent and foreign-language films in an elegant Parisian setting. If you’re picturing an opera-esque space with plush red velvet seats and gold trim along the balconies, you're spot on. Head over this week to see Their Finest, a British film about World War II propagandists; go next week for Paris Can Wait, starring Diane Lane and Alec Baldwin. Sip some fine wine at the plethora of French bistros in the nearby Theater District and feel free to puff on a long, skinny cigarette outside.

Where: 4 W. 58th St., Midtown

When: See showtimes here.
More info: 212-593-4872; citycinemas.com

 

Film Forum

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Life’s problems are not always black-and-white — but a lot of great films are. Once a barren room with a few dozen folding chairs and a single projector, Film Forum has evolved into an essential indie theater with 5,000 members. Here you'll find a treasure trove of old movies, indie flicks and foreign films, as well as a community of people dedicated to the rich tradition of cinema. The sole surviving autonomous nonprofit theater in New York, Film Forum eschews the temptations of Hollywood glitz and curates a truly thoughtful selection. Starting in the second half of April, hardcore cinephiles can watch the complete filmography of Frederick Wiseman, in addition to Q&A sessions with the director himself. 

Where: 209 W. Houston St., Soho

When: See showtimes here.
More info: 
212-727-8110; filmforum.org 

 

Little Cinema

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Sometimes cinema isn’t two-dimensional, and I’m not talking about putting on 3-D glasses. At Little Cinema in Bushwick, the newest offering from infamous nightclub House of Yes, things get weird in a hurry. The theater encourages visitors to “think Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Cirque du Soleil.” Fusing film with elements of circus, dance and live music, Little Cinema creates a spectacle unlike any other. Imagine The Wizard of Oz set to a live performance of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Conjure a scene in which you watch cult favorites like Donnie Darko and The Fifth Element as trapeze artists, bubble boys and half-naked women dazzle the crowd. Though you may know how the movies end, you will be kept guessing at every turn. The shows begin for the summer series in May.

Where: Location varies; House of Yes, 2 Wycoff Ave., Bushwick, Brooklyn

When: See showtimes here.
More info: 
littlecinema.net

 

Museum of the Moving Image

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Who here wants a healthy dose of learning with their entertainment? Add some education to your moviegoing experience at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. Study the evolution of camera technology alongside the history of Hollywood. Peruse more than 130,000 artifacts from pre-cinema optical toys to 21st-century digital technology. Most importantly, the museum hosts an extensive assortment of screenings and film-related events. Marvel at the filmography of Martin Scorsese, or weep for the loss of rock icon Chuck Berry at a tribute showing of Hail! Hail! Rock ’n’ Roll this Sunday. From family-friendly showings to avant-garde classics, this museum overlooks no detail.

Where: 36-01 35th Ave., Astoria, Queens

When: Weds. & Thurs., 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; Fri., 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
More info: 
718-777-6888; movingimage.us​

 

iPic Theaters

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Once you’re tired of enduring rumbling subways and sweating through the broken air conditioners of the small-scale theaters, allow yourself some much-deserved luxury. No, iPic is not a community-oriented, single-screen art house like the others on this list. However, it is brand-new and the only one of its kind in New York. The ritzy, neon-lit palace is officially the go-to spot for new releases. For $29, your “premium plus” ticket will earn you and your plus-one a cozy leather sofa with pillows, blankets and gourmet American cuisine from chef Sherry Yard. Swing by this weekend to check out Jordan Peele’s critically acclaimed Get Out, or take the kids to see the reboot of Beauty and the Beast. Indie flicks are nice, but we all need some Disney in our lives from time to time.

Where: 11 Fulton St., South Street Seaport

When: See showtimes here.
More info: 
212-776-8272; ipictheaters.com​


By Alexander Brock

Alexander Brock is a freelance writer who writes sports, travel, food, politics, finance, fiction, poetry and whatever else is asked of him. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the editor-in-chief at downandoutmag.com.