Forget Big Chain Theaters — Watch Movies at These Cool NYC Spots Instead


The communal feeling of going to the movies still tops home entertainment systems any day of the week. Don’t let this unseasonably warm weather fool you, chilly days are on their way. And while New York winters are great for cozying up with Netflix, what about when you want to get out of the house? For those who want to quell their winter wanderlust, exploring alternative movie houses can be a great way to relax without succumbing to cabin fever or getting stuck in the popcorn line at a big chain theater. Here are some awesome ways to watch movies on the big screen, without going to your local AMC.

French Institute Alliance Française
55 East 59th Street, Manhattan

FIAF is the foundation for Francophile language and culture in New York. Located in Midtown, FIAF hosts various cultural events, including plays, lectures, children’s activities, and — of course — film. Its theater, Florence Gould Hall, has classic jewel box décor and holds 361 plush red seats in front of a proscenium stage. Their CinéSalon film series showcases both contemporary and classic French films. Inspired by the French ciné-clubs and literary salons, weekly screenings are accompanied by a panel discussion and an appropriate libation (French wine or French beer, depending on what matches the film best).

Museum of the Moving Image
36-01 35th Avenue, Astoria

Well-known among museum lovers and cinephiles alike, the Museum of the Moving Image is an acclaimed institution located in Queens, and it only makes sense that the nation’s only film and TV museum would also have a premier theater. Screenings at MoMI’s Sumner M. Redstone Theater range from independent films to classics and often feature conversations with cinema experts. Film lovers will also appreciate the venue’s ability to project various film formats, from 16mm and 70mm to hi-def and 3-D.

Sony Wonder Technology Lab
550 Madison Avenue, Manhattan

All four stories of the Sony Wonder Technology Lab include incredible, interactive exhibits to get kids (and adults) excited about tech. The lab is free, making it easily accessible for those curious enough to wander around all 14,000 square feet. To top off their awesome offerings, SWTL also offers select film screenings every Saturday. (Note: There’s no cost to attend screenings, but audience members must RSVP in advance.)

Various Manhattan locations

Libraries aren’t just for books. The film series at the New York Public Library is one of New York City’s very well-hidden gems. Free screenings take place in all 92 branches, but the most popular ones are at Jefferson Market, City Island, and the Library for the Performing Arts. Of utmost interest to cinephiles are the Library for the Performing Arts screenings. There, a monthly installment called Silent Clowns Film Series teams silent film comedies in 35mm along with live music by musician Ben Model. To find a screening in your neighborhood, visit NYPL’s Event Calendar.

Museum of Modern Art 
11 West 53rd Street, Manhattan

If you’ve been searching for a place to watch old-school gems like Max Ophüls’s films somewhere other than Hulu, look no further than MoMA. Here in MoMA’s theatre, cinematic masterpieces return to the big screen after decades in the vault. Throughout its history, MoMA film has been dedicated to restoring and preserving rare films, and this year marks its 80th anniversary. The museum’s To Save and Project series screens films that have been found in archives, studios, or distribution companies, and have recently been restored to their former grandeur.

Cinema Café
34th and 3rd Avenue, Manhattan

This Murray Hill staple is the center of great food and conversations, as well as people watching and film viewing. While diners munch on Cinema Café’s American brasserie menu, a film is projected on a large screen in the back of the eatery. Don’t worry about the other diners adding their own soundtrack to the movie at Cinema Café: All the movies are silent, so you won’t miss a word.

MIST Harlem
46 W. 116th St., Manhattan

Relatively new, MIST Harlem supports local art and artists by providing an environment for creatives to showcase their work. Their theater is a popular venue for local music, comedy, and movies. The theater mostly shows independent films, but sometimes screens bigger releases, provided the film’s theme resonates with the MIST community. The film department is expanding, so check their website often for updates on future screenings.

The Film Club at Crosby Street Hotel
79 Crosby St., Manhattan

Many great movies have been set in hotels — Grand Budapest Hotel, Grand Hotel, and The Shining to name a few… But in New York, you can actually catch super cool film screenings inside a swanky hotel. SoHo’s Crosby Street Hotel hosts a film club every Sunday in their elite, state-of-the-art cinema. For $55, guests can enjoy dinner, cocktails, and a movie in a luxe setting.

Ludlow at Canal Street, Manhattan

Coming soon… a theater near you! Filmmaker and designer Alexander Olch is building a new two-screen, art house cinema in the Lower East Side called Metrograph. There are also plans to include a bookstore, restaurant, and lounge with the theater. The image above shows a rendering of what the new building will look like when Metrograph finally opens its doors.