New York provides the gritty urban backdrop for countless iconic films including Taxi Driver, King Kong and The Godfather series. But beneath the blockbusters, hidden within the alleys and avenues is a vibrant independent film underworld where first-run, international and indie gems can be found with good prices and unique settings. Here are the best indie cinemas in NYC.
For the past 30 years Film Forum, located on the border of Greenwich Village and Soho, has satisfied the independent movie cravings of Downtown Manhattan and the West Side. Unswayed by pop culture trends, Film Forum’s carefully curated film list covers contemporary and classic titles with topics of social, political and historical significance. They specialize in screening films that haven’t been screened anywhere else in the city. The venue is cash only at the door, but you can purchase tickets online before the show and skip the queue here.
Film Forum. 209 W Houston St, New York, NY. (212) 727-8110
Sunshine Cinema, originally known as the Houston Hippodrome, closed its doors for 50 years before it was restored to its former glory by Landmark Cinemas in the mid 1990’s. Located in Manhattan’s artist enclave, the Lower East Side, Sunshine plays a mix of new and old art house movies in a state-of-the-art atmosphere. A serene Japanese rock garden, Dolby Digital surround sound, stadium seating and gourmet concessions like garlic parmesan popcorn give it arguably the best amenities of any theater in the city.
Landmark Sunshine Cinema. 143 E Houston St, New York, NY. (212) 260-7289
When The Quad Cinema first opened in 1972 it was the first four screen theater in the city. Once the go-to spot in Greenwich Village to see the latest blockbusters, the theater now deals mostly in indie and international films with the occasional mainstream title mixed in. Take advantage of their “QUADflix” program and grab the latest hard-to-find independent film and documentary DVDs for a fraction of retail price.
The Quad Cinema. 34 W 13th St, New York, NY. (212) 255-2243
The East Village’s preeminent indie theater, Village East Cinema retains the ornate charm of its playhouse structure—highlighted by tiered seating, velvety red carpets and a soaring golden dome above the main stage. The theater premiers many independent films as well as Hollywood’s latest offerings. But the theater’s best feature is its panoramic 70mm film projector which provides an unforgettable viewing experience.
Village East Cinema. 181-189 2nd Ave, New York, NY. (212) 529-6998
Located inside the Lincoln Center Film Society’s Upper West Side complex, home to the annual New York Film Festival, Walter Reade Theater is the perfect place to catch a unique film at dusk after a stroll through Central Park. An eclectic rotating schedule of three to four films daily showcases foreign and independent features, documentaries, shorts, silents and avant-garde experimental films. Often hosting live question and answer forums with actors and directors post-screening, Walter Reade offers an unparalleled chance to get up close and personal with global cinema’s best and brightest.
Walter Reade Theater. 165 West 65th St, New York, NY. (212) 875-5456