Burgers, Brews and Bergman: Boutique Movie Theaters in New York City



New Yorkers know summer weather is great… until it isn’t. The stench of  _______ in the city becomes unbearable (there are so many varieties, I’ll let you fill in the blank with your favorite). We lose half our ice cream cone down our arms before we have a chance to eat it. My personal breaking point? When my skirt and my thighs become a singular entity. And when that moment hits, it’s time to find some indoor relief. Movie theaters, it turns out, are the perfect escape.

Justin and I have long been cinephiles but truth be told, our movie tastes don’t always align. I refuse to watch anything with Tom Cruise in it. I also secretly love dance movies. We stream the movies the other half isn’t interested in, and never discuss the “Recently Watched” queue as part of our unspoken marriage contract. But when there’s a movie that we’re both excited to see, we love putting down the remote and heading to an actual theater. We’re not talking about the ones with stale popcorn and sticky floors. Here are some theaters that turn moviegoing into an experience.



Metrograph

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

A post shared by Metrograph (@metrographnyc) on

Alexander Olch is a filmmaker and fashion designer, and Metrograph is exactly the space you would expect from him. Metrograph not only projects archive quality 35mm and state-of-the-art digital video, it also houses a bookstore and lounge with top-notch aesthetics. Even the snack bar looks like it jumped off the page of a design magazine. The movies are selected by a team who has experience curating for BAM and the Museum of Moving Image, so if pedigree is what you’re looking for you will find it here. They run interesting retrospectives, fun themed events and exclusive premieres. We personally love grabbing a seat in the front row of the balcony, although there doesn’t really seem to be a bad seat in the intimate space. The in-house restaurant and bar, Commissary, offers a nice place to enjoy brunch before a matinee or a nightcap after an evening show.

Location:
7 Ludlow St



Alamo Drafthouse

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Alamo Drafthouse is a Texas import that has grown from its humble beginnings as a second-run theater into a powerhouse chain with company-owned and franchised locations across the country. Quentin Tarantino once hosted marathon screenings from his personal collection at its original location, which speaks to its history supporting independent film and filmmakers. They don’t screen ads (“you’ve already paid to see the movie”) and enforce a strict movie etiquette. All the locations strive to stay true to the original unique programming with their Signature Series. They also offer a comprehensive menu of food and drinks which can be purchased and consumed during the movie. While we like the idea of a full-service dine-in theater, the reality isn’t quite as appealing if you’re trying to focus on the movie. We recommend sticking to the creative shakes or the highly rated chocolate chip cookie.

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Pro Tip: The downtown Brooklyn location is at City Point, which is also home to the new DeKalb Market Hall. The choices there are extremely varied, so your dining options before or after the movie are unbeatable.

Location:
445 Albee Square West



Nitehawk Cinema

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Boutique Movie Theaters New York City - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Nitehawk Cinema was one of the first New York City theaters to offer the dine-in experience and actually had to overturn a prohibition-era New York State liquor law to do so. There are many aspects that are similar to those you would find at Alamo Drafthouse, including the paired seats and the ordering system. Nitehawk also offers its own film series, which include the popular brunch and midnight movie offerings. Lo-Res is the in-house bar located on the ground floor of the theater, which offers the full Nitehawk menu. The food offerings didn’t blow us away, and they are very strict about making no substitutions or amendments. Again, we recommend sticking to snack foods like the gourmet popcorn or the tater tots. Save space for a meal at one of the many choice eateries in Williamsburg.

Location:
136 Metropolitan Ave

All of the theaters mentioned in this post offer online booking with the ability to select your seats, which is a nice option if you’re worried about a show selling out, or if you’re particular about where you like to sit. The creative programming relies on a healthy mix of new releases and older favorites.

On a lovely day, I will argue that there’s no better place to be than New York City. But on the not-so-lovely days, turn these theaters into your sanctuary from the nasty weather raging outside.

– L.

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Screening at the Tribeca Film Festival



Have you ever been in the situation where you’re walking down the aisle of a grocery store, a certain song plays over the speaker and you find yourself overcome with emotion?  Maybe it triggered the memory of your first boyfriend, or it reminded you of a particular place, or the lyrics were particularly relevant to a recent event.  If you’ve ever stifled sobs in the dairy aisle while deciding between skim and 1%, you’re not alone.

There’s a well-studied link between music and memory, but for many of us that extends to books, television shows and movies as well.  They can evoke powerful emotions. I can distinctly remember how I felt when I finished Wuthering Heights, when Mr. Big’s real name pops up on Carrie’s phone, and definitely when I watched Reservoir Dogs.



Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Fans wait patiently outside the venue in hopes of a celebrity encounter
Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Michael Madsen on the red carpet

As a self-professed movie lover, the Tribeca Film Festival is something I look forward to every year.  It’s always exciting to see the festival picks, but it’s also a fun time in New York City.  The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in an effort to revitalize the flailing New York City economy after 9/11.  Backed by the star power of names like Robert de Niro and Martin Scorsese, the inaugural festival launched in 2002 and has continued to grow exponentially each year.  Now it’s a time of celebrity sightings and fan geekdom throughout the city.

There are hundreds of screenings that take place during the Tribeca Film Festival, from shorts to documentaries to features.  There are also an impressive number of talks and special events.  Cinephiles are like kids in a candy store.  (Or Homer in a pie store.  You get the gist.)

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

This year’s festival featured a special screening of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs on 35mm print in honor of its 25th anniversary.  Reservoir Dogs is a movie that was well ahead of its time at its Sundance Film Festival debut in 1992, and still holds up today.  The banter is still engaging.  The plot is still relevant.  And yes, the acting and directing are still fantastic.



Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Not a bad place to watch a movie, right?

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

(Yes, I totally geeked out in my Reservoir Dogs finest.)

The screening was followed by a talk with Quentin Tarantino himself (Mr. Brown), Harvey Keitel (Mr. White), Steve Buscemi (Mr. Pink), Tim Roth (Mr. Orange) and Michael Madsen (Mr. Blonde).  It was great to hear tidbits about how Harvey Keitel had to pay for Quentin Tarantino to fly to New York City so that local actors could audition (which led to the discovery of Steve Buscemi).  And it was fascinating to learn that Michael Madsen was incredibly nervous about the now-iconic dance scene, so much so that it was never rehearsed — then amazingly, shot in one take.  

It’s a fan experience we were fortunate to have access to, thanks to the Tribeca Film Festival.  Movie buffs, be sure to sign up for advance notice so you can pre-game ahead of the next festival.  If you haven’t yet watched Reservoir Dogs, I suggest you remedy that right away.  If you have, tell me your favorite line.  Here’s mine:

“Yeah, but Mr. Brown, that’s a little too close to Mr. Shit.”




Pair it with:

Something from Mister Dips

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Reservoir Dogs 25th Anniversary Tribeca Film Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Mister Dips is nowhere near Tribeca, the Beacon Theatre or any other Tribeca Film Festival location.  But we’re also talking about Reservoir Dogs, and in my version, Mr. White, Mr. Brown, Mr. Pink, Mr. Orange, Mr. Blonde and Mr. Blue all go to Mister Dips.  (Poetic license, it’s a thing.)  

Mister Dips is located in an Airstream trailer at the William Vale Hotel in Brooklyn.  It offers a small-but-tight menu of burgers, soft-serve and floats and serves up a fantastic view on the side.  Andrew Carmellini is behind the venture, so I wasn’t surprised that the burger was good.  Or that the waffle fries were fantastic.  What DID surprise me, though, was that the Green Label burger is probably the best veggie burger I’ve ever had.  And after we downed all that? We still found room for a Jacker-Crax cone. Heck, I’d let you cut my ear off for one of those.

Location:
Vale Park at the William Vale Hotel

Hours:
Daily: 12-9pm

– L.

Manifesto by Julian Rosefeldt at the Park Avenue Armory



If there were a list of naturally aggressive words in the English language, it feels like “manifesto” would be at the top of that list.  But it’s really just a declaration of intentions, be it Marx’s or lululemon’s.  Each one carries weight, because once we verbalize or document a motive, we make a formal commitment to it.  And one person who seems to understand the power of a manifesto is filmmaker Julian Rosefeldt.

Roselfeldt’s 2015 film, Manifesto, premiered at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and is finally being offered to New York City audiences at Park Avenue Armory’s Drill Hall.  In real estate-starved Manhattan, it’s hard not to walk into the space and be awed by its sheer size.  The dark, cavernous 55,000-square-foot room holds thirteen giant movie screens.  A lone bench sits in front of each one, and as you perch on it, a speaker delivers targeted audio for the piece of film you’re watching.




Manifesto Julian Rosefeldt Park Avenue Armory - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Manifesto Julian Rosefeldt Park Avenue Armory - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Manifesto features Cate Blanchett, who needs no introduction.  Blanchett is a veritable chameleon, shedding characters like skin, as you move from screen to screen.  She completely embodies the role of the teacher, the homeless man, and even, in one sequence, both the news anchor and the weatherperson.  Each persona has been painstakingly crafted to deliver the speeches that have been stitched together from well-known works and movements like the Dada Manifesto from 1918 to the Golden Rules of Filmmaking from 2002.  

“..the spiritual revolution cannot be enacted without conflict…”

“..one can be attached to nothing and be happy…”

“..make room for youth, for violence, for daring..”

“..art should not advance towards abbreviation or simplification but towards complexity..”

“..it is now already too late and today is yesterday with its memory already lost..”

“..the present is the only active thing, the past and the future are prostitutes that nature has provided, so art is periodic escapes from this brothel..”

“..I am one of millions who do not fit in..”

Manifesto Julian Rosefeldt Park Avenue Armory - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Manifesto Julian Rosefeldt Park Avenue Armory - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
One of the gorgeous reception rooms at the Park Avenue Armory

One reviewer compared the project to Cindy Sherman’s work (we’re fans and have featured her work here).  But Blanchett’s impeccable performance of Rosefeldt’s remixed material isn’t all Manifesto has to offer.  There are stunning, quiet sequences of film — mostly captured in Berlin — that include beautiful buildings and awe-inspiring aerial shots.  A varied supporting cast helps to fill in each vignette.

Now that New York City is freezing over, indoor activities sound much more appealing.  Our last post featured Pipilotti Rist’s Pixel Forest at the New Museum, and we still heartily recommend it.  This is another wonderful option.  If you have friends or family visiting for the holidays, we imagine either one would give everyone a lot to discuss at the dinner table.  Manifesto is on display through January 8.

Location:
643 Park Ave

Hours:
Monday–Wednesday: 12pm–8pm
Thursday–Saturday: 12pm–12am
Sunday: 12pm–7pm
Christmas Eve & New Year’s Eve: 12pm–4pm
Closed Christmas Day




Pair it with:

Anything other than Sant Ambreous

Manifesto Julian Rosefeldt Park Avenue Armory - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Manifesto Julian Rosefeldt Park Avenue Armory - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
The $17 Avocado Toast at Sant Ambreous. Sorry, but no.

So here’s the deal.  We like to eat, and we truly believe everything’s better on a full stomach.   (You know the meme “Forgive me for the things I said when I was hangry?” A little close to home.)  A good meal can enhance an experience, whether it’s a visit to a museum or a trip to the theater.  So we try to offer food pairings that are in close proximity or that are worth a little bit of a hike.  But in our efforts to uncover those recommendations, we sometimes hit some duds.  And usually those just don’t make it to the blog.  Until now.

There are a number of great museums and galleries on the Upper East Side, but food options? Not so much.  We’ve featured a few that we like here already, such as Bluestone Lane, Lady M, Luke’s Lobster and Laduree.  Although we haven’t had a great experience at the SoHo Sant Ambreous location, we thought we’d give the Upper East Side location a shot for breakfast.  But I have to say, it was a terrible disappointment.  

First, like most UES locations, the prices are out of control.  I ordered the Avocado Toast, and it was one small slice of toast with avocado and egg on a bare plate.  For $17.  We both ordered regular coffee and they brought us two separate pots… for $7 each.  And the bigger crime?  The coffee was terrible.  The entire experience was disheartening.  Sant Ambreous has been around for awhile, and maybe they’ve just stopped trying.  

So here’s our manifesto:  We will not suffer overpriced, mediocre food.  And you shouldn’t either.  Try one of our other recommendations above from previous posts, or travel south/west for a much better culinary experience.  

Manifesto Julian Rosefeldt Park Avenue Armory - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
I know I’m flogging a dead horse here, but THIS is the Avocado Toast at Bluestone Lane. Which would you rather have?

Location:
1000 Madison Ave

– L.

Outdoor Movie with Rooftop Cinema Club



I love movies. From the classics to the contemporaries, the small indies to the big blockbusters.  We’ve been pretty open about that here on the blog where we’ve covered a film festival (here), attended an opening week screening (here), or most recently, just waxed poetic about one of our favorite directors (here).  So when the weather warms up, it should come as no surprise that one of our favorite things to do is catch an outdoor movie screening.  

New Yorkers are fortunate that there are numerous free outdoor movie screenings offered in many of the city’s amazing parks throughout the summer.  You could watch The Omen at Bryant Park, Purple Rain at Hudson River Park, American Graffiti at Brooklyn Bridge Park or The Royal Tenenbaums at McCarren Park.  But we’re not the only ones who love movies in New York City, and we’re definitely not the only ones who love free activities.  City dwellers wait in anticipation for the schedules to be released at the beginning of the season and appear en masse for showtime.  In order to find a spot most of us have to turn up hours earlier, often with blankets and refreshments in tow.

Outdoor Movie Rooftop Cinema Club - Mad Hatters NYC

Outdoor Movie Rooftop Cinema Club - Mad Hatters NYC

Outdoor Movie Rooftop Cinema Club - Mad Hatters NYC

If you find yourself in the position of wanting to partake in this summer ritual, but not necessarily wanting to battle your fellow citizens for that coveted patch of grass, then you can turn to a private operation like Rooftop Cinema Club.  The outfit screens outdoor movies in London, New York and Los Angeles, and it offers a more intimate experience that is sure to appeal to all movie buffs.

We recently attended a showing of Roman Holiday via Rooftop Cinema Club on the YOTEL rooftop (one of its two New York locations),  and I couldn’t help but hear that MasterCard ad campaign of yesteryear play in my head:

Movie ticket, including popcorn and champagne: $30
Stunning rooftop views: Priceless

At Rooftop Cinema Club, the staff comes around before showtime to arm you with a box of popcorn and a bottle of champagne each.  If the light snack and bubbly do not leave you satiated, YOTEL has a rooftop bar just a few steps away which serves food and drinks through 11pm.  The screening occurs rain or shine (with obvious exceptions for severe inclement weather).  Since there was a light drizzle during our visit we were graciously supplied with ponchos.  The scattered raindrops came and went throughout the evening and brought with them a moderate breeze, which ended up being a refreshing change from the recent spate of  punishing temperatures.   And the shadowy sky provided the most amazing backdrop for our evening entertainment.  

Outdoor Movie Rooftop Cinema Club - Mad Hatters NYC

Outdoor Movie Rooftop Cinema Club - Mad Hatters NYC

Outdoor Movie Rooftop Cinema Club - Mad Hatters NYC

We sat in our striped beach chairs with our headphones on, and we watched as Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck made their way around Rome, with scenes from Piazza Navona, the Coliseum and Castel Santagelo flashing before us.  Roman Holiday is credited as Audrey Hepburn’s breakout movie, and watching her nimbly maneuver the light romantic comedy reminds you why she deserved the Oscar for it.  The hair and the outfits?  Cherries on top.  Afterwards Justin and I reminisced about the first trip to Rome we made over a decade ago, happily talking about one amazing city as we strolled through another.

Visit Rooftop Cinema Club’s website to see their upcoming schedule and to buy tickets.



Pair it with:

A meal and Otto’s Tacos… and ice cream from Ample Hills

Otto's Tacos - Mad Hatters NYC

Otto's Tacos - Mad Hatters NYC

In addition to attending movie screenings and visiting movie theaters, we also stream movies at home, which has taken our movie snacking game to the next level.  A good strategy has to include solid pre-movie and post-movie options.  For the pre-movie meal — which should be light enough to still enable snacking during the movie — we propose you head over to Otto’s Tacos in Hell’s Kitchen.  The tacos are made in-house daily, where masa dough is squished into hearty, flavorful tortillas that don’t ever seem to crumble.  There is a wide selection that includes seafood and veggie options, and most of the tacos are gluten-free.  And don’t shy away from the masa fries, which uses the same dough to churn out slightly crunchy sticks to dip in a spicy mayo sauce.  The tacos are served individually, so you can order as many or as few as your tummy can accommodate.

Ample Hills - Mad Hatters NYC

Ample Hills - Mad Hatters NYC

As for post-movie grub, we recommend heading to Gotham West Market, where Ample Hills offers some of the best ice cream in the city.  The Brooklyn mom-and-pop creamery (literally – they were new parents when they opened shop in 2011) offers a host of fun and creative flavors.  Grab a small cup or cone to cap off a magical evening.

Otto’s Tacos Location:
705 9th Ave

Otto’s Tacos Hours:
Sun – Thur 11am – 11pm
Fri & Sat 11am – 12am

Ample Hills Location:
600 11th Ave

Ample Hills Hours:
Sun-Thu: Noon-11pm
Fri-Sat: Noon-Midnight

– L.

Columbia University Film Festival at Lincoln Center



What are the criteria for an outstanding short film? Or, more precisely, what are the criteria for an outstanding student-produced short film? The specificity makes a huge difference, actually. That’s exactly what the Columbia University Film Festival seeks to answer with screenings, voting and discussions. The festival is the result of Columbia University’s MFA students’ years of study in the prestigious school’s film program.  As one would expect, being part of the Columbia University system gives the students access to massive film archives, unparalleled research collections and mentorship from industry leaders.  Alumni have gone on to produce box office hits (Frozen) and Netflix favorites (Making a Murderer), and are regular film award nominees and winners.

Columbia University Film Festival

Columbia University Film Festival

Columbia University Film Festival

In the broader sense, entertainment or enlightenment or both (granted, these aren’t mutually exclusive concepts, but pulling off both is a rare trick indeed!) are the laudable goals of every respectable filmmaker — student and master alike — but a bit deeper dive is called for in the case of the final projects screened during the festival. One might argue that films showcasing specific talent — such as the exquisite cinematography of DOP, Matías Illanis, found in a viewing of And the Whole Sky Fit in the Dead Cow’s Eye or the clever dialogue of Willy Berliner and fantastic acting of Dave Hanson and Jim Santangeli (doppelganger of some deranged Kevin Smith that he is) in I’m in Here — are more than adequate. These films suggest that one needn’t demonstrate a fully-realized idea, but simply a fairly coherent narrative, particularly given the time restriction of 15 minutes. On the other hand, a film like Head Above Water completely obliterates that concept — brilliantly crafting a film in which the sum is greater than its parts, though in truth, the parts are pretty damned good, too — and proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that restrictions are simply the catalyst for true ingenuity.

Often, short films can be a rather mixed bag — one moment brilliance, the next utter folly — but nearly all films screened in our group were of a higher caliber than recent feature length films we’ve seen in theaters. Keep an eye out for the festival schedule when it runs next year, and while you wait, check out all of the fascinating programming offered on a regular basis by the festival’s host, Film Society at Lincoln Center, here.

Location:
Multiple venues 



Pair it with:

Treats from Levain Bakery

Levain Bakery

Levain Bakery

Levain Bakery

We’ve made no secret of our love for chocolate chip cookies. And those offered at the Upper West Side neighborhood institution, Levain Bakery, have been on our radar for quite some time, but we’ve somehow managed to keep bumping it off the list. Maybe it was the storied queues stretching around the block or the fact that this style of cookie — a six-ounce behemoth that is crisp on the outside and softly semi-undercooked at its very deep center — is generally not to our taste. Or maybe it’s our undying loyalty to the Jacques Torres chocolate chip cookie (we waxed poetic about it in our food pairing here), which, when devoured warm on a cold, winter day, is the definition of perfection.  And yet, truth be told, after taste-testing the double chocolate chip and the oatmeal raisin cookies, Levain did indeed win us over.  We will be back, waiting patiently in line like all the other fans, sometime soon.

Location:
167 West 74th St

Hours:
Mon-Sat 8am-7pm
Sun 9am-7pm

– J.