For many years, New York City boasted a movie palace on practically every corner. Most are long gone, but the city still has a few elegant movie theaters that take patrons back to a time when ushers saw you to your seats and everyone wore hats and gloves. Here are our five favorite places to see movies in high style. By Jessica Allen.
The newest movie theater on this list is also the smallest, but no less elegant for its young age or size. Indeed, the Francesca Beale Theater, part of the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center at Lincoln Center, is a study in art deco, all clean lines, shades of silver, and nice lighting, and it shows specialty film releases. The complex also includes the smaller Howard Gilman Theater, screening new film releases and special programs, and an amphitheater, with a 152” Panasonic Plasma screen—the biggest screen of its kind on display in the US.
Legend has it that Frank Sinatra decided to become a singer while sitting in the audience at the Loew’s Jersey, which opened in 1929. It was, and remains, one of the grandest movie palace around. These days it shows mostly classics of the popular and cult variety, sometimes with organ accompaniment. Go early and wander the displays to check out vintage candy wrappers, soda cups, and snack food packages (much more interesting than it sounds), or simply gape at the spectacular details that haven’t succumbed to the ravages of time or neglect.
Located in the shadow of the Plaza, just steps away from Central Park, the Paris Theatre is guaranteed to transport you to a different time. Nestled in its velvet seats, perhaps in the lofty balcony, you’re as likely to rub elbows with society dames as college students on awkward first dates or couples who’ve left the kids behind with babysitters in the suburbs for a night of culture and class. The single-screen theater—the longest continually operating art cinema in the US—mostly shows new releases with an emphasis on independent and French cinema.
The Village East Cinema began life as the Yiddish Art Theatre, built for for actor/producer/director Maurice Schwartz and his troupe, and done up in the “Moorish Revival” style that was so popular back then. Today, in addition to the ornamentation of the exterior facade, you can still remnants of the original style in the huge Star of David embedded in the 40-foot ornate ceiling and in the main auditorium’s decoration. The cinema has seven screens in all, playing a mix of commercial big budget and indie releases.
Boasting 1,131 seats, plush red walls, and, most importantly, delicious popcorn, the Ziegfeld is one of the few movie palaces still remaining in New York. In these days of 24-screen multiplexes, the Ziegfeld hangs on as a single theater, its grandeur and charm making it a great place to see just about anything. Indeed, the Ziegfeld is the city’s largest single-screen theater, and its red-carpeted interior has seen its share of premieres, including the April 2014 premier of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.