Summer is about more than sunbaking, uncomfortably ogling at people sunbaking, or wishing you didn’t have skin so pale that it burned like a flambé, making it impossible to sunbake.
No, summer is also a time to avoid human interactions of all kinds. It’s a time to make plans and then forget them because the thought of spending just five minutes in a muggy subway station that smells of garbage is just too much to bear. It’s a time to admit heat-fuelled rage at fellow human beings is the unspoken by-product of climate change and that the thought of an inevitable, awkward sweaty handshake or hug is as appealing as skin cancer. Nobody ever got skin cancer in December, I’m sure of it.
Why else does Hollywood release more of their biggest films over these months than any other time? Because they know people secretly want little more than crisp air-conditioning and robots/aliens/dinosaurs/Melissa McCarthy. New York is a fantastic town for that, of course. Not only are the city’s multiplexes of a generally-better quality than anywhere else, but there are literally dozens upon dozens of specialty cinemas playing everything from new releases, classic blockbusters, arthouse gems, film festival hits, cult crazies and everything else in between.
For Cult Fanatics
There aren’t many places in the world where Alan Cumming will exit stage left after performing on stage in Cabaret and then go across to Brooklyn to introduce a midnight screening of cult classic Spice World. Thankfully New York is one of them. The cinema is the Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg (a short walk from the Bedford Ave stop on the L Train) and if you are at all interested in cult film in all of its forms then you should probably move nearby. On one night alone you could catch a new release like the hilarious abortion-themed rom-com Obvious Child, the gory titillations of ‘80s slasher gem The Slumber Party Massacre, and the aforementioned Spice World sing-along. Their coming-soon slate includes X-rated pornos, Oscar-winning classics, and the original animated Transformers: The Movie.
If you want to stay on Manhattan, then the Bow Tie Cinema in Chelsea is the home to the city’s biggest Rocky Horror Picture Show extravaganza, as well as rare chances to see films like Pink Flamingos and Attack of the 50ft Woman hosted by drag comedian Hedda Lettuce.
For Cinema in Style
Both the Museum of the Moving Image and Museum of Modern Art have eye-popping weekly rosters of films with comfortable seating and big screens. While they’re boroughs apart, MoMI in Astoria and MoMA in Midtown, both feature very reasonably-priced memberships that will allow you free movies all year ‘round. MoMI’s long-running “See It Big!” series allows classic movies from famous auteurs to screen on 35mm and is one of very, very few places to screen a classic like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in rare, stunning 70mm this past July 4th weekend. MoMA, meanwhile, screens films daily that include modern-day international titles that won’t play anywhere else in America next to classics that are a must-see for any budding cinephile. And, yes, all on celluloid too. Bless them.
There’s also the Film Society at Lincoln Centre and the Walter Reade Theater, which frequently plays exclusive arthouse titles to a mix of Upper West Side ladies who lunch and students, is also the home to annual New York Film Festival.
For New York Purists
Most of the city’s old movie-houses from the past have been closed, demolished, or simply forgotten about. So while Film Forum is known for its frustrating mix of insufferably hoity-toity adults and Chatty Cathy twentysomethings with little to no manners, it’s also one of the few places where you’ll get the distinct feeling of an old New York cinema. Being squashed in like sardines has never been more acceptable than when watching every single film Alfred Hitchcock ever made, or the Alec Guinness retrospective that featured an extremely rare screening of Star Wars on June 29.
If you just want to see the latest big movie then why not visit the Ziegfeld Theatre? This single-screen movie palace in the grand old tradition is an Art Deco lover’s dream, and a suitably-lavish place to catch something as opulent as last year’s The Great Gatsby where patrons were dressed to the nines and cheered wildly. Sadly, they only play one film for weeks at a stretch, but that just makes it easier to miss the place while you wait for the next one.
For IMAX Lovers
One big pet peeve is cinemas claiming they are IMAX when really they’re just a little bit bigger than your regular multiplex screen. So if you want a true -blue, honest-to-God IMAX experience, then you have to go to AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13, which also boasts being really clean, accessible, and not a maze of escalators and stairs (that would be AMC Empire 25 on 42nd Street). Pre-purchase your tickets to guarantee good seats for hot-ticket Hollywood blockbusters. And if you go to a matinee, it won’t even break the bank.
There are plenty more, too, so you’re bound to find something near you showing something you will like. It’s statistically impossible* not to.
*cannot be proven.