There are cineplexes everywhere and New York City excels at them, but more interesting are the arty versions of that phenomenon, when multiple-screen theaters show esoteric art films, which people line up for as if they were Hunger Games. Here are some of the best examples of that particular cultural endeavor, which provides both texture and volume in a seemingly non-contradictory manner.
ANGELIKA FILM CENTER NEW YORK
(18 W. Houston Street)
With indie films ascending, the Angelika opened in 1989 and helped pioneer the idea of dizzying amounts of customers lining up as part of a very heady cineplex—a maze of quirk, as it were. Chances have long been pretty solid that if a film's made a splash at Sundance, it will wind up at Angelika, and they'll even dare to show some non audience award winners too. The place can be maddening and a tad snooty, but it's still essential New York.
LANDMARK SUNSHINE CINEMAS
(143 E. Houston Street)
As the Lower East Side rose up again as a revived neighborhood, so arose the Landmark Sunshine, which generally features arty stuff a la gritty dramas, dark comedies, docs, and foreign films. It's also useful as a site for indie film premieres.
(34 W. 13th Street)
The long running multiplex for obscure, foreign, and all sorts of other films you can't readily find elsewhere is coming back next spring with a supposedly grand redecoration. Some of the other cineplexes will hopefully take their lead after that—or maybe sooner.
LINCOLN PLAZA CINEMAS 6
The Lincoln Center-area cineplex hangs in there as a testament to arty indie house fare, with typical offerings like American Pastoral and Certain Women. The Lincoln Plaza has long attracted an uptown crowd that is generally angling for something other than franchise films and lowbrow Hollywood comedies, far from anywhere geographically trendy. It's sort of a cross between the Angelika and the stand-alone midtown movie houses Cinema I, II, and III.
On the site of the old Waverly Theater is the IFC, an art house that carries all kinds of non-obvious stuff, with an emphasis on docs, docs, and more docs, from the Beatles to Michael Moore and beyond. Mighty real. Opened in 2005 by AMC Networks, the 'plex is an extension of their IFC Channel.
(22 E. 12th Street)
That movie you read about, then forgot to follow up on, will be lurking at Cinema Village. So will that little publicized holocaust-related doc. Some of the movies are a bit challenging to watch, but it's still good to know that Cinema Village is there, serving stuff that is usually not anything resembling ordinary or overexposed.
MoMA (the Museum of Modern Art)
11 W. 53rd Street
Take in all the modern art you want, then head down to the nicely appointed movie theaters, which have some widely encompassing festivals (everything from Altman to Jerry Lewis), as well as old foreign flicks, sacred noirs, and other surprises, along with the clinkers and curiosities. The audience can be feisty, but maybe it's because they're so obsessive about film that some of them act like they'd want to live there. Cheers to the arthouse Cineplex. Along with bagels and hot dogs, it's one of the things New York does best.