Unique New York: One of a Kind Movie Houses

While most people consider Hollywood to be the mecca of movies, the New York City area is actually the film industry’s birthplace.

It began in Thomas Edison’s West Orange, NJ laboratory where the first motion-picture camera was developed.

After inventing the phonograph, Edison commissioned his young protégé—William Kennedy Laurie Dickson—to create a device “which does for the Eye what the phonograph does for the Ear.”

Dickson combined prior advancements made by several inventors of celluloid film and series photography technology. The result was the first motion-picture camera (Kinetograph) and viewing apparatus (Kinetoscope).

Edison’s team began using their Kinetograph to shoot films in their makeshift “Black Maria” studio before moving that operation to the Bronx. They staged a public demonstration at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences previewing the short film, Blacksmiths—shot by Dicken himself, shown on the Kinetoscope machine which he developed.

The Kinetoscope was a device similar to a slot machine, where one had to bend over and look through a peephole to view.

Needless to say, the public was intrigued, and the very first Kinetoscope “parlor” opened in 1894 by the Holland Bros. at 1155 Broadway, in New York City. It featured ten of Edison’s machines (later named Nickelodeons) where—for as little as on nickel—people could watch short films featuring strong men, contortionists, wrestlers, cock fights, and more.

Edison’s Kinetoscopes grew in popularity in America and around the world. In France, the Lumière brothers expanded upon Edison/Dicken’s innovations and developed a hand-cranked, portable movie projector. Edison manufactured these machines and introduced movie projection to America through his “Vitascope” projector.

Because projecting movies to mass audiences made exhibitors more money than single Kinetoscope viewing, movie houses took off in popularity. They evolved over the years, and—due to growing demand and the failing vaudeville business—many auditoriums, opera and concert halls, churches and theaters were snatched up and converted into movie houses. By 1908, there were roughly 8,000 in America.

Although television eventually led to the demise of the opulent movie palace era, the art of film is alive and well in New York City.

And not just first-run commercial movie theaters. From independent art halls to foreign film houses, the city offers many unique art film houses.

Here are just a few of our favorites:


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Film Forum

209 W Houston St.

With four screens and approximately 500 seats, the Film Forum is a great place to catch an independent film in the East Village. They feature both foreign and American independent films, classics, festivals, and more.

IFC Center

323 Avenue of the Americas at West 3rd St.

The IFC Center at the historic Waverly Theater offers a state-of-the-art cinematic experience and a robust program. Independent, foreign, documentary, classics, shorts, features and more are shown with many special weekly and monthly themed series. Check out their gourmet snack bar and organic popcorn too.


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Walter Reade Theater

165 W 65th St., between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.

The Walter Reade Theater is part of The Film Society of Lincoln Center, which is devoted to supporting the art of cinema. Many of The Film Society’s programs are shown at The Walter Reade Theater, including premieres of international films, documentaries, children’s films, silent movies, experimental films, retrospectives, prestigious film festivals and more.

Angelika Film Center

18 W. Houston St. at Mercer St.

According to The Angelika Film Center, it is “the most successful and recognized arthouse in the United States.” It offers independent films shown in a sophisticated ambience, with gourmet snacks.

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center

 144 W 65th St. at Broadway

In the heart of Lincoln Center, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center offers three screens and a café within a casual and relaxed setting. The amphitheater features the largest plasma screen in a public display in America. See everything from specialty films to new releases, select screenings, lectures, and more.

Paris Theatre

4 W 58th St.

The Paris Theatre offers a unique cinematic experience. Like an old movie house, the Paris Theatre is a single-screen theater with a balcony that affords the best views in the house. Despite its vintage vibe, it has state-of-the-art projection and audio technology.


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Anthology Film Archives

32 2nd Ave. at East 2nd St.

The Anthology Film Archives offers a small and cozy venue for edgy, experimental and avant-garde films. It is dedicated to preserving and exhibiting both film and video. It also houses an extensive reference library of materials related to the cinema.

Soho House Screening Room

2935 9th Ave.

The Soho House Screening Room is a very intimate and comfortable movie theater that shows new releases, children’s films, and classic flicks.

Like these uniquely New York movie houses, The Marmara Park Avenue is the quintessential luxury Manhattan hotel: sophisticated, with world-class amenities and hospitality.

We look forward to spoiling you like a movie star!

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