Happy New Year! Magic-Ala-Mode is back and ready to kick some new year butt with fashion, NYC, and other fun, delicious content. Here’s a fun treat I’ve been working on to start things off right.
Many of my friends always ask me about the movie-going experience in the Big Apple. From the best theaters in their hood, movie ticket prices, comfy seats, to who has the tastiest popcorn, there’s a lot to think about when going to the movies in a place as insane as NYC. But with 11 plus years of New York cinema adventures, I think I’ve gotten a grip on where you should go, and which you should avoid. So, without further ado, here is my long-awaited guide to the best (and worst) theaters in New York City!
This article will be updated continuously – especially considering how ever-changing NYC can be. This specific article also has a primary focus on Manhattan theaters, but other boroughs will be covered.
In this installment, I’m covering the biggest and most popular chain of theaters in America – AMC. This brand tends to dominate the majority of Manhattan. In almost every couple of blocks, you will likely see the bright red letters shining in the distance, typically in the more touristy of places. It is a recognizable brand, after all, so why not have it be your one-stop source for a cinematic experience in NYC’s most populated neighborhoods. Let’s take a look at the best and worst of ’em in the Big Apple!
AMC Kips Bay 15
Address: 570 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10016
Popcorn: Salty but flavorful
Kept somewhat “secret” on 2nd Ave, the Kips Bay AMC is a hidden treasure of the cinema world. With updated plush reclined seating, a well-stocked selection of AMC snack favorites, and a decent IMAX theater, this is easily one of the best in all of Manhattan, let alone all of NYC.
Similar to the other more “grand” AMC theaters in the city, this one also happens to feature adorable Instagram worthy mural spots. Sure, they might read a bit “90’s” to some, but there’s something magical about knowing that a colorful portrait of Audrey Hepburn is surrounding you as your movie adventure begins.
The possible only downside to this location is that because it has a bottom and a top floor, the downstairs concession stand isn’t as well-stocked or prepped as the premium one above. So allow yourself extra time to order food (including if you want it delivered to your seat, which this particular location has such an option!)
AMC Lincoln Square 13
Address: 1998 Broadway, New York, NY 10023
Popcorn: Requires “butter”
Featuring a massive selection of auditoriums (all themed to famous movie houses of the past), Lincoln Square 13 has quite a bit to offer. This theater tends to be one of (what I call) “the elite” – aka, a theater where high profile indie and Oscar-buzz flicks do their qualifying NYC/LA limited engagements. You also might catch film studios doing premieres or free test screenings here.
But the real selling point of this place is the two special format theaters it has – an IMAX and a Dolby Digital auditorium. In fact, LS 13 has what is regarded as not only the biggest IMAX screen in all of NYC but possibly the largest on the east coast – standing at an impressive 80 feet high and 100 feet wide. The seats in both auditoriums are both incredibly comfy, and every theater is equipped with reserved seating.
The one drawback of this nearly perfect place is that the regular digital or 3D theaters (sadly) have yet to be updated with reclined or plush seating. So if you’re coming for a long movie and looking to stretch your legs, you’d be out of luck. But hopefully with the Dolby Digital theater being a recent addition (with excellent seats, might I add) the rest of the auditoriums will get a much overdue renovation soon.
Fun Fact: When I was attending a screen of Logan in IMAX here, Hugh Jackman stopped by and greeted everyone as they entered the theater. Another reason why this is probably the most unique of the NYC AMC’s.
AMC Empire 25
Address: 234 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036
Popcorn: Typically burnt
Though considered by many tourists as their one-stop-shop for movie-going during their vacations, AMC 25 is a nightmare. Not only are most of the auditoriums dirty and smelly, but they also haven’t had their seats upgraded. And did I mention bed bugs? This location is notorious for these critters cameo appearances.
Granted, every NYC location can get some sort of gross bug or rodent in them at some point – but this place (probably because it is a tourist trap) continues to never fix any of its issues. Do you love burnt popcorn? That’s an AMC 25 specialty that never goes away. How about sticky floors? They’re always there. And when you add some of the worst customers who walk through this establishment frequently, this theater has a reputation that never fades.
Still, I hope someday this AMC can return to its more glorious days in the early 2000’s, where it was fun to visit back in my youth. And considering the amount of traction it gets year-round, maybe the AMC chain can use some of its funds to help this location gain some of its magic back.
AMC 34th Street 14
Address: 312 W 34th St, New York, NY 10001
Popcorn: Requires “butter”, but typically cardboard paper quality.
Though much more of an upgrade compared to AMC 25, AMC 14 is still a bit of a sketchy tourist-filled joint. Not only does this one again not have upgraded seating, but the concession stand always seems understaffed along with the food they “create” (heat up) appearing to be subpar quality compared to the other AMC’s in the city.
This location also has the worst of the IMAX’s in all of Manhattan. From the screen being ridiculously small compared to even Kips Bay’s, to the sound system always coming off muffled, this is an sad excuse for a special-format theater. And considering how high the price of the ticket is here, it’s an incredible disappointment.
But the final nail in the coffin for this one is, similar to AMC 25, are the crowds that come in here that can be a bit “special”. Remember that this is only a hop-skip and a jump away from the Madison Square Garden and Penn Station, so loud couples, teens, and nasty adults tend to come through this spot more than the others. And as someone who experienced a person who made some “interesting noises” during a screening of The Force Awakens at this location – trust me, I know what I’m talking about.
So what do you think? Have you been to these movie theaters? Next time, I’ll cover the best Regal Cinemas locations throughout Manhattan. Make sure to comment below some of your favorite cinemas and experiences you’ve had there!