Angelika Film Center

18 W. Houston Street,
New York, NY 10012

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Angelika Film Center

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Originally built in 1894 as a cable power building for the New York Cable Car Company, it was designed in a Beaux Arts style by noted architects McKim, Mead & White.

The Angelika Film Center opened in 1989, this New York theater is famous for helping to make independent films the vibrant part of the film industry they have become in recent years. Many of the best independent films of the past decade debuted at the Angelika during one of the many film festivals held at the theater.

As sometimes happens in the pricey real estate environment of New York City, the Angelika’s screens are located underground. Audiences enter on the ground level to a large and welcoming cafe, and then take escalators down to the theater level. Occupying the entire first floor, the cafe, a unique feature of the Angelika, is perhaps the most critical part of what has made the Angelika a success. Between festivals, it serves as an impromtu salon for tomorrow’s filmmakers. During festivals, it hosts scores of film industry types.

Architecturally, however, the theater is unremarkable and its screens draw constant complaints about their tiny size, poor sound, uncomfortable seats, and lack of sound proofing. It’s quite possible to hear the rumble of a subway train during a screening, as the Angelika is not far from a major subway station.

But as long as it serves up the very best of independent and foreign films, the Angelika’s audience will continue to embrace the theater.

Contributed by Belinda

Recent comments (view all 103 comments)

RHETT52 on December 27, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Point of the matter is that the Angelika is always considered one of the best for a movie- goer, as an experience. I totally agree with stang119 and “Run Lola Run” was out years ago. Well, the theater has gotten worse. A gloomy, dank atmosphere, small uncomfortable theaters, no sound proof from the other theaters, let alone the subway and a high admission price. Worse movie theater experience of the year, I will NEVER go back there

dermycar on March 8, 2014 at 4:11 pm

@RHETT52 – Thank you for visiting the Angelika NY, though I am sorry your experience did not meet your expectations. The Angelika NY is under new management and we are addressing many of these issues, including enlarging screen size. Sound-proofing as been addressed and though you can still hear it, it is faint. Between additional sound proofing and increased digital sound (our largest houses are capable of 7.1 sound mixes), the sound of nearby train cars roaring next to cinema interrupting the film experience should not continue. Please understand that due to the location, there’s only so much we can expand the screen to – as we do not have the available space like the Zeigfeld/Union Square, etc. – but we are trying to have the largest screen possible, while also addressing digital picture and sound quality. Already there’s a vast difference in the experience, as we have gone fully digital, while still being 35mm capable. Being that said, faintly hearing the subway cars is one of the infamous characteristics of the Angelika – just as long as it doesn’t interfere with the presentation it can add to the experience. I invite you back to the Angelika NY to allow us to show you what made us one of the most vibrant places for independent and foreign films. Please ask for me: Derek, it would be a pleasure to meet you.

Mikeoaklandpark on March 8, 2014 at 8:59 pm

dermycar is this not run by City Cinemas anymore?

dermycar on March 8, 2014 at 9:03 pm

@ Mikeoaklandpark – Yes, it is still happily run by City Cinemas. I am referring to the management structure.

zoetmb on March 11, 2014 at 11:33 pm

@dermycar: With all due respect and with an appreciation for any improvements that you might have made, please don’t try to sell us that hearing the subway cars adds to the experience because that is patently ridiculous.

And when you say you’re increasing screen sizes, has that already been done or is going to be done? And is it one screen, some screens or all screens?

dermycar on March 12, 2014 at 2:20 am

@zoetmb – You’re free to think that it is “patently ridiculous”, but hearing the subway is an infamous part of the Angelika experience, like it or not. There’s not many underground theaters left in the city, and being ride next to a major subway intersection has its good and bads. As previously stated, we have done well to compensate with the sound by more sound-proofing and enhancing the sound design to compensate for the loudness. Obviously, you will still be able to see it, but it shouldn’t interfere with the theatrical experience.

There is hope that all of the screens will be expanded.

CinemaDude on March 12, 2014 at 7:56 am

dermycar, I appreciate that you understand the frustration of the patrons who posted above. And I am glad that management is indeed doing something to address these issues. The lack of adequate sound abatement between theatres was always a problem that never should have existed in the first place — the cinema designer and owners cut corners that shouldn’t have been cut. The fact that the new abatement does reduce the room-to-room sound infiltration is proof that it could have been done all along. Subway rumble is harder to deal with, but it seems like finally efforts are being made.

I had gone there many, MANY times years ago, drawn by titles that one couldn’t see anywhere else, but each time saying, “Never again!” and each time that resolve would get stronger and stronger until the Angelica was scratched off my list. In particular, the placement of the screens was much to high to be comfortable — bring a neck brace. Then there were the seats….enough said. And as others have noted and it meshes with my recollection, the interiors were needlessly dark and foreboding. It just wasn’t a pleasant experience…back then. And I emphasize I have NOT been there in years, but not because their offerings were not enticing.

You got the real impression that corners were cut in just too many places. Thing is, most of these issues could have, SHOULD have, been fixed years ago…a little at a time so as not to break the bank, but a resolve should have been there to eliminate these obvious problems. I mean, this stuff isn’t rocket science — the SMPTE has all kinds of standards for correct placement of the screen with relationship to the room dimensions; it’s not a mystery how to sound-proof a room so you won’t hear the movie next door. As for the seats — all you really need is for someone to sit in a few seats from the cinema seat manufacturers' samples to know if a seat is comfortable or not and which will improve the torture contraptions you got people sitting in at present. And given that the Angelica was never an operation on the verge of financial ruin, the fact that decades went by without making necessary improvements tells me that the company was resting on its laurels and milking the operation. Seems they just chose not to spend money if they didn’t absolutely have to. And that’s a shame because what they had accomplished with unique and many times brilliant programming, was marred by the fact that it is just such a nasty place to watch a movie….sorry, I take it back….WAS.

I really hope that dermycar is correct and that the new local management sees fit to upgrade some of these easily addressed problems. Hell, at the prices they charge at the “snack” bar/restaurant for a single quiche would be enough to buy a new screen (just kidding).

From what you are saying, dermycar, hopefully this will give the place a more welcoming and enjoyable move-going experience. If it can, then people really should flock to it because of the programming.

And once last thing, I must say I am very impressed that they are keeping their 35mm projection equipment in place and the ability to show actual film on occasion. Film prints of great movies we cherish — the output of over a century of filmmaking, where they have been preserved, will become like rare museum artifacts and future generations will have very few places where the will actually be able to see film being projected on a movie screen. A great era has gone by, people; sadly, I don’t think many actually realize the monumental c-change that represents.

markp on March 13, 2014 at 2:13 am

Cinemadude, I agree with you about theatres that are keeping their 35mm equipment. The theatre in NJ where I am house projectionist, the Count Basie in Red Bank just installed a Christie Digital projector, but we kept our 2 simplex xl with 2000' reels. I still say film will make a comeback, much like vinyl is doing these days.

zoetmb on March 19, 2014 at 12:43 am

@dermycar: You’re really in denial if you think that any aspect of hearing the subway in a movie theatre is a positive. And IMO, most basement theaters were always sub-par because they tended to have very low ceilings. It’s practically criminal that the former basement Crown Twin on the upper east side has been designated “The Beekman”.

@markp: Nope, film won’t make a comeback because there won’t be film stock to print it on and the studios and film depots are not going to inventory any prints once the conversion to digital is complete. If we’re lucky, they’ll donate their libraries to museums and colleges who will hopefully store them properly and preserve them.

Fuji stock has been sold to Frame 24 and when their inventory is gone, it’s gone. Some of it is already short dated. Agfa has only one print stock left. Kodak still has numerous motion picture stocks, but they never made money on negative stock, only print stock and some studios have already stopped making film prints. The rest will stop this year. Having been in bankruptcy, Kodak is not going to keep producing these products. Kodak’s policy even before bankruptcy was that when orders become so small that they can’t make consistent batches, they drop the stock. In 35mm still photography, Kodak Alaris (which took over still film) only sells 10 emulsions (4 black and white, 4 pro color and 2 amateur color). I suspect the two amateur stocks will disappear soon.

Having said that, I think any decent movie theatre should keep at least one set of 35mm projectors because they can’t get any money for them anyway. No reason not to keep them in the booth “just in case” a film print comes along. Certainly, every art house should keep 35mm up and running as well as every museum and every university that has film courses of any type.

As for vinyl, it’s all hype. Yes, sales have doubled in the last year or two, but that’s from a very small base. Vinyl sales are still less than 2% of the recorded music market, which itself is less than half of its 1999 peak. As far as the music industry is concerned, vinyl sales are a rounding error. That’s why for catalog titles, the labels don’t produce the vinyl themselves – they license it out to labels like Sundazed.

AlAlvarez on March 19, 2014 at 1:28 am

zoetmb, your angry rant at the March of Time is appropriate in spirit but ignorant in theme.

Dermycar’s customer service is as rare and refreshing as any theatre manager could ever offer. I think you should celebrate that which we can preserve. Human decency. He didn’t build it, book it or sound proof it.

The Angelika Center was a noisy basement cinema the day it opened to rave reviews and a huge success for over twenty four years.

Your denial of dermycar’s efforts is the main reason classic theatres close.

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