Although its facade will live on, the longstanding Brooklyn Heights Cinema is no more. After more than 50 years of screening films and a successful IndieGoGo campaign to raise money for digital projection equipment, the beloved cinema shuttered its doors in 2014. The neighborhood cinema, a five-minute walk from NU Hotel Brooklyn, was one of New York’s last independent theaters. But it wasn’t the last.
Thankfully, several other cool theaters still operate in Brooklyn. Some are longstanding. Others are quite new. All offer something that sets them apart from your average movie theater. Relative to many movie theaters around the city and country, these Brooklyn cinemas are thriving. Read on to find out why.
Since opening its first movie theater in Austin in 1997, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has expanded to more than two dozen cities. If you’ve been to any of them, you’ll know what to expect at the Brooklyn cinema. The success of this “wine, dine, and watch” operation is evidence that the movie theater/bar hybrid is more than a passing trend. Brooklyn’s Alamo Draft House is a 10-minute walk from the NU Hotel. Alamo Drafthouse is the only theater on this list that’s technically a chain, but it offers a unique and enjoyable viewing experience and screens plenty of independent films.
445 Albee Square W #4; (718) t513-2547
Named for longtime BAM executive director Harvey Lichtenstein, the 874-seat Harvey Theater was recognized as one of the “15 of the World’s Most Spectacular Theaters” by CNN. Originally built in 1904, the ornate theater’s Greco-Roman design is awe-inspiring. A 15-minute walk from the NU Hotel, this Fort Greene cinema screens classics, critically acclaimed independent films, and the occasional blockbuster hit.
651 Fulton Street; (718) 636-4100
Rose Cinemas is another remarkable BAM film-screening venue. Rose Cinemas has the honor of being name “the best movie theater in Brooklyn” by Gothamist. It’s also home to BAMcinématek, Brooklyn’s only daily, year-round repertory film program. BAMcinématek’s eclectic mix of programming includes classic, foreign-film festivals, and screenings of stage theatre performances like National Theatre Live. The elegant, four-screen cinema is a 15-minute walk from the NU Hotel.
30 Lafayette Avenue; (718) 636-4100
Cobble Hill Cinemas occupies a space with one of the richest cinematic histories in New York. Built as a vaudeville theatre in 1925, the space started screening films in the 1920s. Between then and the mid-1960s, it was a single-screen, double-feature Rio Theater. In the 1960s and 1970s, the space had several short-lived iterations as an action and kung fu film cinema. In 1982, Harvey Elgert took over the space and opened Cobble Hill Cinemas. A couple of renovations have seen it expand into a state-of-the-art fiveplex cinema that retains an old-school feel, popular even amongst movie stars. Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams are known to have frequented Cobble Hill Cinemas in the early 2000s. The theater, a 10-minute walk from NU Hotel, is known for its affordable prices and unique, reasonably priced theater snacks like frozen Junior Mints.
265 Court Street; (718) 596-9113
An indulgent evening at Nitehawk doesn’t come cheap, but the experience you can have at this independent movie theater is truly unparalleled. It is a restaurant, bar, and movie theater that tailors some of its menu items to work thematically with specific films. Nitehawk is one of the first cinemas in New York to screen many film festival award winners. This unassumingly luxurious theater is in the heart of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. Nitehawk is set to open a second location in Park Slope this fall.
136 Metropolitan Avenue; (718) 384-3980
If an evening at Nitehawk sounds appealing but you’d like to spend less money and see an old classic, find out what’s playing at Syndicated. Another movie theater, bar, and restaurant rolled into one, Syndicated is the newest cinema on this list. It’s also one of the cheapest. Movie tickets cost between $3 and $5. Frequent Syndicated screenings include The Big Lebowski, Mean Girls, Pulp Fiction, and Spaceballs.
40 Bogart Street; (718) 386-3399
This unique film screening space in Williamsburg is collectively-run by a group of passionate film-lovers with a reputation for being friendly and warm. This independent theater is a great place to find unconventional and often overlooked films. Movie tickets, occasionally free, never cost more than $5 a head.
1234 S. 3rd Street
A relatively new arrival to Brooklyn’s independent theater scene, Williamsburg Cinemas is a spacious, stadium-style seating venue with seven screens. Its convenient location makes it ideal for an evening that kicks off with dinner in Williamsburg and ends with some bar-hopping. Williamsburg Cinemas plays primarily first-run, blockbuster hits, and tickets often sell out. If you plan to see a film here, book your tickets in advance.
217 Grand Street; (718) 210-2955