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Manhattan & NJ (Bergen County) Restaurant Reviews

Ian Hunter's Guide to Manhattan and Bergen County, NJ's Best Restaurants, Bars, and Gourmet Markets

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AMC Empire 25
234 W. 42nd St., between Seventh and Eighth avenues; 212-398-3939

Located in the heart of Times Square, the AMC Empire 25 is one of the largest multiplex theaters in Manhattan, and the theater's flashy façade blends in perfectly with the glamorous bright lights of surrounding Broadway theaters. The Empire, with 25 screens, shows the biggest blockbuster films and features Digital Projection (DLP) and closed captioning for select films. The cavernous auditoriums offer a combination of stadium and traditional seating, where even the front row is a good seat.

Why to go: A short walk from the Times Square subway station. And once inside the theater, there's so much leg room that the seats don't even need to fold up.
Why to stay away: A 42nd Street location means you'll have to squeeze past the 42nd Street crowds just to get inside. Combine that with packed screenings and an exit route that forces you through the tourist-jammed waiting areas of Dave and Buster's and Applebee's. Not to mention that getting around the sprawling theater is an irritating experience.
 
AMC Loews Kips Bay 15
570 Second Ave., at 32nd Street; 212-447-0638

The main lobby of the AMC Loews Kips Bay 15 looks like the entrance of a palace. Or, you could say, based on the movie-themed murals on the walls, like a holy cathedral of cinema. This multiplex near the East River screens a wide selection of both blockbusters and indies, and manages to avoid the mobs that tend to flock to your average Manhattan multiplex. Relax at the Cine-café while you wait for friends, or go next door to Borders.
Why to go: It's somehow remained Second Avenue's little secret, as it is rarely crowded and even less often sold out. The spacious lobby further reduces any chance of gridlock.
Why to stay away: It can be a little too quiet. No one likes to sit alone in an empty theatre.
 
AMC Lincoln Square 13 with IMAX
1998 Broadway, at 68th Street; 212-336-5020
This giant multiplex bursts with nostalgia. Images of old New York cinemas like the Valencia, Olympia, Majestic and others are painted in colorful murals along the walls, and each of the 13 screens is awarded a cinema namesake instead of a number. The names of iconic movie stars -- Wayne, Gable, O'Hara and more -- are stenciled in gold above the expansive second-floor concessions stand. The main lobby is retro-styled in shiny chrome and tile. But that's all just floor decoration for one of the city's best (and most comfortable) modern movie theaters.

Why to go: The only theater in Manhattan with an IMAX screen.

Why to stay away: There's not much to complain about, except maybe for all the baby strollers at Saturday screenings.
 
BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn; 718-636-4100

Just a short walk from the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street subway station in Brooklyn, the BAM Rose Cinemas, which opened in 1998, resembles an opera hall more than a movie house, with its vast entryway, ornate ceiling fixtures and wooden banisters and armrests. The four-screen theater is similar to Film Forum in its selection of foreign, independent and repertory films. BAMcinématek presents classics, retrospectives, festivals, premieres and rare screenings, with special guest appearances by directors, actors and screenwriters. Overall, it's a quieter and more polite movie-going experience than most.

Why to go: In addition to its high-quality films and special programs, BAM charges only $7 for students, seniors and children. You won't find those discounts in Manhattan. Senior Cinema also screens select matinee movies free for seniors.

Why to stay away: Unless you live in Brooklyn, it's probably easier to see any of BAM's first-run features in a Manhattan theatre.
 
City Cinemas Angelika Film Center
18 W. Houston St., at Mercer Street; 212-995-2000

The Angelika Film Center is the centerpiece of independent film in Manhattan. For more than a decade, the Angelika has been showing the finest in independent films on its six screens, and the theater has become a New York cultural institution. The main lobby, featuring the Angelika Café, looks like a cross between a trendy SoHo café and a brightly lit industrial warehouse. Get there early (which you should, if you want seats) and order cake and coffee at the lobby café.

Why to go: It's the definitive indie theater of Manhattan, consistently offering the best selection of independent films. The inviting lobby, with its café tables and comfy sofas, is a welcome place to wait for your movie.

Why to stay away: The subway rumbles underneath the small and cramped theaters downstairs, where you squash your knees against the seatbacks while your feet stick to the floor.
 
Film Forum
209 W. Houston St., between Sixth and Seventh avenues; 212-727-8110; www.filmforum.org

Film Forum started off in 1970 with 50 folding chairs and one projector. It was an alternative screening space for independent films. After several location changes, Film Forum's current three-screen theater was built in 1989 on a quiet block of Houston Street. The theater presents two complementary programs -- New York theatrical premieres of American independent and foreign art films, and, since 1987, repertory selections including foreign and American classics, festivals and directors' retrospectives. Here's a tip: An annual membership can get you cheaper tickets, ticket reservations days in advance or priority seating ahead of the dreaded line.

Why to go: Most of these films cannot be seen anywhere else in Manhattan, even at other art house theaters. The gourmet concession stand, like the one at the Angelika, is stocked with more than your typical movie theater popcorn and sodas.

Why to stay away: Screening rooms are small and narrow, as though they'd been cut in half from some original size. The seating is hard and uncomfortable, with no legroom.
 
IFC Center
323 Sixth Ave., at W. Third Street; 212-924-7771; www.ifccenter.com

After an extensive four-year renovation, the three-screen IFC Center opened in June 2005 at the former site of the historic Waverly Theater. The Waverly kicked off one of the city's most enduring cult classic traditions in 1976, when it began midnight screenings of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." The IFC Center continues that tradition with Waverly Midnights, screening cult movies every Friday and Saturday at midnight. That's in addition to Weekend Classics (every weekend at noon) and Short Attention Span Cinema, featuring short films prior to every feature. Annual memberships offer $3 off movie tickets, free popcorn, no-fee online ticketing, free preview screenings and first-chance tickets for special events.

Why to go: The films can't be beat, and they look even better in High-Definition digital and 35mm projection. More legroom than at most of the other art houses, too. Next door, the attached Waverly restaurant serves lunch, dinner and snacks, and features a full bar.

Why to stay away: The main lobby is too small to handle large crowds, whose noise and chattering also seeps into the theater on the main floor. The programming tends to heavily emphasize IFC Films releases over other independent or foreign fare.

Landmark's Sunshine Cinema
143 E. Houston St., between First and Second avenues; 212-358-0573

The Sunshine is a historic building reborn as a cushy art house theater with the amenities of a multiplex. Built in 1898, the Sunshine Cinema building was formerly the Houston Hippodrome motion picture theater and a Yiddish vaudeville house. For more than 50 years it was shuttered, serving as a hardware warehouse, until its restoration and reopening as the Sunshine in 2001. Programming is the usual art house fare, though mainstream flicks often sneak onto the schedule. DVDs can be purchased at the box office or concessions stand, and Landmark Theaters Film Club memberships offer advance info about upcoming engagements, free screening invitations, notifications of filmmaker appearances and other events.

Why to go: New parents craving artsy films can enjoy Rattle and Reel! on Wednesdays at 11 a.m., screenings that welcome babies. Unique concessions include gourmet jelly beans, apple cinnamon pretzels and a variety of popcorn seasonings. Most importantly, stadium seating is heads and shoulders above the cramped Angelika or Film Forum.

Why to stay away: Frequent technical difficulties continue to plague the Sunshine, from late starts to out-of-focus projection.

Regal Union Square Stadium 14
850 Broadway, between 13th and 14th streets; 212-253-6266

This state-of-the-art multiplex was the first to include stadium seating. Although it has already been surpassed in comfort and quality by other Manhattan theaters (see Lincoln Square or Kips Bay, for example), its location one block south of Union Square can't be beat. Of course, convenient location means inconvenient crowds, long box office lines and sold-out shows. Even the credit card ticket machines in the lobby, designed to save time and avoid the lines, get overcrowded and often don't work. Each of the 14 screens is equipped with digital sound, as well as listening devices for the hearing impaired.

Why to go: The largest movie theater between midtown and Battery Park, with the best selection of mainstream movies in the area, comfortable seats and even a balcony in the largest auditorium.

Why to stay away: Union Square is almost always crowded to capacity, and employees don't always want to be bothered. Get there extra early if you want to be able to stand in the popcorn line and still find a seat for your movie. And run to the bathroom afterwards, or be prepared for a long wait.
 
United Artists 64th Street and Second Avenue
1210 Second Ave., at 64th Street; 212-832-1671

Built in 1972 as the Columbia I & II and later renamed the Gemini, the theater was reborn as the UA 64th & Second after a third auditorium was added in the '90s. It remains a relic among New York theaters, with only three screens and a run-down appearance that can't compete with the bigger and flashier multiplexes. Mainstream movies can be enjoyed in greater comfort at most other theaters in the city. Not to mention this theater is frequently empty.

Why to go: Unless you live in the area, this one might not be worth a subway ride. Fountain sodas are expensive, though large drinks come in a souvenir cup that you can take home after the movie, if you like that kind of thing.

Why to stay away: The cramped lobby's worn-out carpeting, shabby décor and dim lighting are matched by uncomfortable seats and mediocre visuals and sound