If you’re anything like most people these days, you’re probably not too willing to regularly give up the comforts of watching movies at home for a trip to the multiplex.
The gripes are familiar: the loud patrons, the overpriced snacks, ticket prices spiking somewhere north of the stratosphere.
Throw in the fact that it’s easier than ever to build your own private screening facility right in your living room, and, hey, the snacks are cheap, and these sedentary forces can be overwhelming.
Enter a new breed of movie theaters, pioneered in New York City by the Nitehawk Cinema in 2011, that offer pedestrians high-end dining opportunities (often with waiter service during showings themselves).
The new iPic Theater at the South Street Seaport, which opened Friday, is the latest location to offer this luxe experience, complete with a sparkling facility, seating pods with reclining seats and a shared table for fine-crafted foods, as well as a large selection of beer. The eight-screen theater is the first big anchor in the Seaport’s massive re-development project.
“We’ve given all the comforts you could possibly have at home … in a shared environment.,” said Hamid Hashemi, CEO of the national iPic chain. Coming soon, the Alamo Drafthouse in Downtown Brooklyn’s City Point development will bring the beloved Austin, Texas, based company renowned for offbeat and interesting first-run and nostalgia program, to New York City for the first time (there’s currently a Yonkers outpost).
But the Nitehawk proprietors, who will soon expand their footprint from their Williamsburg location to a second home at the site of the current Pavilion Cinema in Park Slope, welcome the competitors.
“Here, there is plenty of room in a big pool,” said Matthew Viragh, Nitehawk founder.
While there are theaters offering similar experiences across the country, New York is an ideal location for a surplus of them, experts said, because of the robust and distinctive communities that define the city.
“It’s like vinyl or small bookstores,” said Paul Levinson, professor of media studies at Fordham University. “They foster a sense of community and common interest that you can’t find in superstores and cineplexes.”
Tim Chung, a managing partner at Syndicated BK in Bushwick, which opened in January, said distinctive and nostalgia-tinged programming plays a big role in building a devoted customer base.
For example, a showing of the 2002 Britney Spears movie “Crossroads,” sold out and the pop star’s devoted fans cheered from start to finish, he said.
“I think what our audiences are thinking is, ‘Oh I loved this movie, but I never saw it in the theaters. I want to go see it with friends,’” Chung said.
Serge Reda, an associate professor of real estate at Fordham University, said, developers are now more enticed to back a theater like iPic or Nitehawk than a more conventional multiplex since they can bring in more revenue quickly through its culinary components.
“Why wouldn’t a developer maximize the space of a one- or two-story movie theater instead of making a huge condo?” he said.
Unfortunately, some of the costs of doing business in this age of ever-rising real estate costs have been institutions without the same degree of nouveau style, such as the Ziegfeld Theatre, the Center Cinemas in Sunnyside and Brandon Cinemas in Forest Hills.
Still, Hashemi said the response to iPic from a lower Manhattan community that until the March opening of the Metrograph theater on Ludlow Street had only the Regal Battery Park Cinema to attend locally, has been positive and New Yorkers who frequent the area said they welcome the new venue.
“I think it’s a good idea since there are not really any movie theaters [around],” said Dennis Cintron, 62, a lifelong Lower East Side resident. Keisha Wright, of Downtown Brooklyn, said she enjoyed an experience at an iPic in Florida and is glad that some theaters are offering meals and table seats to justify the higher prices.
“Everything is a luxury in New York City and people are looking for a good experience to go with it,” she said right before she went for a screening of “Birth of a Nation” yesterday.
With Nicholas Morales and Bazona Bado