In recent years, New York City has really been stepping up its movie theater game. (Although, yes, RIP Ziegfeld…sigh.) But 2018 was a banner year for cinema in NYC, and that includes kid-friendly movie theaters. The long-awaited Nitehawk Cinema Prospect Park finally debuted in December, and a new dine-in theater opened on the Upper East Side. Whether you want to catch that new indie film that everyone is talking about, bring your brood to a suspenseful 3-D movie, or show your kid how awesome movies were back in the day, here are some of the most family-friendly theaters this city has to offer.
For the Newest Spot in Town: Nitehawk Cinema Prospect Park
At long last, the Nitehawk Cinema Prospect Park is here! (The theater, formerly-known as The Pavillion—which had seen better days—has been in the works for some time and local residents have been eager for its debut.) Now fully-updated and refurbished in cooperation with the Landmarks Preservation Commission (the renovation revealed original features and details of the 1928 theater), the 650-seat parkside cinema is primed to showcase both smaller films and huge blockbusters with a suite of state-of-the-art theaters that range from somewhat intimate to massive. (Tip: Theater 2, outfitted with a stage and huge screen provides an exemplary viewing experience.) Seats are a nice middle ground between basic theater seating and over-sized, reclining lounge chairs; they are very comfortable and equipped with small tables.
Like the theater’s Williamsburg location, you can eat and drink elevated food and beverage here—options range from lite bites to entrees, as well as dishes and drinks that tie-in with what’s currently playing—and a kids menu for those 10 and under offers items such as tater tots, hummus, grilled cheese, and chicken tenders. And, if you like to enjoy your movie without the intrusion of waitstaff, the theater now offers a “Dine & Dash” option that you select when buying tickets so you don’t have to deal with payment during the show. The theater also has two full bars, a mezzanine cafe offering views of Prospect Park, and features special programming throughout the year, as well as brunch.
188 Prospect Park West
For Upper East Side Luxury Before 6 p.m.: CMX CineBistro
Another new watch and dine option in the city, the renovated, six-story CMX CineBistro New York 62nd is designed to give viewers the experience of enjoying a movie in their own private screening room (with a few friends, obviously). Deluxe seating includes reclining loveseats, storage compartments and a helpful LED light, and theaters max out at 64 seats. Guests can choose from an extensive food and drink menu (you can do a basic burger, or a kale salad with lobster cannoli and a craft cocktail); a kid’s menu features tried and true options like chicken fingers with fries, pasta with marinara or butter, cheeseburger, and mac and cheese. If you’re eating, you need to get there 30 minutes before showtime; kids are welcome at showings before 6pm.
400 E. 62nd St.
Upper East Side
For the Most Convenient Screenings: New York Public Libraries
Setting a weekly movie date with the kids is a great way to avoid a case of cabin fever this winter. That said, bundling your set of movie-goers to go crosstown is a big hassle. Stay close to home by attending a screening at your local library. Many public libraries around New York City host screenings for families and kids of different ages. For example, the Chatham Square Library shows Children’s Short Films (such as early Walt Disney clips) for kids 3 to 12 years of age and the Hudson Park Library will soon host a screening of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Check out the New York Public Library’s website to find the screenings nearest you.
For the Best 3D: New York Hall of Science
There is no shortage of 3-D movie theaters in this city, but one of the friendliest for kids can be found inside the New York Hall of Science in Queens. The theater is home to a 5.1 surround sound speaker system and a 22-by-12-foot screen. The theater's programming includes fascinating award-winning science films that take kids on a journey to faraway places, such as the deep ocean, remote mountain peaks and outer space. The theater is currently showing "Flight of the Butterflies," and "Planet Power." While you’re there, check out over 400 exhibits and surprise your little scientist by signing up the entire family for one of the museum’s hands-on workshops. Tickets for the theater are $6 for adults and $5 for children, plus museum admission fee, which is but our general admission prices are $16 for adults and $13 for kids.
New York Hall of Science
47-01 111th St.
For Movies Before a Trip to Target and Trader Joe's : Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
Another pioneer in the "watch-and-chow-and-drink" genre of movie theater, Alamo Draft House screens everything from first-run blockbusters to cult favorites to special family programming. You'll find it on the upper level of downtown Brooklyn's City Point. The "Alamo Family" offerings are robust, including "Kids Camp" movies on school holidays, when special screenings are pay-what-you-wish $1-$5 tickets and proceeds go to a local non-profit; "Alamo for All" , special sensory-friendly screenings when lights are up, sound is lower, and all ages, including infants, are welcome; a kid's menu, and even a print-on-demand "My First Movie" certificate. Note: Infants and small children (think ages two and under) are not usually admitted to regular screenings movies. Downtown Manhattan and Staten Island locations are on the way as well.
445 Albee Square
For Baby-friendly Screenings: Nitehawk Cinema Williamsburg
If you’re a new parent, treat yourself to a movie and indulge on some munchies at Nitehawk Cinema Williamsburg. The dine-in theater's Hawks with Babies series on Tuesday afternoons brings together parents with children under the age of one, making it a fantastic way to get out of the house and spend time with other adults. While enjoying the film, nibble on some of their unique twists on the standard cinematic fare, like popcorn and tater tots. The menu also features seasonal items and themed specials paired with each film. Tickets are sold online on the theater’s website and at the theater. Children in car seats are welcome; strollers need to be checked at the door."
136 Metropolitan Ave.
To Go Beyond the Multiplex: BAMkids Movie Matinees
Featuring a roster of international, independent and classic films, the Brooklyn Academy of Music's BAMkids Sunday afternoon movie matinees are the place to catch flicks beyond the mall-friendly blockbusters. The BAMkids Movie Matinees just concluded for 2018; 2019's schedule is TBD.
But mark your calendars for the BAM Kids Film Festival, now in its 21st year. Running on February 2nd and 3rd, the festival showcases feature-length and short films for young moviegoers from filmmakers representing 27 countries in total.
30 Lafayette Ave.
Best Classics: Film Forum
A favorite destination for adult movie buffs, the Film Forum in the West Village screens classics — often in 35 mm — every Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. as part of its Film Forum JR series. Some of the highlights on this season’s program include 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Elf. (Is your fave missing? Make a suggestion on the theater's website.). All tickets are the member’s price of $9.The viewings are appropriate for ages five and up so your child can start referencing fine films even before he or she hits grade school.
209 W. Houston
MoMA holds a popular free film series for adults, and this is the kid version. Lineups include live-action and animated films that are recommended for kids ages four and up. (See animated shorts on the theme of family, and silent films of Buster Keaton and D.W. Griffith in the coming weeks.) The screenings usually include four short 5-10 minute programs and a discussion with a MOMA educator. Showings are monthly, so check the museum's website to get the latest screening info.
Tickets are distributed the day of the viewing on a first-come, first-served basis so be sure to arrive early.
11 W. 53rd St.
–Rachel Sokol and Mimi O’Connor