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At my local Brooklyn movie theater, they still request that audience members turn off their pagers. Although I can’t help but giggle each time the antiquated warning flashes across the screen, I do appreciate the grittiness of the theater and the old-school ’80s vibe. I’ve always been a fan of retro movie houses. In my youth, I interrogated my parents about their dates to the Kings Theatre in the 1960s, questioning them about the interior of the then-shuttered theatre and the possibility that Barbra Streisand was their usher. The economical luxury that a ticket to a movie palace provided always appealed to me, which is why I still try to see as many films as I can at the Paris and the Ziegfeld.
This summer, I stumbled upon the Crandell Theatre in Chatham, New York. It’s no grand movie palace, but it’s an authentic small-town single-screen retro movie theater. Spotting the Crandell inspired my quest to visit more vintage theaters and movie palaces outside the city. From the restored Lafayette Theater in Suffern to Callicoon Theater in Sullivan County, these theaters will appeal to any fan of old school movie houses.
Plus, if you’re really a fan of the theaters of yesteryear, consider visiting some of these drive-in theaters outside the city. You’ve got about a month until most of them theaters close for the season.
The Crandell Theatre in Columbia County was built in 1926. The historic 534-seat former vaudeville house was a family-run movie theater from the 1960s until 2010, when it was purchased by the Chatham Film Club after the owner passed away. Fans of retro theaters will appreciate the balcony, orchestra pit and organ lofts. The ticket pricing is also extremely reasonable, with tickets running at $6.50 for members of the film club or $7.50 for non-members. They screen first-run films, but also host many other film events from festivals to special screenings.
It’s less than ten bucks ($9.50, or $7.50 for matinees and Mondays) to see a film at this old-school small-town movie theater. The upstate location shows first run films, but also screens alterative and foreign films in a monthly CineArts series running from September through June. The single-screen theater has original 1940s post-Art deco light fixtures and popcorn machine.
Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre
Jersey City, NJ
Located right near the PATH train, The Landmark Loews in Jersey City is in the process of being restored. Films are screened by the Friends of Loews, a group of volunteers currently restoring the theater. Check the calendar for a list of upcoming flicks. Recently screened retro films include the 1960 version of Oceans 11 and Touch of Evil. The theater boasts a Wonder Morton Pipe Organ, and also presents concerts and other performances—Sufjan Stevens is playing on Halloween. If you’re a theater-fiend who’s looking to fill up your weekends, you could even lend a hand volunteering at the theater.
On October 16th watch Young Frankenstein on the big screen at this lavishly restored Connecticut movie palace in Litchfield County. The theater was built by Warner Brothers Studios and opened in 1931, but was facing bankruptcy in the 80s—it was saved by citizens who formed a non-profit. The theater restoration was completed in 2002. Fans of the eternally popular Christmas flick, Miracle on 34th Street, should make a pilgrimage to see the film on November 28th at 7pm. If you prefer live theater, they have a number of productions coming this fall and winter, including Nice Work If You Can Get It and the Nutcracker.
Listen to the Mighty Wurlitzer Pipe Organ pre-show at this restored historic Rockland County movie palace. The theater opened in 1924, and was lavishly refurbished in 2002. Along with screening first-run films, Lafayette Theater also shows classics and hosts movie festivals.
Paramount Hudson Valley
The Paramount Hudson Valley originally opened in 1930 in Peekskill as a 1500-seat movie palace by Publix Pictures, a subsidiary of Paramount Pictures. It shut down in the 1970s, re-opening as an arts center. The landmarked Westchester theater closed its doors once more in 2012, but has been up and running again 2013. The former movie palace is home to concerts and performances, and also has a seasonal film series.
Palace Theatre Albany
The Palace Theatre opened in Albany in 1931. The opulent theater had vaudeville acts perform between films. It closed in 1969, but was restored in 2002-03. The Palace is now a performance venue—they’ve hosted Springsteen and The Stones—but they still screen the occasional flick. This fall they will show Warren Miller’s snow sports film Chasing Shadows.
Alison Lowenstein, Gothamist Getaways editor, is the author of NYC guidebooks and the Brooklyn expert at About.com. She has covered travel for National Geographic Traveler, Newsday, NY Daily News, Travelandleisure.com, etc. When she isn’t planning trips, she enjoys jogging around the streets of NYC. Despite her athletic pursuits, her favorite food is the donut. You can find her on Twitter at @cityweekendsnyc