Screen Time: NYC Family-Friendly Movie Theaters

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Probably not everyone is ready to head back to the movies just yet, but if you and the kids can’t wait to sit in a darkened theater, you can see a movie together in style. If you’re looking for the best place to see a movie with the kids in NYC, here are some of the most family-friendly theaters and film series this city has to offer.

(Don’t forget: Starting December 14th, children aged 5-11  will be required to show proof of one vaccination dose for indoor dining, fitness and entertainment. Starting December 27th, New Yorkers aged 12 and older will be required to show proof of two vaccine doses, instead of one, except for those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.)

 

Alamo Drafthouse

For Full Immersion: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Downtown NYC, Downtown Brooklyn, and Staten Island

The Alamo Drafthouse proudly states that everyone who works at the theater (“from the managers to the servers to the kitchen staff”) is passionate about movies. The experience is a huge step above regular movie theaters, as it boasts incredibly comfortable seats, delicious meals served while you watch (with free soda and popcorn refills!), and hand-picked movies. Alamo Drafthouse screens everything from first-run blockbusters to cult favorites to special family programming. The theater also hosts frequent family-friendly special events, like themed menu nights and screening parties. 

While visitors under 18 to the Alamo must be accompanied by an adult, the theater also has plenty of options for kids to enjoy their movies. Parents can check out the Alamo for All, sensory-friendly and kid-friendly screenings, which keep children in mind.

Kids ages 3 and up are allowed in shows that start before 6 p.m., and it’s strictly 6 and up after 6 p.m. Note that during any kind of kid-friendly movie, guests under 18 still need to be accompanied by adults.

The brand-new Manhattan location just opened in October 2021! In addition to a whopping 14 show screens, the Downtown Manhattan spot features the unique Press Room bar. Entering the Press Room is like stepping into the past: the space is a bar, an event space, and a museum all in one, and displays over 60,000 letterpress film advertising places from the 1930s up through the 80s. 

In addition to the Brooklyn and Manhattan locations, a third NYC location is planned for Staten Island, along with a kung-fu-themed store designed by the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA.

Alamo Drafthouse Downtown Manhattan

28 Liberty Street, Suite SC301
Financial District
332-216-3200
Online: drafthouse.com

Alamo Drafthouse Downtown Brooklyn

445 Albee Square
Downtown Brooklyn
718-513-2547
Online: drafthouse.com

Alamo Drafthouse Staten Island (Coming Soon!)

2636 Hylan Blvd, Unit 34
New Dorp Beach, Staten Island
Online: drafthouse.com

 

Tiffany H. via Yelp

For Kid- and Baby-friendly Screenings: Nitehawk Cinema Prospect Park and Williamsburg

The Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg is a legendary location: The location overturned a Prohibition-era restriction preventing the serving of alcohol in movie theaters. Thanks to this theater, adult visitors are free to enjoy an alcoholic beverage while they watch a movie! Besides that, this triplex has 92-, 60-, and 34-seat theaters, and offers a full menu and bar service during movie screenings. Outdoor movie screenings are often held when it’s warm out! The menu uses local ingredients, often influenced by beloved movies. 

The second location Nitehawk Cinema in Prospect Park, formerly known as The Pavillion, was 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 oversized, reclining lounge chairs; they are very comfortable and equipped with small tables.

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.

Although they’re generally 18+ locations, both Nitehawk Cinema locations regularly accommodate kids and parents. The first showing of the day for all G- and PG-rated movies are open to children of any age (accompanied by an adult guardian) — these shows are marked as ALL AGES on the website. 

If you’re a new parent, treat yourself to a movie and indulge in some munchies at the “Adults with Infants” showings. Every Tuesday, only parents with infants under one-year-old will be permitted (no kids of other ages are allowed). 

During the special child-friendly times, the theaters’ zero-tolerance disruption policy will be relaxed to allow kids to, well, be kids. (The Nitehawk does ask that if your child needs soothing you take them into the lobby to allow other guests to enjoy the movie.) Note that for all kid screenings, children in car seats are welcome but strollers need to be checked at the door. 

Nitehawk Cinema Prospect Park

188 Prospect Park West
Windsor Terrace
Online: nitehawkcinema.com

Nitehawk Cinema Williamsburg

136 Metropolitan Ave.
Williamsburg
Online: nitehawkcinema.com

Peter Aaron/Esto

Best for Classics: Film Forum and Film Forum Jr.

A favorite destination for adult movie buffs, the Film Forum in the West Village screens classics, often in 35 mm. The cinema aims to present a selection of international films on diverse topics and themes. 

Parents with kids will enjoy the Film Forum Jr. series, which is held every Sunday at 11 a.m. and where you can catch a screening of family-friendly classics. The Film Forum Jr. series presents new restorations of classics, animated films, shorts, international films, and even silent films with live piano accompaniments. This season’s showings include the 100th-anniversary restoration of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid,” some Buster Keaton films and other classics, as well as more modern picks like Hayao Miyazaki’s “My Neighbor Totoro” and Richard Linklater’s “School of Rock” — and more!

Tickets are $11 for non-members (regardless of age) and $9 for members. 

209 W. Houston
Soho
212-727-81210
Online: filmforum.org

Wikimedia Creative Commons

For Chill Movie Moments: AMC Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings

With over a dozen AMC theaters scattered around NYC, you’re bound to have encountered and maybe even visited a few in the past. But did you know that AMC has sensory-friendly screenings? Since 2007, the theater has offered movie screenings for anyone who wants to enjoy a movie but requires a less sense-intense experience. 

At these screenings, the lights are turned up and the sound turned down. Visitors are allowed to get up and move around, make noise, talk, shout or even sing! You’ll find family-friendly low-sensory screenings every second and fourth Saturday of the month. (Wednesday evenings accommodate a mature audience.) Participating theaters include AMC Magic Johnson in Harlem and AMC Bay Plaza in the Bronx. 

Various locations and times
Online: amctheatres.com

nyc movie theaters
Michael K. via Yelp

For Local Charm: Cobble Hill & Kew Gardens Cinemas

Head to one of these smaller theaters with a decidedly un-corporate vibe for a mix of first-run (kids’ movies are typically on one screen), independent and foreign films. This mini-chain also has a location in Williamsburg (Williamsburg Cinemas) in a newer building. While the buildings might date to the mid-century, the interiors, sound and digital projection systems are upgraded. One thing they all have in common: a slightly goofy, retro PSA telling audience members to be quiet, throw out their trash, etc. and interiors decorated with quirky movie-related art, posters and photos. 

Cobble Hill Cinemas
265 Court St. 
Cobble Hill 
718-596-4995
Online: cobblehilltheatre.com

Kew Gardens Cinemas
81-05 Lefferts Blvd. 
Kew Gardens 
718-441-3002
Online: kewgardenstheatre.com

Williamsburg Cinemas
217 Grant St. 
Williamsburg
718-302-3422
Online: williamsburgcinemas.com

Museum of the Moving Image

For Special Screenings in Queens

Yes, The Museum of the Moving Image is home to the wonderful permanent Jim Henson exhibit, but it also features tons of kid-friendly programming and screenings that you’ll enjoy, too! (P.S., screenings often come with the bonus of some extra insight into the topic or genre thanks to speakers or activities.) 

Museum of the Moving Image
36-01 35th Ave.
Astoria
718-777-6800
Astoria 
Online: movingimage.us/programs

Ruwan J. via Yelp

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, from children’s movies to teen screenings, as well as classics. Many locations have regularly scheduled movie nights (very often on Fridays). 

Note that you can request ASL interpretation if you ask for it two weeks in advance. Check out the New York, Brooklyn and Queens Public Library’s websites to find the screenings nearest you! 

Various times and locations
Manhattan, Bronx, and Staten Island: nypl.org
Brooklyn: bklynlibrary.org
Queens: queenslibrary.org (though there were no scheduled movie events at the time of this writing)

Industry City

For Free Screenings in Sunset Park

Industry City hosts Rooftop Films’ Sunset Park Kid’s Cinema Club, a series of free screenings at the complex. (This month, it’s 2018’s Dr. Suess’ The Grinch.) Doors open at Noon, and seating is first-come, first-served.  RSVP is recommended. Watch the Industry City Events Calendar for upcoming films. 

Industry City
51 35th St.
Building 5, Five Two A; elevators between 33rd & 34th Streets
Sunset Park 
Online: industrycity.com

iStock

For Watching from the Comfort of Your Car: NYC Drive-in Theaters 

Don’t want to go inside to watch a movie? You don’t have to, if you go to a drive-in, instead! Drive-ins have made a comeback recently due to it being naturally distanced and inherently isolated and outdoor experiences. NYC and its surrounding areas have a number of excellent options for those looking to stay in or around their car and watch a movie projected onto a large screen. Most locations also have food you can enjoy while you watch, or you can bring your own and make it a car picnic! 

Various times and locations
Online: tinybeans.com 

Bryant Park Film Festival

Movie Screenings in NYC Parks and Community Centers

The Movies Under the Stars screenings are the perfect free movie experience during the warmer months. Head to your local park with a blanket and picnic basket and enjoy a movie in a cozy outdoor space!

Keep an eye on the NYC Parks website, as there are occasional fall and winter indoor movie screenings as part of this series, as well. For example, at the time of this writing, there are two Christmas movies scheduled to be shown at community gymnasiums, complete with free popcorn!

Various times and locations
Online: nycgovparks.org

—Yuliya Geikhman

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