Theater Review: Village East by Angelika
Deep NY roots, an epic Moorish proscenium, and prime matinee popcorn—there's no shortage of subjects.
By James Nalle
Local Ticket is a monthly column that reviews a different New York City movie theater each month. From seating, to popcorn, to showtimes, no detail is spared.
Hey everybody! It’s me, James, and I have to tell you something: I am deeply passionate about going to the movies. Since seeing “March of the Penguins” in ‘05, I’ve been a theater rat. Recently I’ve been trying to fight for the form as the streamers get greedy. In a strange, paradoxical-sort-of-situation, even as fewer people are watching movies, it has become more and more "en-vogue" to go to the cinema as of late. Perhaps it's the proliferation of Letterboxd users who suddenly see themselves as critics, or maybe it's just twitter people trying to get in on the ground floor of the next “M3GAN” meme.
Either way, I know that my fellow cool, online people will be flocking to the theaters this summer. There's AC, there are comfortable seats (sometimes), and the chic ones might even serve you a martini with your popcorn. As the paint starts to peel off the walls in New York City this summer, I will be your go-to guide for the best movie theaters and what you can expect when you get there.
For my first assignment, I reported to the hallowed grounds of the Village East by Angelika on 2nd Ave. Before entry, I was greeted with a familiar facade—the exterior of the historic theater is somehow timelessly approachable while still maintaining a tasteful sense of its own regalia. The building looks like an old firehouse with its arched windows, cast stone walls, and the luminous marquee completes a portrait of classic design. The strangest thing happens when you enter the joint, however, as you are suddenly transported into your local AMC. It’s true: The inside is all touch screens, retractable belt stanchions, and uniformed hosts. It’s not off-putting per se, but it does reflect a certain adherence to contemporary theater standards.
I showed up without an online ticket because I was planning to decide on my movie “live,” (a mysterious and effortless venture), so I was directed quickly to one of the tablets upon my entrance. An adult ticket was $17.00 on that sunny Saturday afternoon, which is noticeably less than the $20.49 it’ll cost you a couple blocks over at the AMC Village 7. The woman who ripped the tab off of my ticket couldn’t have been more radiant, and I give her props for not inspecting my overflowing tote bag. The contents of the bag being: a half-eaten “chittle” sandwich from Tompkins Square Bagel, a package of 5 milligram “fast-acting nano bite” THC gummies, and some other undesirables I wouldn’t care to name.
I’m a natural-born sneak, and I think that everyone’s god-given right is to cram their pockets with Mike and Ikes, Jax Curls, and the like when they go to see a movie. Support for smuggling aside, I do believe that part of my civic duty as a frequent moviegoer is to know my way around a small popcorn and soda—so, of course, I bought both. The refreshments ran me $15.50, which is perilous, tragic, and yet somehow necessary in these trying times!
The commercial attitude of the theater’s interior is laid down less thick at the concession stand, where nostalgic chalk drawings showcase the snack options, drink sizes, and other fun doodles. Again, the carpet is mauve, the promotional cutouts stand in monuments of cardboard, and they show Marvel movies—the place has a vested interest in fitting the big theater “look” and squeezing the most of every patron’s dollar. After grabbing my popcorn from the kind youngsters behind the counter, I parked myself at the fountain drink machine and poured myself a syrupy cup of Cherry Coke.
Photo courtesy of CTA Architects.
Things started to get dreamy and perfect when the attendant gestured to a carpeted stairway, which led me towards their main theater. Fitting snugly with the coming proscenium, ascending the stairs feels important. There’s even a cute zone just before you enter the main room—a balcony with a few benches that you can use to access the left side of the theater or to take a cheeky phone call during the picture. After you push past the transient rooms in the Village East, you arrive in the Jaffe Art theater and are immersed in something that exemplifies the spectacle of moviegoing.
The pièce de résistance of the epic theater has to be the massive, gold-encrusted chandelier on the ceiling. Easily identifiable by the massive Star of David that surrounds the base of the light fixture, the piece reflects the space’s origins as a Yiddish Art Theater. The preservation of this detail fits with the rest of the room’s interest in maintaining a classic look, as the opera boxes from the Angelika’s theater days are preserved, complete with Moorish strips arcing above their balconies. There is a verticality to the vast main showing room, and the leveled seating spread is more akin to a sports stadium than your typical movie theater.
When I walked in, I was pleased to see a few openings in the section just above the entrances. These vantage points offer a comfy leg rest, if you’re willing to crane your neck around the safety poles that prevent audience members from spilling over the ledge. The crowd was healthy and chipper for a Saturday early-evening, and as the jokes dribbled out of the screen, there were smatterings of laughter that I found comforting. After ingesting one of the aforementioned “nano bites,” I was in heaven, sipping cold coke and polishing off my contraband bagel. It was perfect: I was sprawled across multiple seats, mouth-agape at the spectacle.
Oh, and I almost forgot: the popcorn. It was passable! I want to say it was transformative—that the salty morsels triggered a mindless munk-fest—but in reality its profile mimicked the ethos of the theater itself: a little bit of this, a little bit of that. There were bites that dripped with Flavacol smothered euphoria, and then there were the too-frequent dry mouthfuls, where the savory snack started to resemble a corn-based cereal. Here’s the thing, though: I will always take the highs of The Village East by Angelika. While there is a forgettable and usually vacant basement floor, and the bathrooms are surprisingly anemic, the Jaffe Art Theater is worth the ticket price alone. There is an eternal cool to the Village East by Angelika, and a sexy balancing-act between tradition and modern convenience makes it a NYC staple.