Movie theaters where you least expect them

Films are shown in the unlikeliest of places at these venues.

  • Tribeca Grand Hotel

  • Tribeca Grand Hotel

  • The Paley Center for Media

  • JCC in Manhattan

  • Scandinavia House

  • El Museo del Barrio

  • New York Society for Ethical Culture

  • Integral Yoga Institute

Tribeca Grand Hotel

1. Tribeca Grand Hotel
Normally reserved for hotel guests, private screenings and red-carpet premieres, the hotel’s subterranean, 100-seat theater opens to the public for its free Sunday films. Each month’s movies have a different theme; this month it’s thrillers. Free popcorn propels this one to the top spot. 2 Sixth Ave at Church St (877-519-6600, R.S.V.P. required.

2. Rubin Museum of Art
On Friday nights, the museum’s caf offers two-for-one cocktails from 6 to 7pm; save your drink ticket for entry to the lower-level screening room (9:30pm, $7 bar minimum). Films explore our understanding of the universe (e.g., It Came from Outer Space on Friday 5), and speakers (this week, sci-fi writer S.C. Butler) give a brief introduction. 150 W 17th St at Seventh Ave (212-620-5000,

3. Lion Brand Yarn Studio
Crafty folks convene here on the last Thursday of the month for Flicks with Sticks, Lion Brand’s free movie-and-knitting night. Films alternate between classic (last month’s The Seven Year Itch) and contemporary (this month: Bend It Like Beckham), but each has at least one scene that features knitting or crocheting. Don’t be surprised if things get rowdy: “It’s not a movie theater, so people feel free to express themselves,” says studio director Patty Lyons. 34 W 15th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-243-9070, R.S.V.P. required.

4. JCC in Manhattan
Home to the Israel Film Center—which stocks the most extensive collection of Israeli cinema on this continent—the JCC regularly hosts screenings of new flicks from the young nation (check out the comedy A Matter of Size, about four overweight friends who decide to become Sumo wrestlers, on Tuesday 9; $8--$10) and hit TV shows like Srugim, the Modern Orthodox version of Sex and the City (minus the sex). You can also view selections from the massive archive on your own time, completely free. 334 Amsterdam Ave between 75th and 76th Sts (646-505-5708,

5. The Paley Center for Media
This nirvana for boob-tube addicts contains an archive of more than 100,000 radio and TV programs, but it also makes room for screenings and talks with film personalities. On Saturday 6 and Sunday 7, see this year’s Oscar-nominated documentaries (free with general admission: $10, seniors and students $8). 25 W 52nd St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-621-6600,

6. Scandinavia House
The cultural center includes not only an exhibit space and restaurant, but also a screening room—with cool Finnish-designed seats—that shows various Scandinavian films on a 10-foot-by-20-foot screen. On Wednesdays and Saturdays through May 8, see entries in its “New Nordic Cinema” series ($9); and on March 11 and 18, learn about costume design in two “Fashion & Films” events, each featuring a film and a lecture ($9). Check the venue’s website for additional screenings throughout the year. 58 Park Ave between 37th and 38th Sts (212-879-9779,

7. El Museo del Barrio
In keeping with the Latin American tradition of Wednesday night as movie night, El Museo hosts its “Nuevo Cine” series on the first Wednesday of each month. Screenings take place in the charming 599-seat El Teatro, focusing on films that deal with issues of interest to the Latino community. Case in point: the April 7 viewing of Uprooted, a documentary about Afro-Colombian refugees. 1230 Fifth Ave between 104th and 105th Sts (212-831-7272, Free, R.S.V.P required.

8. Korea Society
Aside from its frequent presentations of Korean film and TV shows, the Korea Society hosts a monthly “Classic Movie Night” series. To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, this year’s films examine the conflict and long-lasting effects it’s had on the Korean people. The guest speakers at each screening, along with the projection screen and auditorium setup, might remind you of a college lecture, but hey, it is an educational experience. 950 Third Ave at 57th St, eighth floor (212-759-7525, $5--$10.

9. New York Society for Ethical Culture
You have two opportunities to watch thought-provoking films in the NYSEC’s Ceremonial Hall: on the first Friday of the month during the science fiction-heavy “Ethics in Film” series, or on the first Wednesday of the month, when screenings take place as part of the ongoing International Black Film Festival. Movies at both events are shown in a cabaret setting and include gratis refreshments and popcorn, along with a postviewing discussion that delves into the ethics of what you just saw. 2 W 64th St at Central Park West (212-874-5210, Suggested donation $5.

10. Integral Yoga Institute
Four times a year, IYI transforms one of its spacious yoga studios into a makeshift theater, showing uplifting films on a projection screen during its free Movie and Munchies night. Guests are invited to bring a vegetarian snack to share, giving the event a community vibe. You won’t be asked to hold a lotus pose, but you will be sitting on floor cushions. Next on the lineup: The Secret Life of Bees, on April 17. 227 W 13th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves (212-929-0585, R.S.V.P. required.

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