Upscale cinemas draw movie viewers out of their homes, into theaters

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Sandy Kenyon reports on The Quad Cinema, the newest luxury movie theater in Manhattan. (Pentagram)

Being in the lap of luxury isn't just for rich people anymore, because you can feel fancy while watching a film at the newly renovated Quad Cinema near Union Square.

It's all part of an effort by movie theaters to provide patrons with a memorable experience for an affordable price.

"What The Quad has always wanted to provide is different options for different audiences," programmer Chris Wells said.

The theater has been around since 1972, appropriately named for its four screens. But the films shown there don't bear much resemblance to the summer blockbusters screened at the local multiplex.

"We have different film series that are for older audiences, younger audiences," Wells said. "It's a little something for everyone at The Quad."

The roster includes independent and foreign films, classics, and documentaries. The Quad even shows movies about movies.

In the projection booth, a modern digital projector shares space with older reels of film.

"To actually see celluloid prints is a very special experience," Wells said.

The Quad has plenty of competition from newly opened upscale theaters, including The Metrograph near Chinatown and Brooklyn's Alamo Draft House. Going out to the movies seems to be hip again.

"I think more and more now people are craving that experience," Wells said. "I think for several years now, people have become accustomed to watching movies in their homes, and it's a lonely process."

Elsewhere, the chance to enjoy food with friends while watching a movie is part of the appeal. Going to iPiC Theaters in the South Street Seaport is to go gourmet and savor a cocktail. Even if a bar isn't available, the concession stand must still be done with flair. All of these components add up to create a memorable experience at the movies.

"Laughing with a crowd, feeling something in a space that's a communal activity," Wells said. "And in New York, it's still one of the cheapest things you can do."

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