The Angelika Film Center is a movie theater chain in the United States that features independent and foreign films. It is located at the corner of Houston and Mercer Street. It originally opened its doors on August 18th, 1989. Since 1997, three more locations have opened up across Texas. The Angelika Film Center was named after Angelika Ohl who was an actress and producer, who made her own documentary, Streetwise, which won an Academy Award. She was the first wife of Joseph H.M. Saleh who was a film producer and real estate investor. He took over the property of an old underground powerhouse for a cable car system in Manhattan, and transformed it into the Angelika. The old cable building was built in 1893 and is a 20,000 square feet space, which had huge gears, trusses and leftover cables in the basement. The old cable cars ran for only eight years, towing streetcars from Broadway to Bowling Green on 50th street after the line was electrified in 1901.
By the time the film theater opened its door to the public; it had cost $4 million and was to be Manhattan’s only first-run, multi-screen movie theater south of Greenwich Village. Joseph and Angelika filled in the roles of president and chairwoman of the Angelika Film Center and the Angelika Film Corporation, which ended in 1996 when the theater was sold to City Cinemas. Since then the Angelika has held The Independent Feature Film Market. To enter, you must pay five-hundred dollars and get a screening slot, which you then try to pack it with as many potential distributors or print media of just potential investors. However, it has now changed, in order to get accepted into the Independent Film Project one must submit a completed narrative screenplay with a minimum of 20% of financing in place. This Independent Film Week held at the Angelika attracts people from all over the country.
Since the Angelika theater has been such a success in the New York City area, there are now three new art houses that have been created in New York. Two of these theaters are literally within seven blocks of the Angelika. In December 2001, the Sunshine cinema opened just blocks away, and in 1999 the BAM Rose Cinemas at the Brooklyn Academy of Music opened in Brooklyn. On June 17, 2005 the IFC Center opened in close proximity to the Angelika. The theater since its creation has slightly changed its direction, before only independent, foreign and classical films would be played, has now changed to mainstream films.
Many negative articles have been written about the downsides to the Angelika theater, such as the rumbling sound of the subway which can be heard at least four times during a film. Over $1 million on renovations were spent, including new seats, improved sound equipment, bathrooms and air conditioning. However, in 2004, the Angelika Film Center was voted New York City’s best movie theater.
On February 21st, our group traveled to visit an experience the Angelika Film Center movie theater. Before our plans to view a movie, we had attempted several times to arrange an interview with a member of the theater. We were either ignored or given the response, “We’ll have someone get back to you.”
Arriving upon the film theater, it looks more like a municipal building then what we would depict a normal theater to look like. Inside, the interior of the center was very sophisticated; there were couches in what would appear to be their lobby, with a huge glass chandelier hanging from the center. Unfortunately, the elegant décor did not match up to the mannerism of the workers. The staff was rather rude to us. They seemed to look down at us because we were younger, or maybe we looked like tourists. When we attempted to take photos we were met with a quick cease and desist from the staff that could have been delivered in a more polite manner.
The tickets were overpriced and their “famous café” offered a selection that you would not imagine seeing at a movie house. There were multiple choices in coffee in addition to a very large display case filled with cakes and pastries that would give the best local artisan bakeries a run for their money.
Upon receiving your tickets, you are called up to stand in line by the time and movie that you were seeing. You then must wait in a red velvet line until they are ready to let you downstairs, where all six screens are.
Having time before the movie, Jay had a chance to observe the area around the theater. The first thing he notices was the NYU building scattered around. New York University is probably most famous for being an elite and highly regarded art school. This makes it seem really fitting that the theater should be so close to that school. If you can’t see an NYU building in a sight, you are sure to a 20-something year old in an NYU hoodie making their way from their favorite coffee house to their next class.
There are also a large number of coffee houses, which would echo the ideal that the Angelika shares about sitting down and discussing over a cup of coffee at their own café. Although you can find a Starbucks one block over most of the café market themselves to the bourgeois by offering overpriced imported coffees and goods.
Looking around before we waited for the movie, we noticed that the theater was trying to hit a very specific demographic. Between the large hikes in the prices of both tickets and concessions and the furnishings of the theater, it felt like it played into the bourgeois. There were posters of classic art cinema on the walls and a large chandelier which were most definitely signs of cultural capital. They also had us line up to go downstairs to see the film. This was either a ploy to have us sit in the café so we would buy something or a way to make the viewer feel special. By doing this, it could be seen as they would be doing us a favor by giving us the right to view this film. By the time we had exited the theater, we were all left with a bad taste in our mouths.
Our group went to view the Academy Award nominated film, Crazy Heart starring Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal. As we made our way downstairs to the theater, there were big cardboard articles placed in a foyer that informed the patrons about details on the films that were being shown. The short reviews had details on the director and overall the making of the film.
There were several reviews written on Crazy Heart directed by Scott Cooper. A review in the New York Times newspaper called this film the “invisible movie”. This low-budget film was not supposed to even show in theaters, but it was noticed by people who matter. Now, this organic movie is nominated for a few Academy Awards this year. Since Angelika showed this particular film, this represents the theater in several ways. Angelika is known for showing independent films that are not mainstream and are not noticed by the general public. Therefore, since Crazy Heart was called the “visible movie” Angelika wanted to make a point in showing this creative film. Many viewers can appreciate the making and creation of this film. There is hope for this movie to become noticed and successful and this gives Angelika a positive and appreciative image as a film center to the patrons.
The theater was set up in a particular way compared to other film theaters. In the Angelika, the theater was very long and narrow similar to a hallway. There was no incline or stadia seating. The seats were flat on the ground and were long and straight all the way back. The Angelika is unlike the BAM theater which holds more than 800 seats and is a playhouse style theater.
Before viewing the movie, there were several promotions and previews. The Angelika promoted their film center a lot and mostly independent films that were coming attractions. There were also student film contests and MoMA promotions. These previews and promotions reflect the film center as an arthouse that is appreciative of the independent works of creative people and projects.
When our group went to view the film, the Angelika had an organized and well-planned programming for all of the movies, especially the Academy Award nominated films, such as Crazy Heart. On the weekends, the film shows four or five times during primetime hours. The showtimes during the week days are the same as the weekends, but there is one less show during the week. This programming gives patrons the opportunity to view this film at various different times, so it can be flexible with everyday schedules.
Overall, our group enjoyed experiencing something different, such as going to an arthouse and to see how they organize and plan showings, previews and promotions. Also, it was interesting to see how they run the theater and the layout of the theater. Even though our group thought that the staff was rather rude, we all made the best out of the experience and expressed our opinions about the theater’s pros and cons. Now, we can all take this knowledge and understand how the Angelika Film Center runs.