What’s old is new again. Repertory cinema, which is a fancy name for showing classic movies on the big screen, has made a comeback in recent years, perhaps due to the surge in cinephilia that accompanied the recent pandemic. While hardcore film buffs spent over a year in their living rooms revisiting old classics and filling in our most embarrassing cinematic blind spots, we exited our year of quarantine hungry to see these films as they were once intended.
The marketplace obliged. Repertory cinema has always had a place in the cities. Old stalwarts like Film Forum live on, and new, hip spots like Metrograph are catering to a younger crowd. We are all privileged to be so close to a city where cinema culture is thriving. And we are fortunate that, in recent years, the trend has spread to the suburbs. There are numerous theaters in or around Westchester that routinely screen great films from our shared past. For movie buffs, it’s a special treat. Here’s a brief guide to get you started.
Jacob Burns Film Center
The crown jewel of Westchester-based repertory cinema is this Pleasantville theater, which was built in 1925 and rechristened in its current form in 1998, not only shows all the latest arthouse releases, but mixes in a healthy dose of classic films and educational programs. Next week, they are wrapping up a weekly series of screenings of Alfred Hitchcock films with lectures by NYU professors.
Other enticing screenings include “The Conversation” (Dec. 11), followed by a conversation between film author Sam Wasson and former New York Times film critic Janet Maslin; “The Swimmer” (Dec. 12) with an introduction by actress Ileana Douglas, promoting her book “Connecticut in the Movies”; and, of course, a screening of the out-of-the-ordinary Christmas classic, “Die Hard” (Dec. 19).
Since the opening of its first location in Austin, Texas, in 1997, the Alamo Drafthouse has quickly become known as the meeting point between serious cinephilia and a fun night out at the movies. The popular chain, the first in the country with reclining seats, hosts sing-a-longs and offers a full menu of food and drinks delivered to your seat.
On Dec. 2, the Drafthouse is showing the modern noir classic, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” as well as a brunch screening of the 2019 adaptation of “Little Women,” complete with waffles and mimosas. If you don’t mind a little chewing and slurping along with your costume drama, this is the cinema for you.
Other cinemas in Connecticut have come and gone, but the Avon in Stamford still stands tall. Opened in 1939, and reconceived in 2004, the Avon remains the best place in the Connecticut suburbs to see serious cinema, both old and new. With its pleasingly old-fashioned marquee and lush red interior, stepping into the Avon is like walking through a time machine to an era when cinema was special. Stoke those fires of nostalgia with a 50th anniversary screening of “The Way We Were” (Dec. 12), or a more recent classic, “Amelie” (Dec. 7).
Tarrytown Music Hall
The holiday season is a peak time for repertory cinema, with many families heading out to the movies together. Sure, you could check out the latest Marvel CGI-fest, but seeing a holiday classic on the big screen is far more special. Tarrytown Music Hall does it right, with first-rate sound quality and a theater ambience that makes it feel like an event.
Don’t miss “It’s a Wonderful Life” (Dec. 16), a film whose greatness often gets overlooked because of its sheer ubiquity at this time of year, and “The Sound of Music” (Dec. 18), presented in a special “sing-a-long” format. Experience Julie Andrews’s angelic voice, Christopher Plummer’s piercing gaze, a history lesson about Nazi Germany, and some of the most indelible songs in movie musical history — all on the big screen. It’s a Christmas miracle!