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Cinema Designs Revisit Iconic Marquees; Some Are Still Ugly

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Given the proliferation of lookalike layered muliplexes with neon signs and glass facades in recent years, New York city movie theaters have not been worth much ink (or blog space), architecture-wise. But a couple of newcomers are trying to buck the trend, the WSJ reports, reinvigorating the concept of a distinct marquee and trying to make the cinema-going experience as special from the outside as it is on the inside. "New York theaters have spanned a dizzying variety of styles?Moorish Revival, Art Moderne, Spanish Renaissance?that transmit the essence of their function as instantly as a firehouse or a church," writes the WSJ's Anthony Paletta. "Done wrong, and you have the faceless suburban multiplex and other theaters where dimmed lights are a welcome chance to forget the memory of their drab exteriors, lobbies and hallways." Among those who get it wrong? Dumbo's ReRun gastropub, which looks more like a bar or restaurant on the outside, but is actually pretty darn cool on the inside; Williamsburg Cinemas, all gray and glassy; and indieScreen, also in Williamsburg, which is housed in an atmospheric brick warehouse, but has no sign of a marquee.

? There are, of course, the classic theaters, such as Landmark's Sunshine Cinema on East Houston, who have had the marquee thing down from the beginning.

? Even though it's a bit out of our bailiwick, this distinct Loews in Jersey City is worth a mention because it has managed to survive despite (or more accurately because of) its over-the-top Rococo facade.

? It's not that contemporary cinema architects aren't getting it right?the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center at Lincoln Center has done a pretty good job instilling a sense of place and purpose, too. According to the WSJ: "Here there is no marquee, but the impulse to theatricality is strong, with an orange-framed entrance featuring one side angling outward to deftly command the street view."

? Meanwhile, the Metro Theater on Broadway, which we'd thought was lost to a big-box store, gym, or mall, is getting a makeover as the first New York outpost of the movie house-slash-beer bar and restaurant chain called Alamo Drafthouse, set to open next year. The historic marquee will be saved!

? As for other attempts around town, the Journal concedes that the Brooklyn Heights' Court Street Theater is at least giving it a shot, albeit with an uninspiring, thin undular marquee.

? Last but not least, the old-school Kings Theatre in Flatbush is also getting restored. Though it'll ultimately be used as a performing arts space because of its decadent stage, let's hope the NYCEDC project brings the decrepit, dark marquee back to life (and light) by next year's reopening.

· Movie Theaters Roll Out Marquee Architecture [WSJ]
· All Metro Theater/Alamo Drafthouse coverage [Curbed]
· Lights! Camera! Action! archive [Curbed]