Movies on the Hudson: Landmark debuts upscale new cinema at Manhattan’s 57 West complex
At street level, beneath what can candidly be described as a funky, multi-tiered pyramid structure that also doubles as a Manhattan residential apartment building (designed by renowned Danish architect Bjarke Ingels and colleagues), is The Landmark at 57 West.
Debuting in mid-September 2017, this is the newest location of the Landmark Theatres chain, the only exhibitor with a national footprint dedicated primarily to showcasing independent movies. Landmark is also a marketer of indie films through its sister company, Magnolia Pictures, a theatrical and home distribution company.
Landmark Theatres is part of the Wagner/Cuban Companies, a vertically integrated group of media properties co-owned by Todd Wagner and charismatic “Shark Tank” investor Mark Cuban. Wagner/Cuban also co-owns production company 2929 Prods., and high-definition networks AXS TV and HDNet Movies.
The Landmark at 57 West features eight state-of-the-art auditoriums utilizing laser systems by NEC Display Solutions, projected onto wall-to-wall screens. According to the company, the decision to go with laser was predicated on its ease of maintenance, not to mention the ability to deliver a superior viewing experience unlike anything else on the market. GDC, with a world-leading digital cinema server installed base, is also a key vendor.
Some of the posh auditoriums almost have the feel of personal screening rooms or home theatres, given their intimacy and small seating capacity. For example, several screens have approximately 20 reservable, reclining lounger seats spread over just three rows. Talking and cellphone usage are, not surprisingly, discouraged.
In today’s era of luxurious cinema seating, this location stacks up just fine. Spanish supplier Figueras and Michigan-based U.S. manufacturer Telescopic Seating provide the very comfortable seats at this location.
At the film showing I attended in one of these tiny auditoriums, a theatre employee introduced himself in between the ads and trailers, encouraging guests to contact him during their time at the theatre if they had any questions or concerns. This is a nice, personalized touch lacking at most cinemas.
Another feature, invisible to most theatregoers, is the use of theatre hearing loops for those with hearing disabilities. A hearing loop is an induction system that magnetically broadcasts sound directly via patrons’ hearing aids (with t-coils) or cochlear implants. The sound gets customized for individual hearing instruments. This technology also has the advantage of eliminating the need for checking out and returning headsets that typically deliver inferior, generic sound.
“I don’t think there is a theatre anywhere in Manhattan that provides the cinema experience we are providing at West 57th,” says Landmark president and CEO Ted Mundorff. “It’s a beautiful building with terrific food offerings, a comfortable bar and superb customer service in a brand new space.”
Speaking of the bar, when patrons enter the theatre they come through JD’s Place, which offers a full array of adult beverages, including craft beers, cocktails and an extensive wine list. It’s ideal for picking up a drink before or after the movie, but also attracts its own clientele of non-cinema ticket buyers. There’s no need to go through ticket takers to enter and enjoy JD’s.
“We are dedicated to presenting the features without distractions or interruptions that may occur in dine-in facilities,” continues Mundorff. There are many other dining options beyond just popcorn, fountain drinks and candy available at the concessions counter. As with other Landmark locations, there’s an emphasis on carrying products produced by locally based suppliers.
According to Mundorff, “We always try to support the regional economy by selling local goods. Our head of concessions lives in New York City and had a great time selecting the many items we are offering.”
At 57 West, some samples of what cinemagoers can purchase include pizza slices from Two Boots, a New York City pizza pioneer with a 30-year track record of success and a unique cornmeal crust; Eisenberg Gourmet Beef Franks on locally baked Pretzel Buns from Bronx Baking Co., and Bronx Pretzels, which can be dipped in Sir Kensington’s (a craft condiment company headquartered in Manhattan’s Soho district) Spicy Brown Mustard.
If you’re seeking artisanal desserts from nearby makers, you have lots of options: Treat House Crispy Rice & Marshmallow Treats; Sweet & Sara Vegan Smores; Sugar and Plumm Macarons, and brownies from Fat Witch. Melt Ice Cream Sandwiches are also on the menu and available in seven different flavors, including Morticia and Elvis (yes, banana and peanut butter flavors are combined in these).
Since the theatre’s immediate neighborhood location is slightly off the beaten path near the Hudson River, a number of blocks away from higher foot-trafficked neighborhoods of the city and its network of subway lines, the Landmark team has made it a point to proactively reach out to nearby residents to help drive attendance.
“After launching a rather extensive advertising and publicity campaign, we had a few open houses offering the nearby residents a chance to check out their new neighbor. So far, we have only had positive observations,” Mundorff says.