Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TexasWhat are your criteria for the "best" movie theaters in your area? Most convenient? Most economical? Best popcorn? Best programming? Least corporate? "The Best Movie Houses in America" is the headline of an article in Paste Magazine, in which they list seven "top-notch" independently-owned movie theaters.

Their criteria focuses on the selection of films available at the local indie movie house: "We look to it as a calm voice of reason in a sea of neon-appointed megaplexes; as a secure place of refuge where we discover talented indie filmmakers who've been flying under the radar." They include two Manhattan theaters among the seven: Film Forum and the IFC Center, plus one each in Austin (Cinematical favorite The Alamo Drafthouse Downtown/Ritz), Boston (The Coolidge Corner Theatre), Chicago (Facets Cinematheque), Minneapolis (Riverview Theater), and Seattle (The Grand Illusion Cinema).

My criteria for "best" revolves around good programming, superior projection / sound, and comfortable seating, with the option of good, varied food and drinks a big bonus. When I lived in New York, I loved Film Forum for its programming and the Ziegfield Theatre (admittedly not an indie house) for projection / sound. I stayed in Chicago one summer and admired the programming at Facets, the Music Box Theatre, and the Gene Siskel Film Center. My Los Angeles faves were the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian, the New Beverly, the UCLA Film and Television Archive, and the Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood (again, not an indie). Now that I live in Texas, the Alamo reigns supreme for me, even though it's 200 miles away.

What are the best movie houses in your area? Is there a great, locally-owned theater (or small chain) that deserves more love?

categories Movies, Cinematical