DC’s Movie Theaters

All cities have their different flavors of movie theaters. The nice ones, the not so nice ones, the old ones, the new ones, the one that shows “artsy fartsy” movies, the one that shows blockbusters, the one with the giant screen, the one with the dollhouse sized screens. Here’s my breakdown of the theaters in DC:

Union Station: Wow. I got suckered into going to a movie here once and thankfully it was a matinee. This is probably the worst place to see a movie in town, IMO. The theaters are dirty, uncomfortable (how old are those seats?), and LOUD. The cell phone activity and audience chatter is off the charts here. The only thing this place has going for it is that it’s Metro accessible, but really, they should be paying you $8 to see a movie here.

Gallery Place (China Town): Definitely an improvement on comfort over Union Station. This theater is relatively new, thus you get comfortable seats and stadium seating. The customer service has gone way downhill over time though. I remember my first visit there and how amazed I was that every employee smiled and said, “Thanks, and enjoy your movie!” Now it’s more like, “Thanks, and I hope you don’t get stabbed later!”

Gallery Place is my last resort for seeing a movie, and I’ll only go to a matinee. Night showings are so distracting that I can’t even enjoy the show. People are talking to each other and not using their “inside voices”, answering their cell phones, passing cell phones back and forth to each other, yelling out commentary on the movie. What ever happened to “Silence is Golden”? NOT my idea of a good theater experience. Oh, and good luck bringing your own food or drink into the theater. I had a $4 latte from Starbucks that I’d just purchased and they refused to let me in with it. Other theaters will let you bring in a turkey dinner for all they care.

Dupont: When I see a movie here I feel like I’m in someone’s unfinished basement. The biggest theater here would be considered tiny when compared to other movie theaters. Their smaller rooms seat about 40 people which is fine, just make sure you get there early to get a decent seat. The comfort factor here is quite low, but for me, the location makes up for it since it’s right down the street from me. I haven’t quite figured out their movie scheme though. They show small budget and foreign films but also blockbusters like Harry Potter and Ocean’s 13. Whatever. People stay off of their cell phones here which is a huge bonus in my book.

Georgetown: I was just there today in fact to see The Simpsons Movie (hilarious). This is probably my overall favorite theater in town. The seats are comfortable and clean (as clean as a theater can be), people generally keep their mouths shut during the movies and turn their cell phones off, there is ample parking if you drive, they have a good selection of movies and times, and there is a lot to do before and after the movie in Georgetown. The only drawback, which actually works in this theater’s favor, is that it isn’t Metro accessible. I usually walk there from my house which takes about 25 minutes and is good exercise (a good way to burn off the gallon of Cherry Coke I just drank).

E Street Cinema: This is a very close second for me. I mean any theater that serves beer has got to be good right? Unless that theater is the Cinema Draft House whose sound system was last updated in 1976 I think. Anyway, E Street is the place to see your “artsy fartsy” films as well as a few mainstream movies (just saw Sunshine there last night). While I like small, independent, and/or foreign films, I can only take so many subtitles before I need to see something like Batman where my brain can be idle.

Uptown: I’ve only been to this theater a couple of times, mainly because when they show a movie they really show A movie, for like two months. I’m not a Harry Potter fan or a Johnny Depp of the Caribbean fan, so it’s rare that I make the trek to this theater. One thing that draws me here though is Indique, probably my favorite Indian restaurant in town.

I’m sure I’m missing a theater or two here, but I’ll let you guys fill in the blanks. What about you, DC? What theaters do you like and why?

Photo by krisetya

10 Comments so far

  1. Paulo (unregistered) on July 28th, 2007 @ 10:40 pm

    The AMC Mazza Gallerie up in Friendship Heights is swanky comfort like only deep upper Northwest can give. That’s where I watched Prisoner of Azkaban.

  2. Max (unregistered) on July 28th, 2007 @ 10:45 pm

    Good call, Paulo! That’s a great theater, and close to Indique Heights.

  3. Golden Silence (unregistered) on July 29th, 2007 @ 1:24 am

    The Loews in Georgetown is decent as you said, but I did have to deal with a couple sitting in front of me that would not stop kissing during “The Namesake.”

  4. Max (unregistered) on July 29th, 2007 @ 6:55 am

    Well at least it wasn’t Schindler’s List:


  5. Sligo (unregistered) on July 29th, 2007 @ 9:33 am

    What about the AFI Silver Theatre? By far the most visually appealing theater, it has extremely wide isles, comfortable seats and a huge screen. Plus you can see movies that aren’t shown anywhere else.

  6. Carly (unregistered) on July 29th, 2007 @ 10:25 am

    The Avalon in Friendship Heights? The second screen upstairs is nothing to write home about, but the main screen is in such a beautiful room, and they just replaced all the seats not too long ago so they’re really comfortable. Its enormous and friendly, very old school cinematic glamour. Plus I never really have a reason to be that far up on Connecticut except to see movies there (they have a very random selection, from art-y to mainstream to classics on Saturday mornings), and there are some great restaurants on the same block.

  7. Mike (unregistered) on July 29th, 2007 @ 11:42 am

    The AMC Hoffman Center 22 in Alexandria is my favorite. It’s like the Taj Mahal of movie theatres. The only problem is that AMC doesn’t have matinee prices on weekends, which kinda sucks. Still a great place to see a movie though-and it’s metro accessible (Eisenhower Avenue).

  8. Mike (unregistered) on July 29th, 2007 @ 11:46 am

    I could be wrong, but I think with Union Station there’s a big drop-off in quality between their bigger theater and their smaller ones. I remember their theater 1 being really nice, but that was 10 years ago so don’t hold me to it.

  9. marnie (unregistered) on July 29th, 2007 @ 12:58 pm

    After reading your review, I have to thoroughly disagree with your opinion of Gallery Place. I have never had the occasion to hear ANYONE talk on a cellphone or to each other during a movie. As for the outside food, I was under the impression that you can’t do that at any movie theater, regardless of what the employees do or don’t do. I think that the movie theater is a great addition to Chinatown, and it would be a shame if people stopped going there.

  10. Movie Fan (unregistered) on July 30th, 2007 @ 9:07 am

    While I agree that the attempt to bring my own snacks is a true part of the moviegoing experience, I also understand the rationale behind stopping it. The money made from ticket sales is actually minimal (talk to the Studios); the profit is from concessions.

    I’m with Marnie: I’ve never had a problem at Gallery Place and prefer it to G’town. Gallery Place is easy to get to on Metro. G’town is filled with too many pretentious, annoying rich kids (spread across 3 seats per person) for my taste.

    AFI is the best theater in the area if you actually care about film, plus has great customer service and beer. Uptown and E Street are close seconds.

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