Movies can provide an ideal escape from the rigors of daily life. But sometimes finding that lesser-known, “quiet” film you want to see can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Or that intimate movie experience is difficult to find in chain theaters. Indie theaters are the perfect solution. Here’s an update on some of the DC area’s best.
The Charles Theater
1711 N. Charles St.
Situated in beautiful and bustling Baltimore, The Charles Theater is a local favorite that offers first-run specialty films as well as Hollywood movies, classics and foreign flicks. Full of character and presence, the theater is nestled in the Beaux-Arts buildings—108-year-old historic structures that were designed in 1892 by architect Jackson C. Gott. This 23,000-square-foot movie house has been a host of the Maryland Film Festival and holds a whopping 1,150 seats across its five screening rooms (four of which have stadium seating) where movie goers can take in a little nostalgic charm while enjoying a good flick.
9650-14 Main St.
Fairfax, VA 22031
You can catch today’s widely popular movies along with indie, foreign and classic films at Cinema Arts Theatres. But this isn’t your typical mall movie theater. Patrons rave about its friendly staff and entertaining hands-on owner who sometimes makes appearances during movie previews to poll audience reaction firsthand, and maybe even chime in with a few humorous comments. Concessions include sandwiches and popcorn with self-serve butter and flavored powders that you can sprinkle on top—always a plus. Early bird patrons can enjoy a coffee bar during morning matinees. The friendly atmosphere gives this theater a down-home, small town, throwback feel that enhances the overall movie-going experience.
West End Cinema
2301 M St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20037
Located in the heart of DC’s upscale West End is a cinema that offers a selection of films as equally diverse and sophisticated as its zip code. The West End Cinema shows not only blockbuster films, but independent, foreign and documentary films, as well as operatic selections from its “Opera In Cinema” series and ballets from “Ballet In Cinema.” While many of its lesser-known films may not fit the typical “commercial” or blockbuster molds, they are no less engaging, thought-provoking and enjoyable. And it comes as no surprise that the cinema offers a full bar and an array of concessions from traditional popcorn and candy to baklava and gourmet sandwiches for the more complex palate. There’s a little something here for everyone.
815 1/2 King St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
For a dose of nostalgia, check out Old Town Theater. The theater shows classic and contemporary movies and even offers live shows, music and comedy amid a beautifully restored 100-year-old interior. A renovation in 2012 uncovered the majesty of the structure’s original craftsmanship and returned it to the charm of its heyday. Since the idea for the theater was first conceptualized in 1914 by its original owners/entrepreneurs B. Hammil Reed and R.A. Steele, the theater now doubles as a performing arts center of sorts. Patrons can rent it out for productions, parties and corporate events. You can even screen your own film at the theater in an event complete with red carpet arrival.