The best movie theaters and screening rooms in Washington, DC
Get your film fix in the nation’s capital with Time Out’s movie house guide
© Erin Braswell/Landmark Theatres
Considering the one-two punch of unnecessary drama and ill-fitting pants suits, it's no wonder DC is known as the Hollywood for Ugly People. But perhaps the most accurate parallel with La La Land lies in the actual movie theaters in Washington, DC. A smorgasbord of big blockbuster multiplexes, mid-sized indie screens, and tiny art houses, the film scene in this town is anything but tinsel, and we've culled through the masses to find the best movie theaters in Washington, DC.
While the latest action-packed thrillers from the west coast can be found at a smattering of Hollywood houses throughout metro DC (see: Chintatown, Georgetown, Arlington), when it comes to less pronounced productions, the District is not at a loss. Landmark Theatres E Street Cinema reigns king in the realm of indie, while West End Cinema and Avalon Theatre—both in NW—fall in line not far behind (and in true stick-it-to-the-man spirit, all three feature a café with a bar for refreshments during the film).
Not all the fun is limited to the District... Maryland and Virginia showcase their share of art houses as well. A hike to Bethesda, for instance, will bring you to Bethesda Row Cinema—another Landmark Theatres movie theater right in the middle of the business district—for your choice of hit or barely-heard-of films. As for Virginia, movie theaters don't get more unique than the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse, a multi-use theater/cinema/music venue. While purists may scoff at the recently opened branch of SoHo's famous Angelika Film Center in Fairfax, the movie theater does feature reserved seating and a slew of screens for ultimate viewing pleasure.
But these are just a few of the plethora of movie theaters in Washington, DC. Read on for a full list of the best cinemas and silver screens in our Washington, DC movie theater guide.
- Critics choice
Abandoned by its corporate operator, the city’s oldest surviving moviehouse was rescued and restored by a neighborhood group. Both inside and out, the 1923 structure has more charm than any number of the cookie-cutter megaplexes that have sprouted like mushrooms in
- 5612 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Chevy Chase, (at McKinley Street)
The eight-screen Landmark is the city’s leading arthouse. Screens are big, even in the smallest of the auditoriums. This is one of only three DC cinemas with a liquor license; other amenities include upscale concessions and an espresso bar. Landmark also operates the
- 555 11th Street, NW (entrance on E Street), Downtown
With the destruction of the last of the Downtown movie palaces in the 1980s, what was once just an average neighborhood theater became the city’s premier cinema. The 1936 art deco movie palace—with 1,500 seats it’s the city’s largest—now shows blockbusters
- 3426 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Cleveland Park, (between Porter & Ordway Streets)
Across the plaza north of Verizon Center and up two flights of escalators awaits a sparkling new but otherwise standard contemporary megaplex, with 14 auditoriums. A rowdy scene on weekend nights.
- 701 7th Street, NW, Downtown, (at G Street)
The Hirshhorn showcases work by upcoming and experimental directors, often fresh from their successes on the international film festival circuit. Highlights from several alternative festivals are shown annually and filmmakers sometimes show works in progress.
- 7th Street & Independence Avenue, SW
- Critics choice
Opened in late 2010, the city’s newest arthouse reclaims a three-screen cinema abandoned by a national chain in 2004. The theaters are small, but the equipment is state-of-the-art and the projection excellent. Early offerings have been heavy on documentaries, but
- 2301 M Street, NW, Foggy Bottom, (at 23rd Street)
This 14-screen cinema, part of a complex that incorporates the old Georgetown Incinerator, has a large, dramatic lobby. The theaters, the biggest of which have 300 seats, are standard stadium-seating houses, with large screens and clear views. Right nearby is the
- 3111 K Street, NW, Georgetown, (between 31st Street & Wisconsin Avenue)
The American Film Institute opened this handsome, state-of-the-art complex in 2003. The largest of the three houses is a restored (and reduced) version of the Silver, a 1938 art deco cinema. It tends to show first-run foreign, indie and documentary films. But it still
- 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, (at Georgia Avenue)
The films shown here come from the countries represented in the gallery’s collection, predominantly Asia and the Middle East. It is one of the best places in town to see movies from India and Iran, but arrive early—the theater soon fills up with émigrés from
- Meyer Auditorium, Jefferson Drive, SW, (at 12th Street)
The seven-screen cinema was the city’s first with stadium seating, boasting large screens and excellent sightlines. Alcoholic beverages and an expanded snack menu are available in the two "club cinemas". The latter auditoriums are restricted to viewers over 21,
- 5300 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Upper Northwest, (at Jenifer Street)
This auditorium has one of the biggest screens and some of the most interesting programming in the city, as well as the most leg room. Film series are sometimes linked to major exhibitions, but the museum also hosts major retrospectives. Documentaries about art and
- East Building Auditorium, 4th Street & Constitution Avenue, NW, Mall & Tidal Basin