A Tribute to the Local Movie Theater

Metro Theater, Union St., San Francisco, February 2012

February 25, 2012, Washington, DC: As celebrities prepare to pile into the Kodak Theater for tomorrow night’s Oscars, it seems like a good time to pay tribute to our tiny old neighborhood movie theaters — local joints that kept us close to home, burrowed into a cramped seat surrounded by fantastic ornamental decor, for a Sunday afternoon film. Places like old theaters once anchored their neighborhoods in a small but meaningful way, and too many of them have since closed their doors. I’m rooting for those of them still going strong.

I have a view of one such shuttered movie theater just outside my apartment window. The blue lighted sign still flickers on at sunset, showcasing the old art deco building even though the theater hasn’t shown a film in decades. I’d give anything to walk out my front door, meander around the corner and go to a movie. I imagine someone who lived here years before must have enjoyed such an outing quite often.

But the former movie theater outside my window is among many old theaters throughout our cities and towns that have closed their doors as new and improved megaplexes dominate the landscape. Last weekend I walked past the Metro Theater on San Francisco’s Union Street where I saw Lost in Translation only to learn it closed back in 2006. Also closed is the theater on the south side of Dupont Circle where I saw Brokeback Mountain, and the theater on Greenwich Ave. in Connecticut, where I saw Schindler’s List. I’m guessing you, too, have a list of your own.

Several of these movie theaters are now literal shells of their former selves. Old ticket windows still adorn the former theater nearby on Capitol Hill. The Alahambra on San Francisco’s Polk Street, another theater I never knew, is a funky and unique looking gym that still looks more like a great place to watch a movie.

I am rooting for those movie theaters still open; they are centers of nostalgia as well as centers for film. I am rooting for the continued vitality of Baltimore’s Senator Theater, where I saw Hairspray, and for Washington’s Uptown, where I must have seen at least one Harry Potter, and for the reopened Avon Theater in Stamford, CT, where I saw Scream, and for the Tivoli Theater in St. Louis’ Delmar Loop, and for DC’s Atlas on H St. NE. I am rooting for these places to defy the death of the local movie theater.

Have you lost an old movie theater? Do you remember what you saw there? Where are your favorite old theaters that still remain open? 

Poster displayed in front of the National Community Church, formerly the Meader Theater on Barracks Row, Washington, DC, Fall 2011

Former Pennsylvania Ave. SE theater, February 2012, Washington, DC

Still open: Tivoli Theater, Delmar Loop, St. Louis, January 2012

Going strong: Atlas Theater, Fall 2011, Washington, DC, H St. NE

DC Shorts Film Festival, Atlas Theater, Fall 2011, Washington, DC, H St. NE

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3 thoughts on “A Tribute to the Local Movie Theater

  1. Years ago when I live in Australia, we had a great old movie theatre by the beach. We used to rent it out for private parties and work functions – it was loads of fun. I believe there had even been a strong campaign to save it. It has been too long since I have lived there – not sure if it is still running.

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