Hey, Movie Lovers! Where (& What) To Watch In The DMV

UPDATE: The Oscars are over, but it's not too late to catch all of the big winners on the silver screen. This story was originally published on February 6.
With the Academy Awards only 18 days away (who's counting?), you're running out of excuses not to see the season's best nominated flicks. And don't even think about complaining about figuring out what's playing where — when it comes to the optimal viewing experience, we've already got you covered.
Sure, New York and L.A. rule the cinema-city roosts, but the District has its fair share of excellent places to catch a film, with left-of-center theaters showing indie first-runs and quirky old-school favorites. Bonus: Where there's an inventive screening schedule, there’s usually a really awesome concession stand (and enough quality popcorn to fill FedEx Field). Click through for our insider’s guide to the best places to watch a movie in the DMV, plus the special perks that make each place totally unique. Oscar-worthy, even.
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AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center
The AFI Silver has been a destination for movie lovers for years, and for good reason. It’s spacious and (mostly) new, but has a welcoming neighborhood feel; it shows new and classic movies; and the concession stand peddles espresso and beer. Whenever we catch a film here, we always hope that it’s screening in theater 1 — the huge, ornate, historic venue that was built in 1938. Typically, AFI Silver shows two first-run indies, along with a handful of themed repertory showings. The focus here is broad — past series have focused on everything from Wes Anderson films to movies from post-Franco Spain — and skews heavily toward subtitles. It’s not all highbrow, though — cult favorites like Black Christmas and Groundhog Day get screen time, too.

AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring; 301-495-6700.

Photo: Courtesy of AFI
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The Avalon
The first time you see a feature at the historic Avalon theater, you'll probably be a little overwhelmed by the splendor of it all. Here, you'll find first-run indies and recent foreign movies playing in the gorgeous ground-level theater, where the seats and walls are plush and even the ceiling has some painted flair. The popcorn here is really, really good — tied for first place, in our book — and the theater has all sorts of other goodies at concessions. Personally, we really dig The Avalon’s commitment to foreign cinema, including once-a-week showings of films from Greece, Israel, Czech Republic, and more.

The Avalon, 5612 Connecticut Avenue NW; 202-966-6000.

Photo: Courtesy of The Avalon/James D'Addio
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West End Cinema
Though first-rate snacks are a given at most indie movie theaters, the concession stand is the major draw at West End Cinema. The theater, nestled in the 'hood between Dupont Circle and Georgetown, shows first-run indies and compelling series, like the Human Rights Watch series — but fans flock here for the eats. A full bar, tasty popcorn, and thoughtful dessert options (like baklava) put West End Cinema in that special realm of venues that think about what you watch and how well you eat. What more could you ask of an art-house movie theater?

West End Cinema, 2301 M Street NW; 202-419-3456.

Photo: Courtesy of West End Cinema
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The Uptown
Cleveland Park’s Uptown Theater has seen its fair share of films and stars — after all, it was the site of the world premieres for Jurassic Park, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, among others. Plus, it gives real meaning to the phrase “movie palace.” Showing just one first-run feature at a time, this is the place to watch that one really epic blockbuster of the season — especially if you're the sort that embraces opening-night hype. On a side note, we also can’t get over the second-floor seating and the awesomely retro bathrooms.

AMC Loews Uptown, 3426 Connecticut Avenue NW; 202-966-5401.

Photo: Courtesy of Uptown Theater Fan Club
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Angelika Film Center and Cafe at Mosaic
The newest venue on our list, the Angelika at Mosaic is part of a larger theater chain that includes locations in Texas and NYC. This cinema haven specializes in first-run indies, but also has an “Angelika After Hours” program, where you can catch old-school favorites like The Goonies and Mad Max at around midnight on the weekends. Food is also a big draw at the Angelika, where treat options range from chocolate fondue (!) to fancy deviled eggs and inventive sandwiches. We’re getting hungry just thinking about it.

Angelika Film Center and Cafe, at Lee Highway and Gallows Road, near 8200 Strawberry Lane, Fairfax; 571-512-3301.

Photo: Courtesy of Angelika Film Center
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Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse
Think that movie-watching ought to include a full bar and table service? Welcome to Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse, where you can get that night-out experience and still see a great film. The programming here is all over the map — in a good way, because there’s something for everyone. You’ve got $2 Monday and Tuesday showings of new-ish movies, comedy shows, and second-run flicks. The crowd is a little older, due to age limits (21+ unless accompanied by a guardian, and that’s strictly before 9 p.m.), which is definitely a plus in certain circles. While you’re mostly likely to find recent films playing here, there's some occasional special programming, such as screenings of Dr. Strangelove and The Princess Bride.

Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse, 2903 Columbia Pike, Arlington; 703-486-2345.

Photo: Courtesy of Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse
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Landmark E Street Cinema
Dedicated film buffs in the District know all about E Street (and its sister venue, Bethesda Row Cinema), but if you're not up to speed, here’s a quick primer: Imagine a subterranean multiplex where the movies are good and the food is even better — that’s E Street. The theater shows tons of indie first-runs; has a killer midnight movie series (think “Gay Films Everyone Should See” and plenty of raucous screenings of The Room); and offers really good concession treats. The popcorn is out of this world — the other first-place contender — and there's vegan cookies, espresso, an impressive beer list, wine, and liquor. Insider tip: Ask to have your shot of booze mixed into one of the fruit slushies. Cheers!

E Street Cinema, 555 11th Street NW; 202-783-9494.

Photo: Courtesy of Landmark Theatres