If you haven’t gone down to E Street Cinema in downtown Washington, D.C. you might want to displace your butt from that couch and replant it in one of their fine, reclining bucket-seats ASAP. Whether you’re taking your date out to an arm-clinching, smooch-fest like In Secret, or throwing plastic spoons at the screen during a drunken, midnight showing of The Room, this theater does it right. The crowd tends to be less of the mainstream herd of cattle you can typically find at a giant, corporate-type cinema. Most importantly there are far fewer children. But of course do be prepared to sit next to someone wearing flannel or trimming their moustache.
Upon entering the theater you are likely to recognize the bored guy standing miserably behind the ticket counter. You may even think, “Damn, this is just another movie theater.” But it is the table of bootleg-style, cult classics directly behind him that caught my eye. There’s a plethora of great indie films such as Fruitvale Station and the anime classic My Neighbor Totoro.
Once you purchase your student-discounted $9.50 ticket, you can either proceed conveniently down the escalator, or trot down the thrice-terraced staircase. At the bottom of the stairs you are presented with two options: Bathroom or full bar. Not like movie theaters that suck, E Street Cinema is awesome mostly because of the bar. In fact, you can purchase a film-themed mixed drink, a craft beer or a full blown bottle of wine. And as you struggle to hand the ticket guy your tickets without dropping your booze, you are glad to remember that the bathrooms are at the bottom of the thrice-terraced staircase and conveniently located next to the bar which you will likely visit again (and again [and again]).
Midnights on weekends are also great at E Street Cinema. They feature different classics such as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and the original Batman. The seats are usually packed and sometimes it feels more like a party than a movie theater. They also show regular live performances of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
E Street Cinema also features films that are astonishingly terrible, and is a great place for Washingtonians to gather and marvel at the shit-cinema projected before them. Recently I saw The Room as mentioned above, and enjoyed the obscure, profane banter the audience shouted at the screen. As the commonly agreed upon shittiest movie of all time, a viewing of The Room is special in the absurdity of the plot and the audiences hilarious reactions to its shittyness.
Before the screening of most movies, there is a real-life person that comes out and informs the audience of future screenings and, in true vaudevillian fashion, entertains the audience and prepares them for the featured performance. I say you haven’t experienced cinema unless you’ve been to E Street Cinema for a classic showing. Seeing movies like Nightmare on Elm Street or A Clockwork Orange is a totally different experience on the big screen. You will understand the bygone era of filmmaking when the theater was truly a part of the presentation.
The easiest way to get to E Street Cinema is taking the Red line to Metro Center and walking south the couple blocks to E Street and the cinema is between 10th and 11th.