If your budding film buff (the one what just asked for an 8mm black and white camera!) appreciates the art of independent film as much as grown-ups, you’re in luck. The D.C. area delivers some of the best indie theaters on the east coast, equipped with the diversity you’ll need to satisfy the family member who prefers an artsy, low-budget film that’s short on special effects, but long on life’s lessons. The next time your kids roll their eyes when Dad suggests taking in the latest blockbuster, you can thank us for this roundup of the DMV’s best kid-friendly indie movie theaters.
Photo: J Mark Dodds
AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center
The lobby at this theater is a mini-museum on the history of film, and an all around celebration of the moving image in the digital age. AFI presents an unprecedented variety of film and video programs, including filmmaker interviews, panels, discussions, musical performances and more, along with the visuals to go with it. The center is a state of the art facility, anchored by the restoration of noted architect John Eberson’s historic 1938 Silver Theatre, and it features 32,000 square feet of new construction that houses two stadium theatres, plus reception and exhibit areas. AFI’s annual Silver Docs festival is one of the year’s most highly anticipated film festivals, bringing to D.C. a series of amazing documentaries from around the world.
8633 Colesville Rd. (Silver Spring, Md)
Thanks to D.C. indie film lovers, the Avalon went from a crumbling movie house to the restoration of what movie theaters once were when seeing a movie was a luxury outing only. As the oldest operating movie house in the area, The Avalon has been a cornerstone of northwest D.C. since it opened in 1923. It now serves as D.C.’s only nonprofit film center and you can be certain that any time you spend at The Avalon is in support of the love of art and film. The Avalon’s line up is a combination of first-run studio films, independent and foreign films, film festivals, a Wednesday night series, and special programs for students, families and seniors, all in a beautiful, historic setting. Bring the family to one of the Weekend Family Matinees, which feature films and live performances that are family-friendly and ridiculously fun. Most are held on Saturday mornings and scheduled periodically throughout the year.
5612 Connecticut Ave., NW (Chevy Chase)
Old Town Theatre
Just as the name suggests, Old Town Theater is in Alexandria’s historic Old Town neighborhood and features classics and contemporary films, along with live music and comedy shows, all set amid a beautifully restored 100- year old interior theater that was renovated in 2012 to highlight the majesty of its 1914 design. Today it is both a theater and a performing arts center. In addition to seeing films, you can rent it for productions, parties and events. You can even screen your own feature film at the theater, along with a full red carpet experience. Your family film buff has a real future here!
815 ½ King St. (Alexandria, Va)
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Cinema
This cinema house is about as artsy and independent as it gets, so if you’re really looking for offbeat beauties of the film world, here is where you’ll find it, with work by upcoming and experimental directors. Highlights from several alternative festivals are shown each year, and you can even get a glimpse of some works in progress. Films are usually shown every Thursday and Friday nights at 8pm. Oh, and get this: It’s free!
7th St. and Independence Ave., SW (National Mall)
West End Cinema
The West End Cinema offers a diverse selection of independent, foreign and documentary films in addition to the latest blockbusters. This is good place to go if your family has a diverse set of film interests and you’re willing to separate for a couple hours in order to please everybody! Don’t miss the West End’s popular “Opera in Cinema” and “Ballet in Cinema” series, which features the best in both categories. This place also has one of the most diverse cafés on the indie theater scene, featuring everything from popcorn to Greek baklava. Serious film junkies can join West End’s Film Lover’s Club and take advantage of advance notice on upcoming events and screenings, plus discount tickets and more.
2301 M. St. NW (West End)
Have you visited any of these indie movie theaters with your kids? Tell us about the experience in the comments section below.