Why Can’t We Have A Movie Theater in Columbia Heights?


We’ve touched on this issue a bit in the comment section of previous posts. But I’ve received a surprising number of emails asking why Columbia Heights doesn’t have a movie theater. And Sunday when I was walking downtown I passed the great E Street Cinema (just east of 11th Street, NW) and it made me think about it again. It seems that the E Street Cinema is wildly successful. So I hope I’m not being naive. I’m not saying that Columbia Heights should have a one screen independent theater. But why can’t Columbia Heights have a multi-screen independent theater modeled after the E Street Cinema? It seems like there is a real market out there.

I imagine the theater would attract folks from Adams Morgan, Mt. Pleasant, Shaw/U Street/Logan Circle, Columbia Heights of course, Park View, Petworth, Brightwood, Brookland, and even Woodley Park/Cleveland Park among other neighborhoods. Is that not enough people to support a movie theater? If you think Columbia Heights could support a movie theater, where could it realistically go? How many screens would be ideal? Could it support a theater that shows independent films like E Street or a more traditional theater like Chinatown/Gallery Place Regal Cinemas?

99 Comment

  • I was just talking about this. While I love movies and going to the theater I am not sure I want a theater in Columbia heights.

    Again, let me say that I love going out to watch a movie, but I would not want columbia heights to turn into what Chinatown has become. I think that the reason there are so many young kids hanging around Chinatown is because of the movie theater.

    I could be totally wrong and if it was a independent theater that could be totally different.


  • With retail establishments like Target, Best Buy, IHOP, Rita’s, etc., my guess would be that the type of movie theatre that would come to Columbia Heights would be something more like Regal. I think a more independent type of neighborhood like Bloomingdale, Shaw, Eckington, Truxton Circle, etc. would be a better fit for an independent movie theatre. Of course, most of those neighborhoods’ residents can already walk to the E St. Cinema.

  • I think a small, 4-screen “megaplex” style theater could work, but I don’t think CH could support its own arthouse theater. I think they should retrofit the Tivoli and Lincoln Theater to show films (even if it’s just classics, international, or ones that aren’t in theaters anymore) on any night when there isn’t an event going on. Those non-profit theaters have a really hard time making ends meet and are extremely underutilized.

  • SG – I think that is a great idea. I wonder if anyone has approached the Tivolit folks – whoever they are. Rather than a movie theater I would love to see a bookstore – chain or independent.

  • Too many shootings.

  • I really like SG’s idea!

  • i agree with Jason, it will be chinatown times 3

  • Movie theatres are closing nationwide, not opening. Netflix and video on demand through cable/satellite/computer are killing the movie theatre industry.

    E-Street does well because they are the only theatre in the city that shows art house films/independent films. But the market isn’t big enough for two of those in a two-three mile radius. If another went up here, both would fail.

    Same thing with the mass distribution theaters, you’ve got one a mile away in Gallery Place. If theatres couldn’t survive in Dupont and Friendship Heights, no way that one does well enough here to survive.

    I know I’m being debbie downer here, but all the cries for book stores and movie theatres are silly, the ship has sailed for those types of businesses in every neighborhood.

  • VOR – so you don’t like dogs, you won’t eat any food that isn’t locally grown and unprocessed, and you’re down on movie theaters and bookstores. Is there anything else I’m missing so far? Just trying to keep tabs, thanks.

  • I’m excited about the outdoor concerts and performances on the new plaza.

    Also, I agree with VOR that both Chinatown and E-street are incredibly close. I don’t think we need or can support our own theatre.

  • There used to be literally dozens of movie theaters in DC up until the early/mid 1990’s. Hell, Tenleytown used to have 4 of them with a total of about 14 screens. The format obviously wasn’t profitable, so we have what we have now – several super-multi-plexes. I love the idea of small theaters [especially if someone could turn the old Ontario Theater into one], but their time is probably over. Cool link on historic/former theaters in DC, it’s amazing how many are now CVS’s:


  • If Dupont couldn’t sustain their independent movie theatre, how can you expect CH to do it?

  • If we want to be able to sustain businesses, we need to build large apartment buildings with a sufficient number of market rate apartments. People who rent at market rate have disposable income and can help to sustain businesses.

  • Visions failed on FL avenue. I love E street wish something like that would work in CH but its unlikely. A lot of people who frequent E street are not going to come up to CH. As for a mass movie theater, NO WAY. I used to live on the Hill and Union Station was the absolute worst. There was constant fighting, harassment etc. Now all those thug teens have moved to CHinatown. Last time I went to Chinatown theater a RIOT broke out in the middle of 7th street at 11:00 at night. We have enough problems with loitering and gang violence, why move it to a theater. Anyhow, CH has enough thug teens we don’t need to attract anymore on a weekend. I promise the violence and crime would sky rocket.

  • Why doesn’t the Tivoli occasionally play movies? Heck, they could even be old-time ones like in the posters they have all around the building. I’d pay good money to go see “It’s a wonderful life” in the holiday season. And if they served beer, then I’d be there all the time…

  • We would love an independent theater in the neighborhood. We almost never go to a theater anymore, but would go if there was one nearby.

  • I dunno. There’s a lot more people living in Columbia Heights and the surrounding area who would patron an art-house/independent theater, then there were in 1990. (Myself included) Maybe instead of strictly foreign or art-house films, perhaps a mix of old classics, new classics and short run independent films?

    Maybe a cinema draft house where you can get wings and a beer and watch an old movie?

    It would just need to hit the right niche and I think it could work.

    But yes, no huge multiplex. Anything to keep CH from turning into Chinatown.

  • PoP, I think you are being naive. The whole city can barely support a couple of independent theaters – I would venture to guess/predict that an indie theater in CH would fail fairly quickly. A chain theater might have a fighting chance. SG’s idea could also work, but would likely not generate any profit – i.e. it would likely have to be some sort of a not-for-profit endeavour.

  • I dunno. I see a Chinatown-style movie theatre in CH attracting a much rougher crowd. A smaller movie theater that shows independant films would be great….but I hardly doubt any potential investors are willing to put $$$ down on a neighborhood that’s fallen to gangs and little hoodlums with guns.

  • Dear Chinatown Bashers,

    If you haven’t looked around, CH is much worse than Chinatown with regards to commercialization, crime, and lack of character. For every McDonald’s, BK, etc, in Chinatown, there are unique and upscale options which are lacking in CH. Even the chains in Chinatown, such as Nando’s Peri Peri, Wagamama, and Wagamama’s are better than just about anything in CH. I would be more worried about Chinatown getting a Best Buy, Marshall’s, or Target…I mean really, do these really add character to CH.

    The violence in Chinatown is partially due to the theater, but that is limited compared to having the McDonald’s on 7th and G, and the fact that several housing projects just up the street have no other options for the teens to spend their time. Most of them are not going to and paying for movies, but reather,m just hanging out outside the metro, or McD’s.

    That being said, just about everyone I know would feel safer hanging out any time of the day in Chinatown and the side streets than in CH.

  • Mostly wishful thinking here, but to answer PoP’s title question, I think it’s because the economics wouldn’t work out. Gallery Place is a 6 min Metro ride for your Hollywood blockbusters, and E Street isn’t much farther for your indy films. (And, just up Georgia Avenue, there’s another monstrous commercial theater and the AFI in Silver Spring, with lots of free parking after hours.) The Tivoli, while once a great movie palace, is not that anymore. The theater portion of that space was remodeled with the stage in mind and the resident theater company (check them out!) can’t just be pushed aside. And after that, there really isn’t a space that would suit in a location proximate to the Metro and other nightlife, which is where people open theaters.

    DC USA could have been designed with a multiplex in mind, but frankly, I’m glad it wasn’t. At Gallery Place on Friday, when I left, I felt like I was chaperoning a school dance.

  • In the relatively recent past Georgetown Movie theatre opened, Mazza has been there Silver Spring, Hyattsville (best kept secret no teens but lots of college students who live in nearby dorm) , Gallery Place all opened recently, all served by the Metro except GT is there sufficient demand for an additional theatre? Don’t you have to be a multiplex to make money? Independent theatre in CH, I don’t think so people will travel to see an independent film and E Street is really nice. You could show independents in the Tivoli, no?

  • I think as the population density increases (they are still building on 14th Street and will be for the foreseeable future) over the next few years there may be enough density to support a movie theater. For those who mentioned shootings that could be an issue but I believe more good people in the area drives out crime it will not increase it long term. I would also point out that no one back in the late 90’s / early 00’s would have envisioned Target, Best Buy etc choosing Columbia Heights for store locations. Gallery place has a lot of teens hanging out because the central location / bright lights it is a place for a teen to people watch when there is nothing to do. When the movie theatre opened in Silver Spring it had lots of teens I stopped going, then I went a couple of times recently less teens, I think the luster has worn off. I saw significantly fewer teens at Gallery Place the last couple of times I was there I think the appeal of places wears off for teens. Working people look for convenience teens look for the next cool place a CH movie theatre would be that for a while then it would wear off.

  • thank you murdoch… you are correct. It takes 6 minutes to get to chinatown from CH on the metro… literally. it would take me as long to walk to a theater somewhere near CH as it would take to metro to chinatown.

    side note – DC/surrounding areas are seriously lacking in $2 theaters. I dont know why. To be honest, i dont know how those things stay in business, but there is an excellent one in several cities I have lived in… Seattle, Atlanta etc. Am I missing one? Is there a $2 theater anywhere near DC?

  • PoP / Posters

    “I imagine the theater would attract folks from… and even Woodley Park/Cleveland Park among other neighborhoods.”

    People west of the Park do NOT travel East of the park anywhere North of U Street…am I wrong?

  • Why all the negativity towards teenagers? Weren’t you teenagers once?

  • TonyS – Years ago there used to be an awesome $2 theatre in Georgetown on Thomas Jefferson Street. It closed just before the big theatre opened. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks they got bought out by the big theatre.

  • I agree with SoLong, and whoever else pointed out the obvious fact that CH is only minutes away from Gallery Place and the E Street theater. In addition, indie movie theaters (esp. single screen ones) really don’t generate enough revenue to pay their bills, much less turn any sort of profit. If its first run, movie theaters generate most if not all their revenue off concessions. If its second run, you pay the license fee for the film (sometimes a flat rate, sometimes a percentage) and keep the rest. Not enough people choose to go see “old classics,” “new classics,” etc., etc., b/c of Netflix, etc. I’d estimate that DC proper (i.e., not counting suburbs) would have to double in size before it’d be feasible.

  • I’m also skeptical about a theater working in CH or nearby, but if anyone wants to try their hand, the York is an easy walk from the Georgia Ave. Metro:


    The building still looks to be in decent shape.

  • We need more folks with disposable income to sustain those kinds of establishments.

    The federal govt is growing. If we want a piece of that pie, we need to keep building market rate homes for professionals with incomes.

  • If we built all market rate homes, who would staff the theater, make your latte, and work in the restaurants you feel you are entitled to go to and complain about? If this area is full of racists and classists like home-owner, I don’t think any independent business would enjoy opening up in such an area, much less providing a service to such jerks.

  • The teenage children of home-owners would do that. They should be working in these jobs rather than getting free hand-outs from the government to walk around and drop pamphlets on the ground.

  • Theaters are nice, but has anyone thought of opening a Whole Foods Market in Columbia Heights? That would be much better.

  • I actually have to agree with VOR on this one. All an independent/arthouse cinema in CH would do is absorb some of the patronage from E Street, putting both out of business; it would not draw in large numbers of new viewers who would otherwise forego going out to see an independent/foreign/arthouse film. Single screen independent movie houses in urban areas are completely a thing of the past (NYC perhaps being an exception). Ask the board at the Avalon how hard it is to stay out of the red. Were it not for donations, the Avalon would have folded again a couple of years ago.

    The same is likely true of a bookstore in CH. As much as I love books, and browsing bookstores, I have to admit that I buy more than 90% of my books online, and I think its true for most people. The books are cheaper, the stock is broader, and I can browse and buy without leaving my house. Perhaps of even greater importance, I can do it when I actually have time, which tends to be after 10 pm weeknights. I hate that life and market realities have combined to undermine local bookstores, but it is what it is.

  • My buggy whip store is also having a lot of trouble staying afloat right now.

  • I barely feel safe in Columbia Heights during the day. There’s no way I’d go there at night by myself to see a movie (which is how I usually see movies). Are the rowdy teenagers outside Gallery Place annoying? Yes, but I have never gotten the humiliating and frightening sexual harrasment there that I get every time I go to Columbia Heights.

  • Yeah… all those independent businesses hate Georgetown and Bethesda. Some how workers happen to get there to collect a paycheck… and we have a Metro station with plenty of affordable housing on the Green Line… Such a liberal to scream racism… you seem more racist for attributing disposable income to “non-minorities” or is the federal government racist in that it doesn’t higher minorities. Resisting natural market displacement is the problem… places change, if you don’t want to be “forced out” take it upon yourself to create your own security and work hard to maintain it.

  • Thanks for backing me up, Dirty.

  • “and you’re down on movie theaters and bookstores.”

    I’m not down on either, I love both, I go to both often. I’m just being realistic. These types of businesses are not making it. Adding more to this area would result in failure for the ones already in place as well as the ones added. Doesn’t make sense.

  • I’ve had multiple experiences wanting to go see a movie at E St on a Friday night only to find that the movie and time that I wanted to see is sold out. I’m also turned off of going to the movie theatre at Gallery Place on Saturday nights b/c of all the kids. So I think there might be an untapped market out there. That said, I think that a second-run theatre (like the Cinema and Drafthouse in Arlington) would do fabulously well — either in Adams Morgan or one of the surrounding neighborhoods.

  • H-O – this is like my neighbor complaining about his real estate taxes going up, yeah it sucks, but they are increasing because the value of your house is increasing. This is the house that he grew up in, inherited when his mother passed, and presumably has no debt on it. You could buy CH rowhomes for $40k in the 70’s, live through hell for 30 yrs and now get $400k for it, obviously the inflation-adjusted return isn’t as impressive, but come on… the alternative… having it remain an undesirable place to live and your house being worth $50k. For every person displaced, someone else is benefiting… that’s life.

  • a place that was a bar with a big movie screen that only showed the occasional movie would be a rockin thing in my book.

    alcohol sales would make it sustainable. maybe do family sundays or something.
    teen nights here and there. maybe show movies on small televisions on non main feature nights, like other places show sports.

    i agree with VOR, moviehouses and moviemalls are dying. but watching movies with friends and strangers is still fun. but a place should have a little bit more going on theses days.

    like a drive in movie, but for go-carts… hmmm that would be a cool use of the target lower level parking….

    while im at it, we could use some bumper boats in dc too….. another good use for some parking garages……
    ; )

  • No more than 3-4 screends showing Indie films and documentaries. If I want big blockbuster hits, expensive food, and loud obnoxious prankster kids all in one movie night, I’ll go to Chinatown.

  • Didn’t the building at 17th and Columbia used to be a movie theatre? I’d love to see a movie theatre go back into that spot.

  • I like Sean’s idea. Think outside the box people.

    And no matter how many new classics I can rent on netflix, that’s still NOT THE SAME THING as being able to watch Indiana Jones (or whatever) during dinner, with a glass of wine and a room full of strangers who’ll make the experience more fun.

    I really do think that if a theater were structured to fit the right niche, it could do well.

  • TonyS- you can go to $1 monday movie night at Arlington Cinema N Drafthouse

  • Sean/Divine: Visions in Dupont is/was pretty much exactly what you wanted, and it failed. I agree with “how cool” it would be, but, unfortunately, it isn’t even a “break-even” business idea right now. Maybe if more people lived in DC you would have enough occasional patrons to make the idea work. I think that if the city was a little less expensive these ideas would work a little more, but everyone spends so much on housing nowadays that they don’t have as much disposable income to spend so they make choices carefully and indie movie theaters apparently don’t make the cut. If there was a push for affordable housing, maybe we could have more cool things, but the market rate for housing is so expensive, I just don’t see how people have the money left over to patronize such places.

  • More affordable housing = less tax revenue = higher taxes on those who work = less disposable income to support business

  • If I remember correctly, there was an article in the CityPaper several years ago about how the Landmark chain uses strong-arm tactics to pressure distributors not to book their films in other indie art-house theatres, not just in D.C., but in other cities, too. Visions blamed a lot of its problems on Landmark. If this is true, I assume Landmark will do the same thing to any independent theatre in CH, and it’s not likely to open a theatre to compete with its E Street location.

    It seems that Landmark hasn’t used these tactics on the Avalon. I wonder if it’s because of the Avalon’s location, its size, or that fact that it’s a community-run nonprofit. Landmark just better stay away from the Cinema Arts theatre in Fairfax!

  • Affordable housing pushes out the middle class. In that kind of model, only the super poor and super rich get to live in the city. What about the middle class?

  • Less tax revenue from whom and from what?

    More affordable housing = more disposable income to support businsses = more sales tax revenue = lower property taxes = more affordable housing

  • Visions just used the Landmark as a scapegoat. Anyone who frequented Visions (I was one of the few…and even I went to the bar there more than the theater b/c I lived close to it) can attest to how few people would actually went through the doors; festivals / special events being a notable exception. Granted, it wasn’t the best run place, but Visions was failing before E Street opened.

  • New in CH, sorry to rain on your parade, but you are about 4-5 years late for getting on the “Whole Foods in CH” bandwagon. There was a big push to locate a store in DCUSA that fell through due to concerns about not enough dedicated parking or some such. In hindsight, of course, that seems silly, as garage parking clearly is not DCUSA’s issue.

    Big chain movie houses still do fine. The problem is that there’s no space for a big multiplex near the Metro and most people here aren’t talking about a big multiplex. These smaller, second-run, beer-and-a-movie places (or their wine-and-an-indie brethren) are not viable with the rents in CH. Ask the Drafthouse people about last year’s attempt at the Montgomery County Drafthouse at the Wheaton mall. Lasted all of about 2 months, and that was at Wheaton rents.

  • I remember twenty-odd years ago all over India & Thailand movies would be shown pretty easily in restaurants, shops & outdoor plazas. Technology today ought to make it pretty simple to have occaisonal movie showings in local bars or other venues. Communal watching is fun, but once a month or so is probably enough for most people with busy lifestyles, other social outlets and Netflix.

  • Is “Affordable Housing” a code word for something? I consider myself “middle class” and I would certainly welcome something a bit more affordable. Is the readership of this blog particularily well off that no one else finds housing prices to be high? Or does everyone own their place so that they are benefitting from the high housing prices and they are doing everything to protect the paper profits on their homes? I assume its the latter.

  • Personally, i would rather see a nice strip club than a movie theatre. But I never go to the movies.

  • No new movie theaters will ever open in DC. It’s all over.

    I haven’t gone to see a movie for grown-ups in 5 years. However I rent three movies a week on Netflix.

  • Keep the movies theatres downtown.
    I am sure it would attract the wrong kind of movies and the wrong kind of moviegoers.
    CH just not yet ready for that sort of thing and probably never will be.
    A bookstore, on the other hand, I am sure we can handle.
    However, I do think an art screen would work, if it can be economically feasible.
    I would really like to see a serious Spanish language cinema.

  • @Victoria: I thought people here hated bars with TVs in them. LOL. Now everyone is going to demand TVs in bars so that they can all show arthouse movies!

  • The $2 theater in Georgetown was actually $3. It was called “The Foundry” and was run by the Odeon chain that owned all the little theaters that closed over the past 10 years. It was good for the price, but sort of unkempt.

    One of the last great places to see a movie is the National Gallery of Art on Sundays at 4:30. Always something cool. And it’s free (though sometimes I wished they charged a nominal fee in order to thin the herd a bit….also, it smells like old people).

  • For what it’s worth, I know the Landmark execs and they love DC — it actually is the best market (both E Street and Bethesda Row) in their circuit. Georgetown and Regal (on occasion) have done very well with their indie films too. I also happen to know most of the folks at the Avalon (Andy, Bill, etc.) and they are also thriving these days. The bottom line is that DC is a great independent film town and could use a few more screens in the core. For those naysayers talking about the old Dupont, Janus, Visions, etc. the simple fact is that despite the wretched state of those houses that they did quite well — the old Dupont in fact was one of the top grossing cinemas in the country for a number of small, indie films. That said, the commercial rents (or in the case of Visions –the debt) killed their viability. On this point, let’s just say that I know first hand of at least one group (with very strong national ties) that is kicking the tires in Columbia Heights with a modified cinema concept (think a MUCH better Visions) for Columbia Heights as well as some other emerging DC neighborhoods. What’s more Sundance is actively scoping out DC as well for another arthouse (probably on the waterfront). The bottom line is that the DC film business should be a little more interesting soon…

  • NP said to VOR “you’re down on movie theaters and bookstores.”

    VOR may be down on movie theaters and bookstores but he’s absolutely right. The trend lines for both are pointing down. E Street does well because it’s the only game in town. Another arthouse theater in DC would kill both. Remember Visions on Florida Avenue.
    And if independent bookstores were in such demand, there wouldn’t be so few of them left. Many people use bookstores as libraries – they don’t buy anything, they just go in the stores to read. If something peaks their interest, they buy it cheaper online. The large chain stores can afford to support the permanent browsing crowd. Independent stores can’t. The same thing is happening with coffee shops. People come in and nurse a $3 latte for 8 hours just to get free internet access. And then they wonder why these places keep going out of business.

  • Does the Atlas on H Street still have movie screens in their theaters? Maybe they should start showing films.

  • MP and VOR — I don’t buy it. The film business has done very well this year. Look at it this way, many of the readers of this blog probably have stunning, stainless kitchens w/ killer appliances (yada, yada) that are seldom used for the simple reason that people like to go out and do stuff — say stuff like eating out in restaurants or going to movies. That is precisely why E Street does so well these days — it provides quality films in a decent setting for an adult audience. Right now that theater’s chief problem is that it doesn’t have enough seats. Business models do need to adapt to change but the reality is that unless we become cyborgs human beings will still enjoy things like socializing and dating in public places. Restaurants and movie theaters will survive.

  • Wow–snark all around!!

    First of all–when I was a kid, the movie theater was the only place we could go and stay out late and not get yelled at. For those of you who said a theater would attract “kids” and “the wrong kind of moviegoers”, for shame! You were a kid once too!

    Second of all–what’s wrong with Chinatown? CH has a Target, Best Buy, fast food chains, etc etc, and STILL has high levels of random crime; Chinatown is a successful commerical center with unaffordable housing and yes, lots of kids at night, but TONS of police presence. I feel safe there; the cops are everywhere. In CH? Not so much.

    Third–17th and Columbia would be a great place for a Drafthouse clone. It’s for sale! Someone buy it! Please!

    Last–any growth is good for our economy (unemployment is skyrocketing), so if a strip club wants to move in to CH, let it. 🙂

  • Did everyone have a bad weekend? What’s up with all the CH-hate? A regular theater could be nice but probably I wouldn’t get there too much. Like a lot of other people I think the social contract for in-theater behavior is in tatters, all the more so since the people most put off by bad behavior are staying home and renting.

    Personally I want a book store — a big one like a Borders. It’s a waste of space, books and (for the customers) money but I’d still be over there once a week. Even better would be something like a Powell’s — a huge used book store, which I think would be unique for this area.

  • The original anchor for DCUSA was a movie theater complex, Magic Johnson, not Target. At about that time the theater industry almost went belly up and other issuess killed that deal. Even today there was brain storming about putting a theater in the unused parking deck at DCUSA if a theater vendor could be found to make the huge investment. Before the back door deal for the Allegro Project at the old Giant site on 14th St there was even brainstorming about a theater going there as part of a mixed use development.

    In terms of arthouse type theater, Gala in the Tivoli was supposed to double in the function. However, promoters have yet to develop that site which is availabe for that opportunity.

    As mentioned earlier Vision Theater failed even with alcohol and an upscale push and I believe some city investment. BTW, the TIF financing which made the Gallery Place complex and the theater possible almost did not financially maket. I would love to see a theater in CH, but it will take more than wishful thinking. Also, I think some are delusional about their own market power. Those empty condos, condo lots and cut backs by Starbucks & Borders Books should make that clear.

  • I’d also love a bookstore — maybe a used book/busboys and poets type hybrid. But could a business like that realistically afford the rents around here?

  • Anonymous at 11:40 has just stumbled on to the appeal of Alexandria and Merrifield. The city won’t change, fundamentally at least, either you have to change or expand your housing search into other jurisdictions.

  • For those of you wanting a used bookstore or art house theatre, please keep in mind that rent for places big enough to hold a store like that run at a minimum about $10,000 per month. That’s a LOT of used book or art movie tickets a month just to make the rent, let alone other operating costs and squeaking out a profit.

  • Look, Philadelphia is the armpit of the universe for most of you, and it has at least three theaters that show independent films- The Ritz chain. These are all owned by Landmark though. I think the solution is to ask Landmark to open up another theater in CH, then we can let the market decide. Hopefully, people will frequent a neighborhood theater that shows independent films, but I am sure that there is a growing group of people like Neener who will not go out to see a movie if they have Netflix.

  • What this neighborhood needs is a gourmet chocolate shop, or a kite store dammit!!

  • Population of City of Philadelphia (cit only, not suburbs): estimated 1.4 million
    Population of DC (city only, not suburbs): estimated 600,000 (being very generous)

    Even the greater metro populations (taking suburbs into account) make Philly a more populated area.

    Then, look at rents. In Philly, commercial space on average goes for about $16 per square foot, in DC, it’s around $35 per square foot. And that’s on the low end, in CH, it’s likely more.

    Two very different places.

  • VOR and CT — I agree comparing Philly to DC is pointless (though using city population as a reference point is silly I mean DC is better connected to areas like Arlington, Bethesda, etc. than much of Philly — a sprawly town of 140 sq. miles — is to itself) but keep in mind that DC unlike Philly has the Avalon, G’town, Gallery Place — all of which show some art films most of the time (or at least occassionally in the case of Regal). What’s more, Bethesda, the AFI and Shirlington are within spitting distance of DC and easily accessible by transit (ok, except Shirlington but still it isn’t that far away). The other thing is that the Ritz Theatres are kind of like cinema 2.0 — not old like a traditional cinema and not new like a truly modern plex — sorry, but DC has Philly easily beat on this score.

  • I vote strip club. Whatever happened to Nexus Gold Club? That was supposed to move somewhere NW after it was needlessly torn down for an empty apartment building in the near southease

  • We already have a strip club near by. It’s on GA Ave 3500 block.

  • What is going on in the Nori space in the Tivoli? Maybe they could be a bar/moviehouse…? They already have the liquor license, and it’s just a dead space now.

  • DISCLAIMER: This post intends no snark or sarcasm. It’s an honest inquiry.

    I understand what the naysayers are saying about the rent, and I agree on that point. The inflated real estate costs in DC have the potential to kill just about anything. So on that point, what type of business do you think would do well in a spot like 17th and Columbia?

  • VOR —

    One more point, DC will almost cetainly have a pop greater than 600k in 2010 and, additionally, Greater DC may well be bigger than Greater Philly by then — if it isn’t already (their estimated metro pop is 6 million which includes Wilmington while DC’s estimated metro pop of 5.8 million doesn’t include B’more which if it is added brings the figure up to almost 8.5 million).

  • What we need (not necessarily in this order) is:

    1) Draft House Cinema

    2) Book Store

    3) Kite shop!

    I think that if it is “fun/cool” enough and there is a basic business plan in place, any of these places can make it. By basic business plan I mean that they understand the basic # of tickets, beers, popcorn sold etc.

    This would also be an opportunity for the City to help out with subsidies for stuff like this…

  • People are so quick to put limits on the area, look how far it has come from pre-Metro days. The movie theatre would not cause a problem any problem is already there. A movie theatre could draw people up from U street. What the city should strive to do is make 14th a walkable commercial corridor from the Circle all the way to Meridian and improve the police presence

  • Divine,

    I think a small theatre showing second run and independent films which also serves food and beer would do well there. Folks in the city would no longer have to treck all the way to Arlington. And if it doubled as a live music venue, even better.

  • I have friends whose independent college town movie theater showing art house films went out of business last Fall. One bank demanded a loan back and that was it, they couldn’t rework it under new conditions that would have removed hundreds of dollars per month from their cashflow.

    I find it interesting that Sundance is kicking tires, but I don’t find it entirely believable they will open. I firmly believe that no new theaters will open up and that the movie theater industry will look seriously different in 2012, including non-standard theaters in odd locations.

    I can’t believe people are saying the film business is doing well. Subtracting DVD sales it is a shadow of what it once was. You want to talk about DVD sales too, that’s fine, but that does not help a movie theater stay in business. Quite simply when I was a teenager I’d go to a movie theater about twice a week. I have not gone to a theater at all since around 2004. I understand there’s an age difference, but I’ve seen every single one of my favorite theaters as a kid close- at least 24 theaters shut down in the last 30 years. That’s 24 theaters!

    I think Visions is the best example, the place was fun and really cool but I only spent about $150 there the entire time it was open.

  • Both stats that VoR used are suspect- The Ritz theaters are all in Center City Philly, which has a population of about 90,000 people. The rental statistics, if they take the entire City of Philadelphia into account, cover an area of 140 Miles, as DJ said. In any event, using unsourced statistics to counter my point takes all the fun out of arguing anyway!

    DJ- If we stack the entire Philadelphia area against DC and its colonies in MD and VA, I think that Philly still has better indie theaters in much less space, from the 941 theater,
    http://www.941theater.com/ to the Roxy, Prince and Bridge theaters. And the Ritz experience isnt any worse than E-Street, they are owned by the same companies after all.

    Actually, maybe something like the 941 might work around here- A movie theater/concert venue? Anyone?

  • population numbers in DC proper are actually declining, not growing.

  • You are right that we’re lower than we were in 1980, but there’s been an upward trend since 1998. See link:


    It’ll be interesting to see what the coming years bring. I imagine that increasing road congestion and higher gas prices will lead to more people living in the city itself.

  • CH needs a columbia heights draft cinema house! no teens, only second run movies and comics.

  • I was given some statistics for my block by our ANC guy who talked about decline in population as group houses and flop houses closed and college and laborers moved on and were replaced by no one for a year as the owners renovated and then sold to a young couple. He said that at one point there were like 300 people on our block and then for years in 1999-2002 there were like 120 and now more like 200, but the reality is that I’m not exactly sure how this guy knows.

  • 88 posts and growing! Holy cow! Love the draft house idea. Seems like all the “gentrifiers” really want is a place to drink beer and wine, or do yoga, that is not in their own living room. Sell graphic T-shirts and ironic onsies and you’ve got a gold mine.

  • The theater on Columbia Road in Adam’s Morgan was called the Ontario.
    Demographically, at that time 20 or more years ago it was similar to what Columbia Heights is now. The place was an absolute zoo. It was not a normal place to see a film, but a place for kids to run wild and families to have picnics. Not what I look for in a cinema.
    It served a certain segment of the population of the area. Not what your average PoP reader is looking for.

  • A retrospective film theater like the Circle or the Biograph would be divine.
    I think you need to be old enough to know what these theater were and what they meant to us “college” types of the time.

  • All these ideas are great and I hope they all happen. The problem, though, is that not one of you will frequent any of them, much less ALL of them, to keep them in business.

  • Obvious solutions for making a theater in Columbia Heights profitable; dog park or doggy daycare in lobby and have Room 11, Wonderland or Social run concessions. Alright – now who has a $h1t-ton of capital for us to get started?

  • read all of the above.

    that’s why we can’t have nice things.

  • Hey Andy
    for those of us in the back of the class can you speak up a bit. We keep thinking we already do have nice things and don’t see how the comments negate that.

    Voice of reason,
    pop is going down?
    How you figure?

  • Honestly I would be amazed if CH could support a theater. Gallery Place and E Street are how many metro stops away? Tivoli maybe could be retrofitted for some occasional classic movie screenings but overall I just think it would not be economically feasible. If it was there would already be a theater in CH.

  • i’m no huge fan of teens myself, but when i read hood blog comments about them i think of this dude:

  • sorry. i meant the comments about shootings, chinatown being a close alternative by metro, people not wanting Columbia hts to turn into chinatown and protesting this, small businesses like bookstores being hard to keep going as businesses, small theatres not being profitable (tenley and visions), population density not clearly growing while rents are increasing.

  • the harris teeter on Kalorama rd. used to be a movie theater. how sweet would it have been if they remade it.

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