There's a lot to like about Landmark's E Street Cinema, the latest theater to open in what feels like an ongoing movie renaissance in Washington. Like its sister Bethesda Row location, E Street will specialize in independent, foreign and documentary films, bringing the movies back to a section of town that recently has been cinematically underserved. The company is touting its new baby as D.C.'s most Metro-accessible theater, and that's not just P.R. spin. Located just one block from Metro Center, the theater is easy to get to from all four of the city's quadrants and beyond.
Taking a cue from the Bethesda cineplex, E Street's eight auditoriums are housed underground. Patrons buy tickets at the box office, then take the escalator or elevator downstairs, where the swanky, health-conscious concession stand (Don't want popcorn? Have a veggie dog for $3.50!) stretches out adjacent to a small lounge area. The houses range in size from rather small (the tiniest seats 96) to reasonably large (the biggest accommodates 260). Only some have stadium-seating, but all deliver digital sound and digital projection capability.
On the downside, the auditoriums are located along a seemingly endless hallway, which has been nicely appointed with soft lighting and hologram-style artwork but still makes me want to shout, "Dead man walking!" as I traipse along its narrow path. And anyone who ends up in the house at the farthest end better have a strong bladder: It's a mighty long dash down the 200-foot hall and past the concession stand to reach the restroom at the foot of the escalator. Who said you can't get good exercise at the movies?
Like Bethesda Row, Landmark charges $9.50 for an adult ticket, offering a matinee discount of $6.75 for pre-6 p.m. shows on weekdays and the first screenings of the day on weekends. It's a hefty amount for some to justify in this age of DVDs and large-screen TVs, especially if your film shows in one of the tinier houses. But even with those shortcomings, the E Street still seems like a win for Washington. The staff promises adventurous programming, including the possibility of regular midnight cult movie screenings. And on a snowy day, movie buffs will be grateful that the hot indie of the moment is a mere Metro ride away.
-- Jen Chaney, January 14, 2004
For showtimes, call 202-452-7672. For other information, call 202-783-9494.