Sunrise Cinema

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Editorial Review

Catch a flick in the wee hours

By Jess Righthand
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 29, 2011

You've spent the night out at Wonderland, Meridian Pint or another Columbia Heights watering hole. Last calls comes goes, and then it's 2 a.m. and time to think about heading home.

Or is it?

Maybe your date went exceptionally well and you're looking for an artsy flourish to finish the night. Or maybe you had a bit too much fun and need to sober up before driving home. Whether you're an avid cinephile or an unstoppable bar-hopper, BloomBars' Sunrise Cinema -- a movie marathon from 2 to 6 a.m. on the first Saturday night/Sunday morning of every month -- is ready to entertain you.

Bloombars founder and director John Chambers started Sunrise Cinema just over a year ago. Chambers, formerly a communications professional who worked on public safety campaigns such as "Click It or Ticket," says he was looking to provide a safe, alcohol-free, inclusive atmosphere for a late-night weekend crowd.

"The idea is to keep people safe and keep the roads safe, without being uncool about it," says Chambers. So he started screening movies from his ever-growing, eclectic collection for whoever happened by late on Saturday evenings.

There's not much that could be construed as "uncool" about BloomBars. At night, the community art gallery, music venue and movie theater looks like the type of bohemian hangout one might expect to find in an alley on the side streets of Paris or Buenos Aires. Sidewalk chalk ushers guests from the street into a rowhouse with wide-open double doors. Velvet curtains frame a large movie screen and dark, art-lined walls glow with halos of red and purple light. A professional quality sound system and HD projector, pillows, tea and just enough room for about 35 chairs combine to yield both a quality viewing experience and an intimate, casual atmosphere.

As the first person there at a recent screening, I got to select the starting film.The dozens of options range from "Pan's Labyrinth" and "Sideways" to little-known indie flicks from around the world previously featuring in the weekly BloomScreen Indie Film Night. I finally settled on "Goodbye Lenin!," a 2003 German film about a son and daughter who attempt to hide German reunification from their ailing socialist mother.

It's an off night for attendance. Only three people wander in while I'm there: including, coincidentally, a young German couple tickled at the sight of a German film on the screen.

"You've got a mix of the old neighborhood that's been here for generations and the new businesses," says Chambers, describing the surrounding area. "It's close, it's convenient, but it's a world away."

At 4 a.m. in the art space, with not a car on the streets and dim, purple light illuminating the screen, I couldn't help but agree.

Arrive on the earlier side if you want to help pick the films. Water and tea are served, and guests are welcome to bring their own snacks. No alcohol is allowed.