The concession-stand cliche of buttered popcorn, Raisinets and a large soda was busted — or at least seriously dented — by the arrival, in the 1980s, of the cinema ‘n’ drafthouse phenomenon. Cocktail-lounge-style swivel chairs and low tables replaced folding theater seats, with burgers and pitchers of beer elbowing out Twizzlers and the like. Tickets came cheap, as the on-screen fare was often second-run or repertory.

Here are some milestones in the Washington area’s ongoing march toward a more mature moviegoing experience.


Bethesda Cinema ‘n’ Drafthouse opens in the historic Bethesda Theatre . After a 1990 name change to Bethesda Theatre Cafe, it ceases regular operation as a commercial movie theater in 2001.

The Arlington Cinema ‘n’ Drafthouse. (2001 file photo) (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)


Arlington Cinema ‘n’ Drafthouse opens. Still in operation, supplemented by live comedy performances and other offerings.


Mazza Gallerie multiplex opens two of its seven screens as a “Club Cinema,” offering beer, wine and high-end noshes. Club Cinema is open Friday and Saturday nights only.

Mazza Gallerie’s “Club Cinema.” (2000 file photo) (Mario Tama/FTWP)

Visions Cinema/Bistro/Lounge opens in the former Embassy movie theater, serving coffee drinks, cocktails, beer and wine, and a selection of Mediterranean and Indian fare. Closed in 2004.


Landmark’s Bethesda Row Cinema opens.

The Avalon Theatre. (2004 file photo) (Juana Arias/The Washington Post)


Avalon Theatre reopens as a nonprofit in a renovated 1923 moviehouse, making it the city’s oldest operating theater. The cafe just off the lobby offers beer, wine, sandwiches, coffee and baked goods.

AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center opens in a renovated Art Deco theater in Silver Spring, with a bar and gourmet concessions.

Landmark's E Street Cinema. (Landmark Theatres/Erin Braswell)


Landmark’s E Street Cinema opens.


A renovated West End Cinema reopens as independent arthouse, offering full bar and pre-made sandwiches.

The Angelika Film Center Mosaic in Merrifield. (Elliott O'Donovan)


Angelika Film Center opens.

The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Ashburn. (Alamo Drafthouse Cinema)


Alamo Drafthouse Cinema opens.

The ArcLight Cinemas lobby at Westfield Montgomery Mall. (ArcLight Cinemas)


In a busy year for high-end cinema, openings include Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market, Bethesda ArcLight Cinemas and North Bethesda iPic.


A guide to navigating the area’s boutique movie theaters.