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Critic’s Choice: Best Movie Theaters

We asked people who watch movies for a living about their favorite theaters when they go out for fun

WRC Channel 4 critic Arch Campbell likes the Uptown Theatre (3426 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-966-5401; amctheatres.com) in DC’s Cleveland Park. “It’s the last of the really great movie theaters,” he says. “I always go up in the balcony—who else has a balcony?” He takes a pass on concessions: “My mother told me never to eat food at the movie theater.”

He’s also a fan of DC’s Avalon Theatre (5612 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-966-6000; theavalon.org), near Chevy Chase Circle: “It’s just so special—the neighborhood and theater.” The Avalon opened in 1923 as the Chevy Chase Theatre. After a chain closed it in 2001, it was revived as an independent in 2003.

Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday praises DC’s Landmark E Street Cinema (555 11th St., NW, entrance on E St.; 202-452-7672; landmarktheatres.com), an art-house theater, for its programming and gourmet concessions. She doesn’t usually buy snacks—“only when it’s something special” like the dark-chocolate Art Bar at E Street: “It’s also important for the long drive home to Baltimore.”

NPR critic Bob Mondello, who grew up in Bethesda, remembers Silver Spring’s art-deco Silver Theatre from his childhood. He now enjoys its reincarnation as the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center (8633 Colesville Rd.; 301-495-6720; afi.com/silver).

“They did a great job of taking it back to what it was in the 1950s,” Mondello says. “I love the marquee with the word silver.” When the structure was renovated, the main auditorium that seated 900 was reduced to 400 to create extra-wide aisles: “You could stretch out, and someone could still walk through without tripping.”

Nell Minow—known as the Movie Mom—lives in McLean and reviews films for Yahoo.com and radio stations across the country. She calls Alexandria’s Old Town Theater (815½ King St.; 703-683-8888; oldtowntheater.com) one of the area’s undiscovered gems. She loves the “usually excellent movie selections, comfortable seats, and the best food options anywhere.” There are pastas, panini, and entrées such as seared scallops with orange butter: “Beats Jujubes and stale popcorn with fake butter.”

Minow also likes the Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema (7235 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda; 652-7273; landmarktheatres.com) for art-house films and Arlington’s Regal Ballston Common Stadium 12 (671 N. Glebe Rd.; 703-527-9466; regalcinemas.com), where her favorite employee is Jorge Festin, “the friendliest greeter at any theater inside the Beltway.”

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