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Best (Sort-of) New Movie Theater

The reopening of Foggy Bottom’s West End Cinema brings indie movies, documentaries, and foreign films back to Downtown

The front lobby of West End Cinema features a concession stand that serves beer, wine and sandwiches. Photograph courtesy West End Cinema

Washington was once home to good independent arthouse cinemas (including the Biograph and the Key in Georgetown) as well as chains with locations devoted to below-the-radar films (the homegrown Circle theaters). More recently, lovers of non-blockbusters have relied largely on the artier offerings of Landmark’s Bethesda Row and E Street multiplexes, supplemented by the nonprofit Avalon in Chevy Chase DC and the AFI Silver in Silver Spring. What’s notable about the small West End Cinema—whose three screens opened last fall in the space that until 2004 was occupied by the Inner Circle 5–7—is that it brings independent film back to a part of DC that has been starved for it since the Dupont Circle 5 closed three years ago.

The West End focuses on indie, documentary, and foreign films as well as mini-festivals—such as this spring’s Do Something Reel, which had a food-and-environment theme. Concession fare includes wine, beer, and liquor; coffee and tea; baklava and pastries; and flavored marshmallows by the local Karen Mary Co. The Film Lover’s Club offers discounts, upgrades, and other perks.

West End Cinema, 2301 M St., NW; 202-419-3456; westendc­inema.com.

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Senior Managing Editor

Bill O’Sullivan is senior managing editor; from 1999 to 2007, he was a features editor. In another lifetime, he was assistant managing editor. Somewhere in the middle, he was managing editor of Common Boundary magazine and senior editor at the Center for Public Integrity. His personal essays have been cited three times among the notable essays of the year in The Best American Essays. He teaches at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda.