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The Arlington Cinema ‘N’ Drafthouse: Bites, Beers and the Big Screen

A trip to the movies in 2011 can be an expensive affair. With most summer blockbusters utilizing 3-D and IMAX technology, a single movie ticket can cost upwards of $15.

To save money, most people now wait for movies to come out on DVD. However, there’s something to be said for leaving the house and going to the theater.

But where can you see these newly released movies without breaking your budget?

Rapidly developing South Arlington has one great theater that offers movies at a discount, as well as a host of other events, ones that give consumers a better bang for their buck.

Located on Columbia Pike and South Walter Reed Drive, lies the Arlington Cinema ‘N’ Drafthouse. A stone building with a giant ‘Arlington’ marquee outside, the Drafthouse opened as a theater in the 1950s.

Two decades ago, it converted into a movie theater. Ever since, the Drafthouse has been showing sub-run movies.

What exactly are sub-run movies? Sub-run movies are films that have already completed their run at the main multiplexes, but have yet to be released on DVD.  The Drafthouse screens these films.

The movies are usually released to the Drafthouse about one to three months after they debut. For example, the Drafthouse is currently showing three movies: Source Code, Rio and Fast Five. All of these films premiered in April, meaning just two months later, they are at the Drafthouse.

The beauty of showing sub-run movies is that it allows the Drafthouse to keep costs down. An average ticket to any screening costs $5.50, less than half of what you would pay at an AMC or Regal. And $5.50 is the most expensive ticket in the house. They are always holding specials, allowing consumers to see movies at bargain prices.

Every Monday, the Drafthouse hosts Dollar Mondays, where tickets to any of the three movies they are screening are simply a buck. It doesn’t get much more expensive on Tuesday, when tickets are just two dollars. Then it’s full price through the rest of the week.

Inside, the Drafthouse doesn’t feel like other movie theaters. There isn’t row after row of hard plastic chairs. Instead, there are seven rows of counters, with executive leather chairs behind them. There are also small round tables with chairs, placed around the perimeter of the space.

The reason for the counters and tables is because not only does the Drafthouse show movies, it doubles as a bar and restaurant.

Arriving at a seat, you’ll find a menu. Before the movie starts, waiters patrol the wide aisles, taking food and drink orders. The Drafthouse has an excellent selection of beer and wine and their food covers the gamut of typical bar cuisine, from nachos and fried appetizers to pizzas and hamburgers. It is as good as or better than most items you’d encounter at a local watering hole. Because alcohol is served at the Drafthouse, patrons must either be over 21 or accompanied by an adult.

During the movie, if you’d like more to drink or eat, place the sign on your counter upright and a waiter will quietly come and take another request. With 15 or so minutes left in the film, the check comes, so you can pay and leave right when the credits roll.

Movies aren’t the only thing the Drafthouse specializes in though. On the weekends they often host top-notch comedy acts. The Drafthouse recently had the comedy troupe Broken Lizards Club Dread (of Supertroopers’ fame) and this week is holding a show by the co-creator of the Daily Show, Lizz Winstead. Tickets for comedy shows are also reasonably priced, typically in the $20 range.

So, in an era of sky-rocketing costs, head to the Drafthouse to enjoy first-rate films at bargain prices.

– David

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