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Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse remains committed to its full slate of upcoming shows scheduled for the fall, owner Tim Clark says, but he’s it taking it week-by-week.

As Covid rates rise once again in the county and masks are back to being strongly recommended indoors no matter vaccination status, Clark acknowledges this is cause of concern for the decades-old Columbia Pike theater and venue. He says he’s already had one prominent comic push back performance dates.

“I don’t know if there’s going to be others. I think we’re just going to see where this thing goes,” Clark tells ARLnow. “Either way, we will have to adjust.”

What’s currently online represents the most up-to-date bookings, he says.

The schedule lists a number of well-known comedy acts that will be taking the stage, including:

There’s also a special screening of the cult classic movie “The Room” with co-star Greg Sestero — who wrote the book The Disaster Artist about his experience making the “so bad it’s good” movie — in attendance.

Clark notes that while people are coming out, business and audiences are not back to what they were pre-pandemic.

“Comics that typically have a pretty good draw are a little bit lighter,” Clark says. “The comics that have a really good draw are not quite fully back to selling out shows.”

Arlington Drafthouse is still limiting capacity to about 65% in order to space out tables and give audience members a bit more room. The initial goal was to go back to allowing full capacity this month, but Clark admits that he’ll have to see what happens over the next few days in terms of any mask or capacity mandates.

“I don’t think it will change what we do a whole lot, but we will have to keep making adjustments,” he said.

It’s been a trying 18 months for the Drafthouse. Management closed up the theater in mid-March 2020, like many other businesses, and re-opened in August 2020 with severely reduced capacity.

In late winter, the theater started screening favorite, older movies like Lord of the Rings and Notting Hill, but it was barely sustainable with only 30% capacity allowed.

“I don’t think many restaurant theater business operations are built to run on 30%,” said Clark at the time. “And that’s 30% if we sell out, and we’re not selling out every show. If you take averages and you’re at 20%, it’s really not sustainable.”

Clark says now they are pivoting again away from movies, at least temporarily, and are concentrating on booking comics.

“I think comedy is the long term for us, especially those primetime weekends,” he says. Right now, Drafthouse is booking big name acts on Friday and Saturday nights and leaving Sunday open for “up and comers.”

Clark also says private rentals have helped the business significantly and has seen an influx of them in recent months, with smaller groups renting out the entire theater for screenings, parties, and performances

At this point, Clark says, all they can do is stay patient, take one day a time, and adjust when needed.

“The way things are going, it’s like every time we try to get [ahead of things], it’s like totally opposite,” says Clark. “We’re just going to ride the wave and do what we need to do to stay afloat and just continue to hope that this thing clears up and gets better.”

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Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County. If you’d like your event considered, fill out the event submission form to submit it to our event calendar.

Because we have Monday off next week, this Agenda will cover the next two weeks of events.

Monday, June 28

Pride Month Social – Stonewall Edition
Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant (555 23rd Street S.)
Time: 3-4:30 p.m.

Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant is hosting a night for LGBTQ+ folk and allies. The event is free, but attendees are encouraged to RSVP and bring a non-perishable food item for the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Casual beach attire is fine.

Wednesday, June 30

Equity in Action: Creating Safe Spaces
Via Zoom
Time: 3-4 p.m.

The National Landing BID is continuing its Equity in Action Event series, “Creating Safe Spaces.” To close out Pride Month, this virtual discussion filmed live at Freddie’s Beach Bar will highlight the importance of the business community and its executives in defining, shaping and defending safe spaces for LGBTQ+ community members beyond June. Panelists include Freddie Lutz, owner of Freddie’s Beach Bar and Federico Ristorante Italiano, Lisa Kohn, Senior Manager of Public Policy at Amazon, and Morgen Hunt, President of Horizon Paramedical LLC and the Equality Chamber of Commerce. The panel will be moderated by local media personality, Tommy McFly (NBC4) and will include an audience Q&A portion.

Friday, July 9

Liz Miele
Arlington Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike)
Time: 7 and 10 p.m.

Stand-up comic Liz Miele is headlining four shows at Arlington Drafthouse on July 9 and 10. Miele has been featured on Comedy Central, NPR and other programs. The Friday shows are at 7 and 10 p.m. and Saturday’s shows are at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 and shows are at 25% capacity.

Sunday, July 11

Japanese Summer Tanabata Festival
First Presbyterian of Arlington (601 N Vermont Street)
Time: 2-4 p.m.

Study Japanese in Arlington is hosting a tanabata festival, a religious festival celebrated in Japan, with a family-friendly bazaar featuring origami, calligraphy, and yukata dressing.

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About two-third of the way through Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf offers Frodo some encouragement as the hobbit despairs that he lives in difficult times.

“So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

It’s a line that might as well be aimed at the staff of Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike), who are starting their return to showing films with a Lord of the Rings trilogy screening as part of a tiring struggle to stay afloat amid COVID-19.

“We are hanging in there,” said Tim Clark, owner of the venue. “It’s not pretty, but we’re starting to see people coming back out.”

Events at the drafthouse are still operating at under 30% capacity to allow for social distancing which, if every show is a sell out, is financially is just treading water.

“Right now trying to go through grant process, but it’s not sustainable,” Clark said. “I don’t think many restaurant theater business operations are built to run on 30%. And that’s 30% if we sell out, and we’re not selling out every show. If you take averages and you’re at 20%, it’s really not sustainable.”

Clark said March will be the trial run for starting movies again, noting that the recent rolling back of curfews and restaurant restrictions should help smooth operations at the venue.

“We’re trying to be more creative for movies,” Clark said. “There’s limited content because studios aren’t releasing much.”

The first event will be a Lord of the Rings Trilogy festival on March 7. Tickets are $10 for all day access and the event will feature themed specials. Attendees are also encouraged to dress in costumes — with masks required — and winners of a costume contest will receive prizes.

The movies start at noon with Fellowship of the Ring, then 3:15 p.m. for Two Towers and 6:30 p.m. for Return of the King. The films will be the theatrical cuts rather than the full 11.3 hour extended editions, but Clark said that mostly came down to crunching the times.

Other movies throughout March include:

Clark said comedy acts at Arlington Drafthouse have helped carry the venue through the last few months.

“We’re starting to see a little bit more activity for some of the bigger name comics,” Clark said. “People have been following the rules and we’ve had good audiences. There are people that are excited to get back out and we’re hearing from people who aren’t ready to get back out but are excited to support us.”

Comedy acts coming up over the next month include:

The full calendar of events is available online, and Clark said he’s starting to book events into June. In the meantime, the drafthouse is going to keep applying for grants and hoping for the best with vaccinations and the COVID recovery.

“We’ve applied for an SVOG grant, which is basically for theatrical venues, live entertainment, and they haven’t quite got the application ready yet but we’re headed in that direction,” Clark said. “Hoping that carries us through, but just buying time.”

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After new movie releases came to a grinding halt due to the pandemic, the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) has pivoted to older movies, alternative events, and a greater reliance on live comedy.

“The movie industry is a big black hole right now,” owner Tim Clark said. “Studios are pushing release dates farther and farther out, and dedicating more resources to direct-to-streaming.”

Since reopening in August, the Drafthouse has shown classic films and cartoons, and brought in live stand-up comedians for groups no larger than 85 people, or 30% of the space’s capacity.

“Movie attendance is down across the board with all theaters,” Clark said. “Comedy has been fairly steady and now we’re trying fun stuff.”

This week, Clark is leaning into spooky season with Halloween-themed events.

This weekend, “Spoons, Toons and Booze,” a Drafthouse special event with free cereal, cartoons and brunch-themed cocktails, will show cartoons from the 1940s to present day that feature creatures who go bump in the night. Tonight, “Witches and Wine” ticket holders get to celebrate Wine Wednesday and watch the cult classic “Hocus Pocus.”

Wednesday night’s event, with half-priced wine, has sold at least 40 tickets, “which is incredible for an old Disney film,” he said. Another cult classic, Beetlejuice, is set for Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

“Witches and Wine” may bring out crowds for the novelty, but most showings of old films are not bringing people out. Half of the films to which Drafthouse has access are available on-demand or on cable, Clark noted. Comedy is now the driving force for filling seats at the Drafthouse.

“I think it’s going to be comedy-driven for a while before movies return,” Clark said.

With Christmas season seemingly coming earlier and earlier each year, Clark is already preparing creative, fun and themed holiday events. He’s hoping for something of a holiday miracle: a return to normality sooner rather than later.

“I’m not sure where we’re going to be in a couple of months as a country, but at this point, with a 30% reduced capacity, it’s not a long term sustainable model,” he said. “It helps a bit, but there’s only so much you can do.”

The schedule for the rest of the year includes weekends of stand-up comedy and a Mongolian film called “Six Feet” about what humans have done in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

More live comedy is already on the schedule for 2021, including “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star Jeff Garlin on March 26 and 27.

Photo via @cinemadraft/Twitter

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A month into Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse’s (2903 Columbia Pike) reopening “test drive,” the venue is moving forward with more programming, but also adapting for some of the bumps in the roads.

“We’re coming into the fourth weekend,” said owner Tim Clark. “We have kept capacity right around 25% and that seems to be working pretty well. I’m really happy with how we opened. Staff has been great in keeping things sanitized and clean, and making sure people have been adhering to policy.”

While Clark highlighted safety measures like cleaning and distancing, the truth remains that going to theaters amid a pandemic remains a risk. Despite the successful reopening, Clark said it hasn’t been easy maintaining business as customers have stayed away from the indoor venue.

“Everything is quite a bit down,” Clark said. We’ve seen a stronger attendance for the comedy shows. Movies have been hit or miss. Some have done really well, like Back to the Future. Our largest attended show was 20 people.”

Other movies, like 40 Year Old Virgin, didn’t do nearly as well as Clark was hoping, and some reliable blockbusters have also had a disappointing showing.

“Empire Strikes Back didn’t do as well as I thought last week,” Clark said. “It’s more of the cult classics that are doing well.”

The new schedule of upcoming shows highlights the shift towards 80s and 90s classics, mixed in with the Drafthouse’s bread-and-butter live comedy shows and occasional special event.

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After being closed for months, Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) is planning to reopen this weekend, but with restrictions.

Owner Tim Clark said this week’s reopening is a test drive to gauge public interest in attending the entertainment venue while the rate of coronavirus cases is still going up.

“It feels weird, but good,” Clark said. “There are a lot of unknowns, but we’re excited to get back up. [We’ll be at] 33% capacity for everything, and with social distancing probably under that… We just really want to see how the room flows and how people react.”

Clark said he recognized that the prospect of reopening the venue, which has been closed since March 13, is likely to concern people.

“At this point, we feel pretty confident in how we’re going to reopening,” Clark said. “We’re keeping to all of the mandates and recommendations. We’re doing everything we can. We still have bills and have everything going forward, so having zero revenue was going to be detrimental to the business. We’re seeing a small window and this is really a test.”

Clark said the venue will be run by what’s left of his staff. Many people have moved out of the area or found other jobs. While recognizing that it wasn’t exactly environmentally friendly, Clark said in the interest of public health the venue is also going fully disposable containers and utensils for its limited menu.

“Excited to see if people come out,” Clark said. “I think people are itching for it.”

According to the theater website:

Mask or facial covering will be required for entry into theater and must be worn while moving around inside the theater, no exceptions.   Once you are seated the masks may be removed for eating/drinking.  Seating will be in compliance with social distancing Virginia phase 3 mandates.  Full menu will be available for purchase tableside.   High touch areas will be sanitized regularly during and between events.  No one with a fever, COVID 19 symptoms or know exposure to COVID 19 with in the last 14 days will be permitted in the establishment.

This weekend, comedian Sarah Tollemache is scheduled to perform stand-up shows at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Friday (Aug. 6) and Saturday (Aug 7). Tickets will be $20.

The venue will also be showing The Goonies on Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. Tickets are $5.

Photo via Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse/Facebook

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This weekend, drag meets kittens for a sold-out show of “extravagance and cuteness” at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse.

All of the tickets have sold out for the fundraiser this Sunday, October 6, at 7 p.m at the Arlington Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike). During the performance, drag queens will lead a bingo game with the audience to raise money for animal welfare causes — as well as bring some special furry guests.

“The ladies of the Imperial Court will be calling bingo with their signature flair and we will have kittens from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington’s renowned Kitten College available for adoption and adoration,” the event’s webpage reads.

The Imperial Court of Washington D.C. is part of a long-time LGBT+ charity which raises funds through drag events and performances.

Proceeds from this Sunday’s event will go to “critical needs” at AWLA, per an email from the organization which operates a shelter as well as the county’s busy animal control.

The rest of the funds raised will be donated to the  nonprofit, Caring Hand Animal Support and Education, which is running a spay and neuter project in the Dominican Republic later this year.

The sold-out show comes as local drag queens are increasingly stepping onto new stages in Arlington after years of performing mostly in gay bars.

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Jay and Silent Bob — aka Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith — are coming to Arlington this fall to screen their new film, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.

The long-time comedic duo are set to screen the film (NSFW trailer here) at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) on Sunday, Nov. 10, as part of a cross-country roadshow from Oct. 21-Dec. 12. Tickets ranged from $50 for general admission to $750 for a VIP meet-and-greet, but all are now sold out.

Per a description of the event:

Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith come to YOUR town to show their latest and greatest motion picture, the star studded Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. The New Jersey stoner icons who first hit the screen 25 years ago in CLERKS are back! When Jay and Silent Bob discover that Hollywood is rebooting an old movie based on them, the clueless duo embark on another cross-country mission to stop it all over again!

Jay and Silent Bob are among the bold-faced comedy names coming to the Drafthouse this fall. Silicon Valley’s Jimmy O. Yang, 2 Dope Queens’ Phoebe Robinson and Flight of the Conchords’ Rhys Darby are also set to perform.

The current comedy lineup at the Drafthouse through the end of the year is below.

Image via Arlington Cinema Drafthouse

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This content was written and sponsored by The Keri Shull Team, Arlington’s top producing residential real estate team.

Where can you watch the latest blockbuster movies, attend a local film festival, or catch a live comedy show, all while enjoying a modern, full-service restaurant and bar? If you live in Arlington, it’s right around the corner!

The Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse is a unique combination of a full restaurant located inside a screening theater. Here, customers can enjoy a full restaurant and bar menu, complete with tableside service, while relaxing in oversized, lounge-style chairs. The “Drafthouse” replaced the Arlington Theater or “Old Arlington” as it was affectionately known in 1985.

The building itself is over 90 years old. Tucked behind the large movie screen, you can find the original theater stage equipped with lighting, storage and a green room.

This theater has had a rich history of entertaining D.C. and Virginia residents with great movies and local, live entertainment. According to the owners, if you look back over the last 70+ years and picked your most favorite movies, it is likely they have been featured here. Even better, the Drafthouse in 2016 expanded to launch “Drafthouse Comedy,” a unique comedy arts theater featuring everything from local standup to Comedy Giants like Carlos Mencia and Chris Kattan.

The very first thing you’ll read — in bright yellow — on the Drafthouse restaurant web page is to “Arrive Early And Order Early.” That’s because you, your date and the other 270 plus guests the Drafhouse accommodates will want to taste every section of the expertly-curated menu.

Start with appetizers like the Bavarian Pretzels with Spicy Queso, or the oversized Drafhouse Breadsticks dripping with cheese, pomodoro sauce, and marinara on the side. For your entree, you can’t go wrong with the hearty Asian Chicken or Beet salads, or the California Dreamin’ Flatbread, bursting with flavor thanks to its spicy pesto, grilled chicken and artichoke hearts.

Carnivores will love the BBQ Bacon Burger or the Buffalo Chicken Wrap, while vegetarian and vegan guests will appreciate the Spicy Veggie Burger — also available as a wrap — and the optional gluten-free Cauliflower Crust for vegan flatbreads.

Wash your delicious food down with Drafthouse signature drinks like the Pulp Fiction cocktail with grape vodka, casis, Sprite, and Blue Curacao; or the Sex & The City Martini, with cosmo citrus vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice and fresh lime. Watching your favorite sports team?

Drafthouse has you covered with pitchers, bombers and tallboy cans of seasonal and local draft beers including Devil’s Backbone, Flying Dog and DC Brau — and also a full wine list for a lighter refreshment. You don’t even have to take our word for it — just ask one of the dozens of Yelp reviewers, like Louise:

“I’m usually not at all a fan of “bar/Bavarian-style pretzels” as they are typically too doughy and flavorless – but the pretzels are AMAZING. Flavorful, buttery, fluffy – they taste like larger versions of Auntie Anne’s pretzels. YUM.”

Wow! The Drafthouse’s reviews are almost as glowing as ours.

According to Owner Tim Clark, it’s the comedy that makes the Drafthouse truly special — from the national headlining acts to the local artists. Tim, who is partial to the seasonal and local draft beers at the theater, says his goal is to create a casual, relaxing environment where people can take a break from the stress of their day while enjoying the convenience of a full-service kitchen and bar at their seat.

So whether you need a good laugh, a date night, or a friends’ night out, come join us at Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse — click here to plan your visit!

Want to live in an Arlington neighborhood just steps away from spots like this? Contact The Keri Shull Team at 703-952-7653 or [email protected]! We can’t wait to help you buy your next home!

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The Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse is closing out the winter with a full lineup of popular comedians.

The Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) will boast a fair number of familiar faces over the course of the next month.

Performers include:

  • Ricky Velez, of “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” and “Master of None,” tonight and Saturday (Feb. 16)
  • Carlos Mencia, of “Mind of Mencia,” Feb. 21-23
  • Hal Sparks, of “Talk Soup” and “Queer as Folk,” March 1-2
  • Brian Posehn, of new Netflix special “The Fartist,” March 7-9
  • Chris Kattan, of “Saturday Night Live” and “Night at the Roxbury,” March 15-16
  • Ahmed Ahmed, of “Sullivan and Sons” and “Swingers,” March 22-23
  • London Brown, of “Ballers,” March 29-30

The Drafthouse will also hold another edition of its regular “Spoons, Toons & Booze” series on Feb. 23-24, offering select episodes of popular Saturday morning cartoon series along with boozy beverages and an all-you-can-eat cereal bar.

The DC Film Society also plans to host its 27th annual “And The Winner Is…” Oscar watch party at the Drafthouse, starting at 8 p.m. on Feb. 24.

File photo

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Comedians from hit TV shows and movies are coming to Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) over the next month.

Aasif Mandvi from The Daily Show is set to perform mid-December. He joins a lineup of comedians featuring Darrell Hammond, one of the longest running cast members on Saturday Night Live, and Bobby Lee from Chelsea Lately. 

The Drafthouse schedule includes:

  • Natasha Leggero of Comedy Central and He’s Just Not That Into You (Nov. 16-17)
  • Alonzo Bodden of Last Comic Standing and Scary Movie 4 (Nov. 23-24)
  • Bobby Lee of Chelsea Lately and The Dictator (Nov. 29-Dec. 1)
  • Darrell Hammond of Saturday Night Live and Law & Order: SVU (Dec. 7-8)
  • Aasif Mandvi of The Daily Show and A Series of Unfortunate Events (Dec. 14-15)

In addition to the stellar comedy lineup, the Drafthouse is holding a holiday-themed cartoon viewing event for grown-ups. The “Spoons, Toons & Booze Christmas Special” will offer holiday-themed episodes of popular Saturday morning cartoon series along with boozy beverages and an all-you-can-eat cereal bar.

Audience members are encouraged to dress in their “ugliest holiday sweater or coziest PJs” for photos with Santa Claus. They also can compete in contests to choose what to watch from the selection of more than 100 cartoon series from the 1940s to early 2000s. The event is scheduled for noon Dec. 8-9. Tickets are $15.

For even more Christmas cheer, an all-day movie festival on Dec. 16 will show half of a dozen holiday favorites.

The list of movies features:

  • The Polar Express
  • How The Grinch Stole Christmas
  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  • Elf 
  • Bad Santa

Tickets are $10.

Photo via Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse

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