The iconic local business at 2903 Columbia Pike is about to shift to playing movies on a first-run basis, meaning it has quicker access to films. Owner Greg Godbout has said previously that showing mainstream movies several months after the initial release has hurt business given the rise of video on-demand services.
But to show first-run films, the Drafthouse will need to increase its ticket prices to meet the requirements of its film distributors. In an email sent to customers Tuesday, Godbout said tickets will now cost $8 for matinee screenings, and for students and other discounted groups like children and seniors, and $10 for screenings after 6 p.m.
The Drafthouse will also no longer offer $2 discount films on Mondays and Tuesdays. Instead, Mondays will be a “discount day,” with $8 evening showings, while Tuesdays will be the full $10 price.
“While this is a low price considering the average ticket prices in our area ($12 – $16), it is still a significant increase for our customers,” Godbout wrote. “By agreeing to the studio’s terms on pricing we will get access to films earlier than normal. We are doing this because the ‘Second Run; market has vanished — and we are struggling to compete with streaming at home released, before we get access to films.”
But the cinema will also receive several upgrades. The outside marquee will be revamped at some point in the future, while “The Green Room” — adjacent to the cinema entrance — has been closed to make way for a soon-to-be-announced new tenant. A new food menu will also be introduced, as well as some new furniture over time.
In the email, Godbout also criticized the Kennedy Center for establishing itself as a “commercial entertainment entity and local competitor” that now has stand-up comics. He said the center’s “unfair advantage” of being underwritten by federal taxes will cost the Drafthouse at least $150,000 in revenue this year.
More from Godbout on competition with the Kennedy Center, after the jump.
Having grown up in the DC area, we used to have such a fond impression of the Kennedy Center. Until the last few years, when the Kennedy Center has become a ruthless direct competitor. They have poached comics who annually perform in the comedy club or small comedy theater market in DC and rerouted them to the Kennedy Center – significantly overpaying the comics. In these cases they aren’t offering increased DC area performances, but instead moving comics (and revenue) from one healthy private market to their publicly funded venue.
In our case, they have also denied us access to a performance troupe that has regularly performed at the Drafthouse for years – not because we wouldn’t share, but because they want all the performances for themselves. They won’t allow the performance troupe to work with us as they have done each year. Repeatedly we have found ourselves in disputes with the Kennedy Center over the last two years.
We are used to dealing with competitors – we have many in the DC market. However, the Kennedy Center leverages money and assets received by the Federal Government (US Taxpayer) to directly compete at the local level – damaging what used to be a local healthy marketplace. Having read previous reports to Congress, it is clear they are able to overpay for comics/performances, because the Federal Government pays for all building expenses, land, utilities, and facilities management. The US Taxpayer is giving an unfair advantage to the Kennedy Center to compete in the small comedy theater market.
The legal entity that operates theater performances in the Kennedy Center pays no rent or expenses related to the building (based on past congressional reports). It appears the legal entity is also charging rent to groups for the rights to use the facility and keeping that revenue for themselves. The smaller theaters in the DC area do not have the same advantages – particularly the private ones.
We would love for the Federal government to give us a room in the East Wing of the White House, pay all of our operating expenses related to the room – and allow us to produce shows and/or rent it and keep the proceeds.
We will be writing a more detailed letter (which we will share) where we ask Congress to charge the non-profit legal entity fair market rent, utilities and facilities management costs for using the Kennedy Center. We are asking this in order to level the playing field, now that the Kennedy Center has established itself as a commercial entertainment entity and local competitor.
For the Arlington Drafthouse, the damage is done. The Kennedy Center will cost us at least $150K in revenue this year as a direct result of their actions. Small dollars for the economic behemoth that is the Kennedy Center. However, for a small privately owned family business who gets zero government funding/assistance – it is a painful loss.
Below are a set of questions I have emailed to the Kennedy Center (which they have not responded to yet). I believe these questions will shine a light on the Kennedy Center’s practices and quantify the benefits they receive from the Federal Government. Sorry, to bother you all with this drama, but we want to get the word out after dealing with this privately for 2 years and we want answers from the Kennedy Center. If you have some thoughts/ideas – please feel free to share.
1. How much does the Federal Government pay for your facilities?
2. How much rental income did you receive in the previous year?
3. How much of that revenue was returned to the US treasury to reimburse the government for paying for facilities, utilities, insurance, and facilities management?
4. Which companies donate to your comedy programming?
5. Where can I find an online account of your latest budget?
6. Where can I find a copy of your latest report to Congress?
A record number of people turned out for last night’s Democratic Party straw poll, where County Board candidate Erik Gutshall and School Board candidate Monique O’Grady were some of the victors.
Hosted at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse by Del. Alfonso Lopez (D), more than 120 people cast ballots for Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board, Arlington School Board, lieutenant governor and governor. The attendance set a record for the event, now in its third year.
Lopez said the event raised around $12,500 from ticket sales, which he said will be funneled to Democratic candidates in other House of Delegates races across the commonwealth. Lopez added that getting people excited about the upcoming races was a big point of emphasis, as opposed to focusing purely on the straw poll results from a limited voter pool.
“I think what’s wonderful about it is people are so fired up,” he said in an interview. “They’re coming into the room fired up, excited about the campaigns, they’re excited about the candidacies, they’re excited about their friends running for office.”
Gutshall won the County Board poll with 38 percent of the vote, ahead of Vivek Patil with 30 percent, Peter Fallon with 22 percent and Kim Klingler with 10 percent.
Gutshall, who won the straw poll last year in his unsuccessful bid for a County Board seat, said creative thinking is required to solve problems like school overcrowding and housing affordability.
“We’ve got a wonderful county here that I’m proud to be a part of,” he said. “But we can’t stay the same.”
In her remarks, O’Grady cited her “experience keeping our school system strong,” as well as being co-chair of last year’s successful $138.83 million school bond campaign.
O’Grady won the School Board straw poll with 46 percent of the vote, ahead of incumbent James Lander with 36 percent and Maura McMahon with 18 percent.
In the statewide races, current Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam won the straw poll for the governor’s race against former Rep. Tom Perriello with 67.5 percent of the vote. Speaking on Northam’s behalf, state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) said Northam is a “fighter for our progressive values” and has advocated tirelessly for women, children and ethnic minorities.
“We can count on Ralph to be with us as the 73rd governor of Virginia,” Ebbin said.
Justin Fairfax took victory in the straw poll for lieutenant governor with 64 percent of the vote, ahead of Susan Platt with 20 percent and Gene Rossi with 16 percent. County Board member Christian Dorsey, who spoke on Fairfax’s behalf, praised his grueling campaign schedule and his long-term view on solving problems.
“The question is, who has the skill and the will and will fight for you?” Dorsey said. “In this regard, I am so impressed with Justin Fairfax.”
The Arlington County Democratic Committee holds its caucus for County Board nominee and School Board endorsement on May 9, 11 and 13. Statewide primary elections will be held on June 13.
The Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) will shift to an art-house movie model and away from showing mainstream films several months after their initial release.
The change will be formally announced in an email to customers this afternoon, Drafthouse owner Greg Godbout said.
The announcement comes three weeks after the Drafthouse began surveying customers on proposed changes to the theater’s business model, floating the idea of showing first-run movies during the summer, at a time when live comedy audiences — the Drafthouse’s bread and butter — are down.
Otherwise, when comedy acts and special events are not booked, the Drafthouse has been showing “sub-run” movies, which are movies that have been playing at the multiplexes for several months and which are, typically, close to being released to home viewers via Video on Demand.
Earlier VOD release dates have been cutting into the audience for sub-run movies, Godbout said, so he was thinking of showing blockbuster movies for a week at a time over the summer — a model many other single-screen theaters adopt (studio rules prohibit showing multiple first-run films on the same screen).
The feedback from customers, however, pointed him to indie and art-house style films rather than the typical big-budget mainstream popcorn flick.
Starting with certain movies in January, until the change is complete in May, the Drafthouse will begin showing sub-run art-house films in winter, spring and fall, while the Drafthouse continues to focus on hosting big-name national comedy acts on weekends. Then, in the summer, the Drafthouse will switch to a three week cycle of two weeks of first-run art-house and indie films and one week of older art-house films or film festivals.
The theater will continue to offer family-friendly movies and entertainment, particularly during matinee times, but the $2 discount movies on Monday and Tuesday nights will either go away completely or the price will be raised, said Godbout.
Another change in the works: the replacement of the Drafthouse’s aging seats with new office chairs.
At the Drafthouse’s new D.C. location, meanwhile, more changes: local and national standup comedy acts will continue to perform, but there will be a new focus on hosting Esports competitions — live videogame tournaments, which are gaining in popularity.
The full letter from Godbout, after the jump.
Dear Drafthouse Family,
I am following up based on the overwhelmingly positive response to our survey about a new directions for Movies at the Arlington Drafthouse. Your enthusiasm and responses were incredibly helpful and have significantly influenced the direction of our community business. Thank you so much for being the best customer base ever. In this letter I will first explain the new direction and then detail some of the findings from the Survey.
As my last letter detailed, the sub-run top box office model has been in decline and a change is necessary. A common theme in your responses was a desire for the Drafthouse to remain eclectic and unique. A first run summer season with top box office movies, would have not been unique enough. Our new theme of booking will be art-house/independent films. We will continue with the plan to do first release movies during the summer and sub-run movies in the Fall, Winter, and Spring – under the new art-house genre.
The studios that book art-house /independent films are more flexible in their terms, requiring only a week play. This allows us to do a couple weeks of a different first release movie each week and blend in a comedy weekend here and there during the summer.
- Summer Season – We will bring in newly released first run art-house films for two out of three weeks. On the third week we will bring in older art-house films or film festivals that would allow us to do comedy and family films periodically throughout the summer.
- Fall, Winter, Spring Season – We will book sub-run art-house films that allow us to do a diversity of entertainment including comedy and family films each week. In winter we will continue to focus on Oscar watch films blended with art-house films.
- Summer Season – we will rotate through weeks that allow for us to do family friendly movies on some weekend.
- Fall, Winter, Spring Season – We will continue to bring in family friendly top box office sub-run films as matinees.
- Summer Season – Top national comics will be available every third weekend, in order to keep programming available for comedy fans in Arlington.
- Fall, Winter, Spring Season – Every weekend will feature top national comics for 4-5 shows.
Discount Mondays and Tuesdays
- Summer Season – We will not be able to offer discount Mondays and Tuesdays as the terms of our deals with the studios would prevent it.
- Fall, Winter, Spring Season – We might be able to offer a discount, but not as deep as $2. We will learn more as we get closer to the Fall of 2017.
- Summer Season – I expect our movie pricing to be about $8.50 for primetime and $7 for matinee/discount. We will know more as we get closer to the Summer launch.
- Fall, Winter, Spring Season – I expect our movie pricing to about $8.50 for primetime and $7 for matinee/discount. We will know more as we get closer to the Summer launch.
- Comedy – We will continue to book live comedy year-round at this location with 4-5 national comic shows each week and 2-3 local comic shows each week.
- Esports – Starting in January 2017, the DC location will dedicate Saturday during the day, all of Sunday, and week nights to building an Esports line of business. We will start with 16 tournaments per year and expect to grow to offer 50 tournaments per year as we work with promoters in the Esports industry.
Changes to movie programming in Arlington will begin in January 2017 leading up to an official switch to art-house programming in May of 2017. In January we will start booking more independent films to begin the transition. In May we will begin the first release art-house films for the Summer. In May our contracts with studios will change, which will allow us access to more films earlier – but less control of the pricing. Discount $2 Mondays and Tuesday will end starting in May of 2017. The new discount price will be around $7.
We have begun the process to bring in new seats. Over 120 have been replaced. More to come throughout the winter.
The Results of the Survey
The survey was very helpful to inform this decision. We so appreciate your time and dedication to this…
- Over 2,100 people responded. With over 60% providing comments
- The audience base was split. Mainly because 50% of the group, looks to us primarily for live comedy entertainment and the other 50% look to us primarily for movie entertainment. This underscores the importance of remaining eclectic with our entertainment, making sure we have a variety.
- The vast majority of the comments included well wishes and a commitment to support us no matter what path we took. Thank you all so much!
- A number of responses were concerned about losing the discount films on Monday and Tuesday. We unfortunately, cannot improve our movie offering to get more people out – and keep with the highly discounted evenings.
- 60% of the responses said they would see a first release film at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse over the same film playing in a local nearby theater. That response was much higher when the film genre preference was art-house/independent films.
- 46% of the responses said they would like to see arthouse/independent films at the Drafthouse. This is high, considering how specialized these films are with their target audience.
- 69% of the responses said they would like to see comedy films at the Drafthouse. When booking films we will take this in to consideration and lean towards comedy films.
- 60% of the responses said they would like to see action and adventure films at the Drafthouse.
- Horror was the lowest genre at only 9% of the responses being interested in seeing those films at the Drafthouse.
Thank you again for your time and dedication to this process.By switching to a more exclusive and unique programming of art-house films, we can keep the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse relevant in the DC area movie scene. Many details have to be worked out, and we thank you for your support while we transition to the new model.
In order to better understand the art-house/independent movie industry, we will be joining an association of similar single-screen art-house theaters and looking to bring on a curator to select the films. We are so excited for the opportunity to serve you.
The Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse, at 2903 Columbia Pike, sent an email to customers on Sunday night, seeking feedback on a proposal that would change the way it books entertainment options.
Currently, the Drafthouse hosts national comedy acts, periodic special events and “sub-run” movies year-round.
Historically, sub-run movies are movies that have been out a few months but are not yet on home video or on-demand. But that has been changing — now such movies make it to on-demand and home video faster, which has led to a slump in the sub-run movie model, says Drafthouse owner Greg Godbout.
Godbout, who runs the venue with his wife Colleen, said the business of showing sub-run movies for discounted prices has been in decline for years, with fewer people finding a reason to pay to go out to a movie that they can just watch at home.
“The studios have no interest in keeping the sub-run model alive,” he said. “This has been something that has been trending for some time and we now have to do something about it.”
The proposal, as presented to customers, would bring first-run movies to the Drafthouse, but only for part of the year. In the summer, when comedy attendance is down, the Drafthouse would exclusively show new Hollywood releases. The rest of the year, the same mix of comedy, events and sub-run movies would return.
Studio rules dictate that the Drafthouse can’t show new releases and other entertainment on the same screen or stage. So if the change were to be made the Drafthouse would, during the summer, follow roughly the same model as the Uptown Theater in D.C., showing one first-run movie exclusively for a couple of weeks before moving on to another.
“As we make this decision, it’s a significant change — trying to figure out how we change our model to fit the movie industry, so we can continue to do movies,” said Godbout. “We’ve had so many internal discussions about this, but we’ve never opened it up and said, ‘hey customers, what do you think about this?'”
He said the response to his email has been overwhelming: less than 24 hours after he sent it Sunday night, more than 1,600 people had already filled out a survey that he linked to in the email.
“We’re so fortunate, we have a very passionate fan base,” Godbout said. “This is the best type of market research you can imagine. People have also been emailing privately, I can barely keep up with it.”
Godbout said a final decision needs to be made by February, to give the Drafthouse enough time to book movies in advance for the summer. The decision, he hinted, may be different than what was proposed in the email, in response to feedback.
“That proposal, while still in tact, is changing significantly based on responses,” he said. “People are saying, remain unique, don’t be like everything else.”
But change is likely either way.
“When you run a small business, nothing is permanent, you have to adapt,” said Godbout.
The change took on a bit more urgency this year because so-called “disposable income venues” — entertainment venues, restaurants, etc. — in the area are experiencing a downturn that Godbout attributed to election anxiety.
Despite that, the Drafthouse is investing in its future with planned maintenance to its neon “ARLINGTON” sign and the replacement of its more worn-out chairs.
Godbout said certain things about the Drafthouse, which he and Colleen first took over in 2005, are not changing. The new chairs, for instance, will still be office chairs. And the shows will go on.
“We’re not shutting our doors,” he said. “This will still be the comfortable place to come to enjoy world class entertainment.”
The full email, after the jump.
Flickr pool photo by Brian MKA
Dear Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse Family,
This year has been a tough year for the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse. Decreasing movie business used to be offset by a rapidly growing live comedy business. This year, the comedy business growth slowed, starting in the early summer. Our research has pointed to increased uncertainty and fear around the election as a primary cause of the Summer/Fall slump. Many retail and entertainment businesses throughout the DC area experienced the same slump – and nationally we have found the same trend. While we cannot control these ups and down in the overall market – it has forced us to take a hard look at the balance of entertainment offerings and business operations of trying to maintain both the movie business and comedy business at the same time.
About Sub-Run Movies
While the Summer/Fall slump has been harsh, the overall decline in the movie business for the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse has been a 10+ year trend. It has greatly sped up in recent years due to increased competition in the area and home entertainment. The decline is mostly due to the dying Sub-Run movie model, the same model that the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse operates under.
In the Sub-Run movie model, the theater owner can choose their own pricing, can show multiple films in the same theater, and allow for other entertainment (like comedy) to perform. Sub-Run movies are first release films that have been out in the theaters for 2 to 5 months. We get access to them once the First-Run theaters are finished with them (lost their value). We used to get films well before DVD or On-Demand release. That is no longer true. More than half of the films we bring in are either already available at home or about to be. The Sub-Run movie window no longer exists.
If we switched to a First-Run movie model (first week released films), we would not be allowed to do any other entertainment on our screen/stage except for that specific film. We would also have to raise our prices and guarantee 2 to 3 week runs for the films. No comedy, no sports, no TV, no special events, etc. Even if the film is doing terribly – we would have to keep it for the full guaranteed length of play. The advantage to First-Run is you get a film at it’s height of popularity and advertising.
How to Keep Movies
Movies have been part of the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse’s long history. Going back to even before the theater was a Drafthouse. In an effort to create a new entertainment model that includes movies, we have come up with a new possible strategy and want your feedback. We have to decide this month if we are going to proceed with this new model.
Proposed New Model
Under the proposed new entertainment model, starting May 1st 2017, we would split the year into two seasons:
- Movie Season (4 months – May through August) — We would offer First-Run movies everyday. Each week would consist of one film and it would play for 2 to 3 weeks. Sometimes it would be for families and sometimes for adults. (Similar to the Uptown theater in NW DC – but just for summer months).
- Comedy Season (8 months – Sept through April) — We would produce a national comedy act for 4 to 5 comedy shows per weekend (Thursday, Friday & Saturday nights). We would host special events (sports, special films, festivals, etc). For families, we would offer matinee family live entertainment and would offer Sub-Run movies as matinees during the weekend. For adults we would offer Sub-Run movies as matinees. Open Thursday through Sunday.
NOTE: The new DC location will continue to do live comedy year round. So comedy fans will still have access to top national comedy acts in the summer.
Upside: The live comedy business softens in the summer, at the same time the First-Run movie business has it’s strongest time of the year. The hope is to balance both and present them at their peak season.
Downside: In order to do this, we would have to drop our discount movies on Monday and Tuesday. We would have fixed pricing on movies ($9.50 prime-time, $7.50 matinee) *estimate. We would also have to reduce our menu to fewer food items, in order to streamline food service and offer food service during slower movie nights in the summer. Also if we get a bad movie in the summer – the business will be slow for weeks.
Please take a moment and let us know what you think via the survey link below. Only 3 questions! Please give us feedback.
In the meantime…
We could really use your business and we would love to make you laugh and entertain you. We are working hard this month to fix the Arlington sign and buy new seats. We expect this to be finished by early December. Please come visit us for movies and/or comedy.
Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse
Drafthouse Comedy in DC
You know comedian David Koechner as “Champ” from Anchorman, but you might not know that in addition to his film and TV work he still travels the world performing standup comedy.
David is in Arlington this weekend, performing a total of five shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse on Columbia Pike. Tickets are $25 and are still available online.
We talked with David about his roles in Anchorman, Waiting, Thank You for Smoking and The Office, and also discussed whether he plans to see any the sights around Arlington during his visit. Taking advantage of being in the D.C. area, David weighed in on some of the issues he’s passionate about as well.
This week’s sponsor is Crystal City. Take advantage of the nice September weather and check out Crystal City’s last two Wine in the Waterpark events of the season this coming Friday and next Friday.
Photo courtesy Collin O’Brien
Jon Lovitz is set to take the stage at Arlington Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) from Friday, Sept. 16., to Sunday, Sept. 18. He has Friday and Saturday shows at 10 p.m., as well as Saturday and Sunday performances at 7 p.m.
Lovitz, who also voiced the film reviewer in the animated TV show, “The Critic,” is a “versatile comedic actor instantly recognizable for his distinctive voice, acerbic wit, pear-shaped body, and hangdog eyes,” according to Arlington Drafthouse’s website.
Tickets are $30.
Photo via Flickr/Phil Konstantin
Saturday Night Live star Darrell Hammond will be performing live stand-up comedy in Arlington over Labor Day weekend.
Hammond, who had the longest tenure of any SNL cast member, was noted for his impressions of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Sean Connery and, most recently, Donald Trump. Since 2014, he has been SNL’s announcer. Last year he played Colonel Sanders for a KFC ad campaign.
Hammond is performing at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) on Friday, Sept. 2 and Saturday, Sept. 3. There are two show times per day: 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Tickets are $32.
Ben Bailey, formerly the host of Discovery Channel’s “Cash Cab” and NBC’s “Who’s Still Standing,” now makes a living saying funny things onstage. Bailey has also appeared on such television shows as “30 Rock,” “Mad TV” and “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.”
The host-turned-comedian is also apparently a talented impersonator:
Bailey will perform one show on Friday, July 15 and two shows on Saturday, July 16. Tickets are $25.
Photo via Facebook / Ben Bailey
If you typed that into a search engine, we have a simple answer: pretty much anywhere that serves beer and has a TV. It’s a safe bet that if you walk into any bar in Arlington County at 6:30 p.m. Sunday — the time that the Super Bowl festivities are scheduled to start — the big game will be on.
There are, however, a couple of options in Arlington for those who are looking for a more unique Super Bowl experience.
“Mad Rose graciously hosted a subset of fans during Snowzilla and would love to welcome us back!” the group wrote on its website. “They will feature happy hour food and drink specials and the famous blue Panthers Punch shot!”
Mad Rose will also be hosting Broncos fans, but in a different wing of the bar.
There is no official Denver Broncos gathering in Arlington that we’re aware of — the big Broncos events are both in the District — however, if you’re a fan of either team and want to watch the game on the biggest possible screen, the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) has an event for you.
The Drafthouse’s Super Bowl viewing event is free and begins at 4:30 p.m.
“We will be offering regular table side service offering a full restaurant menu with full bar service,” the Drafthouse said on its website. “And of course our huge digital sports screen!”
A Donald Trump impersonator will debate a Bernie Sanders impersonator at Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) next month.
Trump, played by comedian Anthony Atamanuik, and Sanders, played by comedian James Adomian, will pretend to butt heads over taxes, immigration and which candidate has the weirdest hairdo.
Though the debate is improvised, it’s peppered with each candidate’s mannerisms. Trump, of course, utters “yuge” and purses his lips while Sanders gesticulates wildly and mumbles.
The faux candidates take the stage on Feb. 18 at 8 p.m., and tickets are $20.
However, the lineup for early 2016 is looking similarly impressive.
It includes writer, producer and actor Tom Arnold, who’s scheduled to perform four shows during the second weekend of April. He’s most recently known for hosting CMT’s “My Big Redneck” show franchise. Arnold as also appeared alongside Robin Williams, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dustin Hoffman in films including “Nine Months,” “True Lies” and “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.”
Other notable comedians — all of whom have appeared on Comedy Central — coming to the Drafthouse over the news few months are:
- Greg Fitzsimmons from “The Howard Stern Show” and “Louie” — Feb. 5-6
- Sarah Tiana from “Reno 911!” — Feb. 19-20
- Tone Bell from “Bad Judge” and “Whitney” — March 11-12
- Carlos Mencia from “The Heartbreak Kid” and “Mind of Mencia” — March 31-April 2
- Nick Di Paolo from “The Chris Rock Show” (writer) and “The Sopranos” — April 29-30
Tickets for all the comedy shows are now available online.
SNL cast member Pete Davidson is performing at the Drafthouse this weekend, but tickets are sold out.
A man dressed as a green dragon will take the stage with a Chihuahua at Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) next month.
That man is Piff the Magic Dragon and the Chihuahua is Mr. Piffles, his trusty sidekick. Together, the duo’s oddball blend of comedy and stage magic propelled them to the finals in the latest season of “America’s Got Talent.”
Fresh off of a six-month stint at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Piff and Piffles will perform four shows in two nights on Friday, Jan. 1 and Saturday, Jan. 2, with performances at 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. each night. Tickets are $20.
Piff — who goes by the name John van der Put out of the costume — said he’s ready to show his audiences things they’ve likely never seen.
“Ever wanted to see a chihuahua escape from a straitjacket?” Piff said via e-mail. “Come to the show and cross that off the bucket list.”
Piff added that he’ll showcase some new tricks during his Arlington show, such as teaching his dog, Mr. Piffles, “how to punch a shark in the nose” and something from “the golden age of magic dragons.”
Photo by Virginia Sherwood/NBC
Coast Guard Drill Today — The U.S Coast Guard is scheduled to conduct a drill in the Potomac between the 14th Street Bridge and the Memorial Bridge today, from noon to 2:30 p.m. Drill participants “will be using orange Coast Guard boats with flashing blue lights, simulating a fixed security zone around a simulated high value asset. There will be no live fire or blanks used during this training; this is only a tactics and maneuvering drill.”
Metro PD Looking for Suspicious Men — Metro Transit PD and other local police agencies are on the lookout for four men seen walking and acting suspiciously around the Pentagon Metro Station and the Pentagon reservation on Sunday. Investigators would like to determine the identity of the individuals in question. Update: police say the men have been found and are not suspected of criminal activity. [Twitter]
Drafthouse to Open D.C. Venue — The Arlington Cinema Drafthouse is branching out from Columbia Pike. The owners of the iconic theater have announced plans for an “arts space committed to comedy and our community” called the Drafthouse Comedy Theater at 1100 13th Street NW in downtown D.C. The venue is expected to open as soon as January. [Borderstan]
Millennials to Impact Local Housing Market — In Arlington, home ownership is unaffordable for most of the Millennial generation, but that doesn’t mean that younger people want to stay in rental apartments and group homes forever. Fully 91 percent of Millennials eventually want to own a home, higher than the rate for the overall population, according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors. [InsideNova]
Ballston As Arlington’s Downtown? — Local developer John Shooshan says an influx of tech companies and educational institutions, along with the just-approved redevelopment of Ballston Common Mall, will transform the Ballston community. “We think Ballston’s going to become the new downtown of Arlington,” Shooshan said. [Bisnow]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The film, funded by Arlington County and produced by Vancouver-based Modacity, will highlight “everyday Arlington citizens who use a bicycle as means of commuting and/or recreation.” More than 50 people answered a casting call for the film earlier this year.
Via Twitter, Arlington County Commuter Services Bureau Chief Chris Hamilton called the premiere “THE first hot film event of the season.”
This isn’t the only bike film recently commissioned by the county. In October 2013 the Drafthouse hosted a premiere for “BikeSwell,” a documentary “chronicling Arlington’s transformation into a more bike-friendly community.”
What do jello, lava, Britney Spears and a bunch of words from Urban Dictionary have in common?
They are all words that audience members may shout out during a Porkchop Volcano improv show at the Arlington Drafthouse. Jon Milstein, Seth Alcorn, Conor O’Rourke and Matt Stephan, the four members of the Arlington-based troupe, then have to take these suggestions and turn each into a scene or character, all in the hopes of a good laugh from the audience.
“My favorite part of improv is the thrill, is the rush of a real audience you’ve never met before, you don’t know them, blowing them away, and having them laugh, a good and hearted, genuine laughter,” Milstein said.
While their group does not perform any single “typical” show, each performance will consist of a combination of guessing or scene improv games. The show starts at 9 p.m. in the Arlington Drafthouse’s Green Room — its side bar — and begins with a game that will interact with the audience.
“It’s usually packed by the end of the first game,” Stephan said.
By the time the game is done, the members will also know what the audience will like, and whether their suggestions will be more along the lines of kittens or sex positions, Alcorn said.
A favorite finale is “Dating Game,” where the troupe pulls an audience member up to play a bachelorette or a bachelor hoping to find his or her perfect match. The catch is that each of three improv members involved in the game are in characters suggested by the audience and the bachelor(ette) has to guess what the character is. O’Rourke plays host.
“It’s a high risk, high reward game,” Stephan said. “If we can hit a home run with that one, that’s been a good day.”
Suggestions can get wild. One of the members once had to play someone missing a chunk of his body after a tragic swordfish accident. Ideas also range from family friendly to adult only and even uncomfortable.
“I had a couple of friends who would basically go on Urban Dictionary and the come to the show,” Alcorn said. “So they would shout out all kinds of very disgusting sex acts that nobody actually performs, and then I would have to then explain to the audience what they meant and then work it into a scene.”
The four guys have a couple tricks up their sleeves, though, as they don’t want to go for the gross out, which gets awkward, Stephan said. Even when audience members suggested something dirty, the performers could take it in a different direction that made it cleaner.
“Being able to take an inappropriate or a cliche suggestion and then do something with it that they weren’t expecting, but still works with the suggestion, is pretty great,” Alcorn said.
One example is “Twilight,” a series that both Alcorn and Milstein despise, Alcorn said. It turned into a scene of Milstein playing a human who wanted to be a vampire and Alcorn playing a very reluctant vampire.
“It was just Jon throwing himself at me saying, ‘I want to feel the night rushing through my veins, bite me,'” Alcorn said.
The group tries to keep the suggestions new and challenging, O’Rourke said. To prevent common suggestions, which can happen when they ask for B-list celebrities, the members will use one of the common ones as an example. Even with common suggestions the group can work together to take a boring suggestion and create a new, fun angle.
“What’s always a lot of fun is taking a suggestion, but not taking it too literally, and jumping off and doing something weird with it. Because just because you get the suggestion vampire does not mean you have to come out as a vampire,” O’Rourke said.
The chemistry the group may be its biggest strength, they said. The four men can create a funny scene even if they are not sure where the other is going right away.
Milstein and Alcorn were doing a scene with tweezers last week. It started out with Alcorn giving Milstein a haircut with tweezers.
“And then he came to me with with a bad tooth and I was going to pull it out with tweezers,” Alcorn said. “And the third time we came around in this game, he didn’t say anything, but I knew I was going to do surgery and he put his hand on his appendix, and that was it.”
Once they formed the group, and spitballed until they randomly came up with the name “Porkchop Volcano,” the troupe needed a place to perform. Milstein was friends with the owner of Arlington Drafthouse who offered them two Saturdays. They now are performing up to four shows a month at the bar.
“The Drafthouse is our place,” O’Rourke said. “It’s our home.
Having a permanent spot also allowed the group to build up a loyal audience. At first they were doing improv at the audience, not with them. Now people come to the bar to see them perform.
The Drafthouse also attracts big comedy acts, which gives the members a chance to open for large acts, such as Dave Coulier from “Full House.” Coulier got beers with the four members after the show, which impressed Stephan’s Full House-loving daughters. There have been other well-known comedians that have seen Porkchop Volcano perform, as well.
“[“Saturday Night Live” cast member] Cecily Strong saw us once, but she didn’t say anything,” Alcorn said.
While the group has gotten to open for big names, there are other comedians they idolize and still hope to perform with, including Amy Poehler and Paul F. Tompkins.
“I don’t want to be paid. I don’t want to be famous,” Alcorn said. “I just want to do improv with Paul F. Tompkins.”