After more than 80 years, Arlington Cinema Drafthouse is the only remaining theater in Arlington County from the 1930s and 1940s cinema boom period.
The theater, which opened on Aug. 15, 1940, is continuing that legacy this summer and fall as it continues to host live shows by comedians with national profiles.
Below are some highlights of the upcoming schedule.
1. Aaron Weber (Aug. 12-13)
Aaron Weber is a stand-up comedian based in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a regular performer at the Grand Ole Opry. Weber headlines comedy clubs across the country and has been named a New Face 2021 at the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival.
2. Joe Hill & Friends (Aug. 18)
Joe Hill, a Bronx native, is a stand-up comedian, producer, and writer currently generating buzz on the national comedy scene. Hill has played at various comedy clubs nationally as well as headlined his national comedy tour, “This is Joe Hill.”
3. Punkie Johnson (Aug. 19-20)
Punkie Johnson is a comedian and writer from New Orleans who joined the cast of “Saturday Night Live” in 2020. Johnson was a New Face at the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in 2019 and is currently a series regular on the upcoming season of “Love Life” (HBO Max).
4. Shuler King (Aug. 25-27)
Shuler King is a comedian originally from Sumter, South Carolina. King knew at an early age he was destined to be an entertainer, as he was the kid known for cracking jokes. King says, “comedy isn’t about being happy all the time. Comedy is just as much about pain that people endure. When you hear 20,000 people in an arena laugh at a joke it’s because they all can relate to experiencing that same pain.”
5. Paris Sashay (Sept. 2-3) and Paris Sashay and Friends (Sept. 4)
Paris Sashay is a comedian, actor, writer, and producer currently residing in New York. Sashay has highlighted performances at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montréal, along with appearances on Comedy Central, “Pause” on HBO Max, and BET 50 Central. She has performed at The Howard Theatre, The Kennedy Center, Caroline’s on Broadway, Hollywood Improv, The Comedy Store, and is a regular at The Comedy Cellar.
Jon “Polar Bear” Gonzalez is a stand-up comedian, podcaster, and entertainer living in the heart of Texas. Polar Bear found success through the release of multiple comedy skits which went viral on Facebook and TikTok and have toured all over the country.
7. Chad Daniels (Sept. 16-17)
Chad Daniels is one of the most listened to comedians of all time, with close to a billion streams of his six albums to date. Originally from, and still residing in, Minnesota, Daniels has been touring the country for over 20 years. He has made six late-night appearances to date, and is one of only 13 comedians to be featured on ‘The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.”
8. Pour Minds (Sept. 18)
Drea and Lex, Houstonians residing in Atlanta, navigate their way through life, friendships, and dating together. The two discuss all the hot topics while enjoying their favorite glass of wine — it’s just like a good therapy session with friends.
9. David Koechner (Sept. 22-24) and Office Trivia w/ Real Todd Packer (Sept. 24)
David Koechner is an actor, writer, and producer, known for his roles as Todd Packer on “The Office” and Champ Kind on “Anchorman” and “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.” Koechner is an alumnus of Chicago’s Second City Theater, receiving his first break as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live.” In addition to live stand-up, Koechner will host an “Office” trivia contest during which teams will compete for mediocre prizes while hearing behind-the-scenes stories from the “Pack-man” himself.
10. More shows coming this fall
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:
- Aasif Mandvi from The Daily Show (Aug. 27)
- The Daily Show Writers Stand Up Tour (Sept. 3 & 4)
- Mitch Fatel from Comedy Central (Sept. 10 & 11)
- Shuler King from YouTube (Sept. 23, 24, & 25)
- Feminist Buzzkills of Comedy with The Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead (Oct. 7)
- Jeff Garlin from Curb Your Enthusiasm (Oct. 8 & 9)
- Carlos Mencia from The Journey Podcast and Mind of Mencia (Oct. 29 & 30)
- Brian Posehn from HBO, Netflix, and Comedy Central (Nov. 4, 5, & 6)
- Mary Lynn Rajskub from 24 and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Nov. 19 & 20)
- The Tired of Adulting Tour with Desi Alexander (Nov. 28)
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.”
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.”
- Oct. 28: Witches & Wine Wednesday: Hocus Pocus
- Oct. 29: The Overachievers Comedy Show hosted by Martin Amini
- Oct. 30-31: Nick Thune Live
- Oct. 30: Spoons, Toons & Booze: Halloween After Dark
- Oct. 31-Nov. 1: Spoons, Toons & Booze: Halloween Special
- Oct. 31-Nov. 2: “Beetlejuice“
- Nov. 6-7: Chris Kattan Live
- Nov. 13-14: Ryan Davis Live
- Nov. 15: Correy Bell Live
- Nov. 20-21: Rachel Feinstein Live
- Nov. 22: Renny Live
- Nov. 25-28: “Six Feet“
- Nov. 27-28: Alonzo Bodden
- Dec. 3-5: Jeremy Piven
- Dec. 11-12: Eliot Chang
- Dec: 17-19: J.F. Harris
- Dec. 31-Jan. 2: Steve Rannazzisi
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
“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.
- Aug. 27: Empire Strikes Back
- Aug. 28-29: Shane Torres
- Aug. 29-31 and Sept. 3: Ghostbusters
- Aug. 29-31: The Big Lebowski
- Sept. 3: Ross Benoit and Friends
- Sept. 5-6: Steve Simeone
- Sept. 11-12: JP Spears
- Sept. 18-19: Paris Sashay
- Sept. 20: Celebrating the Sopranos
- Sept. 25-26: Mark Normand
- Oct. 2-3: Nick Griffin
- Oct. 9-10: Josh Johnson
- Oct. 27: AWLA Presents: Drag Queen Bingo with Tiny Kittens
- Oct. 30: Spoons, Toons & Booze: After Dark
- Oct. 31-Nov. 1: Spoons, Toons & Booze
- Nov. 6-7: Steve Rannazzisi
- Nov. 13-14: Helen Hong
- Nov. 20-21: Rachel Feinstein
- Nov. 27-28: Alonzo Bodden
- Dec. 3-5: Jeremy Piven
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.
- Aug. 8-10: ISMO
- Aug. 23-24: Jimmy O. Yang
- Aug. 30-Sept. 1: Matt Bellassai
- Sept. 5-7: Phoebe Robinson
- Sept. 12-14: Brian Posehn
- Sept. 20-21: Felipe Esparza
- Oct. 4-5: The Daily Show Writers Stand Up Tour
- Oct. 11-12: Sarah Tiana
- Oct. 18-19: Ryan Conner
- Nov. 1-2: Bobby Lee
- Nov. 22-23: Matteo Lane
- Nov. 29-30: Alonzo Bodden
- Dec. 5-7: Rhys Darby
Image via Arlington Cinema Drafthouse
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.
- 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.
From now through January of 2019, Washington Improv Theater is offering a record number of free improv workshops to the public. Twelve “Improv for All” workshops are currently on the books (in seven out of eight wards in DC), with more being added every week.
What’s an Improv for All workshop?
- It’s a high-fun, low-stress class designed to show you how improvisers create spontaneous, off-the-cuff theater.
- It’s for everyone: You don’t need theater experience. You don’t need to be a “funny person.” Just come in ready to have a good time.
- It’s a way to learn about yourself: Whether you’re a nonprofit employee, a corporate lawyer, a software engineer or a teacher, you’ve got something to gain from taking improv. Trying something new that makes you laugh is good for your brain and for your soul.
You can find workshops at places like Anacostia Arts Center (Ward 8), Deanwood Library (Ward 7), Petworth Neighborhood Library (Ward 4), Source Theater (Ward 1) and more! For a full list of locations and times, check out the calendar.
If you like it and can’t wait for more, you can sign up for an eight-week Foundations of Improv class starting in the new year!
Want to catch WIT on stage as well? Use the code TICKETSFORTWO to get two tickets to the winter improv spectacular Seasonal Disorder for just $25.
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
- Bad Santa
Tickets are $10.
Photo via Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse
The Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) has confirmed performances from a variety of well-known stand-ups over the coming months.
Darrell Hammond, a staple of “Saturday Night Live” with a famous impression of President Donald Trump, will swing by from Dec. 7-8.
The venue will also play host to Natasha Leggero from Nov. 16-17. She’s the creator and star of Comedy Central’s “Another Period,” and recently co-starred in the Showtime series “DICE.”
Earlier that month, SNL veteran and longtime TV actor Jay Mohr will appear at the Drafthouse. He’s slated to perform from Nov. 1-2.
The Drafthouse has its full lineup of events available on its website.
Indulge in some self-care: Washington Improv Theater’s Summer Escape provides relief from 100% humidity and grueling daily headlines. Make WIT part of your night out on 14th Street with our series of improvised shows running through August 5.
Use the code ARLNOW to get two tickets for just $25. What’s in store?
- Your audience suggestion could end the world in Apocalypse How?, a new show by WIT’s hit musical improv ensemble iMusical.
- Inspired by the movie School of Rock, WIT debuts the improvised rock comedy Heavy Rotation where the actors play live instruments.
- A two-night-only guest! Karaoke Storytellers, currently running at Chicago’s iO theater, is the brainchild of D.C. native Connor Gorman. On July 27 and 28, experience a show that blends improvisation and storytelling with full-throttle karaoke!
- The razor-sharp all-female cast of WIT company ensemble Hellcat base their shows off of cringe-worthy readings by special guests. From long-lost AIM conversations to teenage journal entries to angst-ridden poetry, come revel in the awkwardness, shame and hilarity.
Summer Escape can save you from your daily summer struggles with pesky tour groups, pit stains and Metro delays. Get out of your world and step into ours.
You’ve never seen improv like this before: Washington Improv Theater’s Interplay series features dynamic artistic mash-ups between WIT’s own improvisers and artists from the worlds of music, dance, poetry, puppetry and more.
Each mash-up will take a different shape and every show will be completely different (it’s improv, after all). Interplay also features the debut of WIT’s original show In Lieu of Flowers.
What are these collaborations?
- All-female ensemble Hellcat mashes up with artists from Super Art Fight, a group that blends visual arts with the theatrics of professional wrestling.
- Long-running WIT team Commonwealth improvises off the tales of storytellers from Story District
- Eccentric ensemble Love Onion gets physical during an improv collaboration with a four-piece dance ensemble
Interplay will also feature collaborators like The Puppet Co., percussionist Tom Teasley, as well as poets like 13 of Nazareth and John MacDonald.
Improvised Funeral In Lieu of Flowers Makes World Premiere
Interplay also includes the debut of In Lieu of Flowers, an improvised funeral based on an audience member interview.
“Until Elon Musk defeats time itself, we’re going to experience the deaths of people we love and ultimately, our own deaths. I think comedy is the perfect way to have this conversation,” said co-director Lura Barber.