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Find Your “Summer Escape” with Washington Improv Theater

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.

Want to escape even further into improv? You can always sign up for a free two-hour workshop or one of our life-changing eight-week classes (no experience required).

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Improv Collides with Puppets, Dance and Poetry During Interplay

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.

Check out our interview with directors Lura Barber and Zach Mason and get tickets for one of the show’s five performances.

Want to give improv a try? Summer classes are registering now! You can also bring improv to your office with a [email protected] organizational training.

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Arlington Agenda: March 19-25

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

Also, be sure to check out our event calendar.

Monday, March 19

Conversations with Tyler: Martina Navratilova*
George Mason University Arlington (3351 Fairfax Drive)
Time: 6-7:30 p.m.

Listen to record-setting tennis player and communist defector Martina Navratilova for an across the board conversation on her activism, professional accomplishments, and personal life.

Free Home Buyer Seminar: Get $1,500 Towards Your New Home*
Orange Line Living (1600 Wilson Boulevard)
Time: 6-7:30 p.m.

Attend the Rosslyn class with wine and cheese and receive a $1,500 credit toward a new home or lease termination. The first three registrants and attendees will receive a Google Chromecast.

WordPress: An Introduction
Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street)
Time: 7-8:30 p.m.

Learn how to create, navigate, post on, and customize your own blog or basic website with WordPress.com (not WordPress.org). Registration required to attend.

Tuesday, March 20

Homebuyer Seminar with Fulcrum Properties Group*
Keller Williams Metro Center Arlington (2101 Wilson Boulevard)
Time: 6-7:30 p.m.

Looking to buy your first home, or at least thinking about it? Join this free event to learn how to take the first steps from on-hand experts. Registration required to attend.

Wednesday, March 21

CACI Ballston Toastmasters Club Open House
CACI (1100 N. Glebe Road)
Time: 5:30-7 p.m.

If you need to improve your public speaking, Toastmasters is the place for you.  Attend the spring open house to meet members and ask questions over refreshments.

Thursday, March 22

Beer & Donuts with Vanish Farmhouse
Sugar Shack (1014 S. Glebe Road)
Time: 5:30-7 p.m.

Vanish Farmhouse Brewery of Leesburg, Va., brings a selection of craft brews to Sugar Shack. Board games, beer-glazed donut holes, and paninis will also be at the family friendly event.

ARLnow March Madness Watch Party
Latitude Apartments (3601 Fairfax Drive)
Time: 5:30-7 p.m.

Come watch the Sweet Sixteen on Latitude’s rooftop terrace with ARLnow staff with free drinks, snacks, and swag. You won’t miss any of the action — we’ll have four TVs on.

Friday, March 23

St. Agnes Fish Fry*
St. Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street)
Time: 5:30-7 p.m.

The annual Lenten fish fry is upon us, and don’t miss out on the sides, beer, and other beverages as well. Registration required, and all are welcome to join in the Easter Sunday mass as well.

David Alan Grier Live
Arlington Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike)
Time: 7:30 and 10 p.m.

Join comedian and actor David Alan Grier, of In Living Color and Comedy Central fame, for an evening of stand up. Tickets start at $25. Additional performances on March 24.

Saturday, March 24

National Chamber Ensemble – Brahms and Mendelssohn*
Unitarian Universalist Church (4444 Arlington Boulevard)
Time: 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Enjoy masterful chamber music from Johannes Brahms and Felix Mendelssohn, performed by National Chamber Ensemble artists. Reception with the musicians to follow.

*Denotes featured (sponsored) event

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Say Yes to Your Creativity: Four Reasons to Start Doing Improv

Be spontaneous — do something fun for yourself today and jump into a class at Washington Improv Theater. Folks from all over the DMV take WIT’s improv classes for all sorts of reasons.

Washington Improv Theater is DC’s oldest and only nonprofit improv theater. Chances are you know at least one person who has taken (and loved!) our Foundations of Improv class.

Here are four reasons to get off the fence about taking a WIT class:

1. Meet new people (outside the bar scene) — WIT students come from all walks of life — but they all come to improv with open minds, daring to try something new. Abandon your iPhone and share face-to-face laughs with a dozen strangers who will quickly become friends.

One student told us “you make instant friends, and you push yourself in ways that you might not initially believe possible.”

2. Unlock your creative potential — Everyone has untapped creativity — unleash yours with one of our eight-week classes. A testimonial: “You get to exercise your imagination in a way that most adults don’t get to do on a regular basis.”

3. Find yourself – without having to scale Mt. Everest — From the way you communicate in your relationships to learning about the choices you make in life, improv spurs personal breakthroughs. Learn how you can change your life when you eradicate the word “no” from your day-to-day. 

4. Up your game at work — Show your boss you’re taking your skills to the next level. Improv gives you the confidence to speak up, the positivity to collaborate, and clarity to communicate — it’s the best and most versatile professional development ever!. (Side note: You can also bring us to your office for a [email protected] training.)

Get off the fence — spring session starts March 26! A couple hours a week with WIT can change your whole perspective!

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Comedians T.J. Miller, David Alan Grier Coming to Drafthouse

The Arlington Cinema Drafthouse’s marquee may be gone with the wind, at least temporarily, but that likely will not diminish the boldfaced comedy names coming to the theater over the next couple of weeks.

Next week, on Friday and Saturday (March 16-17), T.J. Miller will perform. The Silicon Valley and Deadpool star, who has been in the news recently for the wrong reasons, will bring his brand of “absurdist observational stand-up” to the Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike).

The following Friday and Saturday (March 23-24), actor and comedian David Alan Grier, of In Living Color fame, will perform.

Tickets for each range from $25-35.

The Drafthouse is in the midst of a weekly comedy lineup that includes comedian Josh Blue, slated to perform this weekend, and Carlos Mencia, who will perform March 29-31.

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Arlington Agenda: February 12-18

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

Also, be sure to check out our event calendar.

 Tuesday, Feb. 13

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper
St. John’s Episcopal Church (415 S. Lexington Street)
Time: 6-7:30 p.m.

Join the Shrove Tuesday celebration with the traditional pancake feasting prior to the Lenten fasting. Adults pay $5 each and $3 each for kids 6-12. Younger children are free.

Clarendon Mardi Gras Parade
Wilson Boulevard from Barton to Irving Streets
Time: 7-11 p.m.

A family-friendly parade with marchers, bands, and the occasional dressed up dog or pony. Expect lots of costumes and beads thrown from parade floats.

Wednesday, Feb. 14

St. Agnes Ash Wednesday Mass
St. Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street)
Time: 6:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Worshipers can attend Ash Wednesday Masses throughout the day, from early morning until mid-evening, to celebrate the beginning of Lent and receive their ashes.

 Thursday, Feb. 15

Archives of American Gardens: Capturing Garden History
Little Falls Presbyterian Church (6025 Little Falls Road)
Time: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

The Smithsonian Gardens’ horticulture collections manager, Cindy Brown, will discuss American garden history conservation with photographs and documents. An optional lunch is $5.

 Friday, Feb. 16

Creative Coffee: Mark Making
Connection: Crystal City (2100 Crystal Drive)
Time: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

A casual weekly creative meet-up for artists to experiment and improve their work in a social setting. Bring your own materials to this adult-friendly gathering.

Sound Check: Music Bingo
Mister Days Sports Rock Cafe (3100 Clarendon Blvd)
Time: 6 – 8 p.m.

Test your musical trivia knowledge with an aurally-inspired bingo game. You’ll have 30 seconds to figure out a song and match it to your bingo card. Prizes after every round and happy hour pricing.

Chinese New Year Celebration
Long Branch Nature Center (625 S Carlin Springs Road)
Time: 6 – 7:30 p.m.

Celebrate the Chinese New Year with the naturalists at Long Branch Nature Center. There will be live animals, dragon crafts, and a short hike holiday-themed hike.

St. Agnes Soup Supper
St. Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street)
Time: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

The church will offer meatless soups and a noodle dish, and more every Friday during the Lenten holiday. Guests are invited to stay for confession and the stations of the cross afterwards.

Sarah Colonna Live
Arlington Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike)
Time: 10 p.m.

Comedian, author, and Chelsea Lately roundtable regular Sarah Colonna performs at the Arlington Drafthouse with three performances over two nights,

 Saturday, Feb. 17

USA-Russia Olympic Hockey Watch Party Brunch
Quinn’s On The Corner (1776 Wilson Boulevard)
Time: 6:45 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The Courthouse sports bar is opening very early for an Olympic USA versus Russia hockey watch party, with $1 champagne flutes and brunch until 5 p.m.

Hamiltunes: An American Singalong
Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street)
Time: 12 – 4 p.m.

Sing along to the music of “Hamilton: An American Musical.” Revolutionary War-era costumes encouraged and appreciated. A costume contest will be held during intermission.

Studio Xfinity’s Lunar New Year
Studio Xfinity (3601 Fairfax Drive)
Time: 1 – 5 p.m.

A free celebration at Studio Xfinity for the Year of the Dog, with dragon dancers, calligraphy, a fortune cookie bar, and more activities.

Conversation: Poets Jodie Hollander and Robert Mezey
One More Page Books (2200 N. Westmoreland Street)
Time: 6 – 7 p.m.

Poets Jodie Hollander and Robert Mezey will read from their works. Hollander will share from her collection, My Dark Horses. Poet and critic Mezey will share from his award-winning body of work.

 Sunday, Feb. 18

President’s Day Celebration at Market Common
The Loop at Market Common (2800 Clarendon Boulevard)
Time: 12:30  – 3:30 p.m.

Don’t want to race yourself? Watch the Washington Nationals’ Presidents race around the Loop. Free Nicecream hot cocoa provided, and there will be a photo booth and prize wheel.

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Drafthouse to Show ‘The Princess Bride’ on Valentine’s Day

Next week the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse will be hosting an alternative to the traditional Valentine’s Day sit-down dinner: stand-up comedy and a showing of “The Princess Bride”

There will be two showings of both on Wednesday, Feb. 14. Doors will first open at 6 p.m., with the stand-up starting at 7 p.m. and the movie beginning at 7:30 p.m. For the second showing, doors will open at 9:30 p.m., the stand-up will start at 9:45 p.m. and the screening will begin at 10:15 p.m.

Tickets are value-priced, according to the Drafthouse’s website.

“Only $10 — inconceivable!” the website says.

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Podcast: Actor and Comedian Joel McHale

Joel McHale is coming to Arlington.

The actor and comedian, best known for hosting The Soup on E! and for his starring role on Community, is performing four stand-up comedy shows at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) this coming Friday and Saturday.

McHale, who also recently starred on CBS’s The Great Indoors and Fox’s The X-Files reboot, spoke with ARLnow.com for our 26 Square Miles podcast on Wednesday. He talked about hosting the 2014 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, told us what we can expect at his upcoming stand-up shows, and gave a candid answer about why The Soup was cancelled and whether it is in line for a revival.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

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Arlington Drafthouse Packs More Stars Onto Schedule

It’s going to be a star-studded fall and winter on Columbia Pike as the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse is continuing to add boldfaced names to its standup comedy schedule.

As previously reported, Aasif Mandvi from the Daily Show will perform this coming Friday and Saturday, trying out new material and showing the audience “how the sausage is made.” He joins a fall lineup that includes Rhys DarbyPauly Shore and Steve-O.

The recently-announced additions to the schedule include:

  • Shawn Wayans of Scary Movie and In Living Color (Nov. 10-11)
  • Joel McHale of The Soup and Community (Nov. 17-18)
  • Darrell Hammond from Saturday Night Live (Jan. 5-6)
  • Brian Posehn of The Five Year Engagement and Netflix specials (Jan. 18-20)
  • Jay Mohr of Saturday Night Live (Jan. 25-27)
  • Steve Rannazzisi of The League (Feb. 9-10)
  • Michael Ian Black of Wet Hot American Summer (March 2-3)
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Aasif Mandvi, Rhys Darby Added to Drafthouse’s Fall Comedy Lineup

With fall just around the corner, the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) has added some big names to its live comedy lineup.

On Friday, September 22 and Saturday, September 23, Aasif Mandvi will perform a “New Material Night,” with each show ending in a question-and-answer session. Mandvi was a correspondent on Comedy Central’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and also wrote, produced and starred in “The Brink” on HBO.

And on December 1 and 2, Rhys Darby of the BBC and HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords” comedy will perform his own standup show. Darby, who has also produced mockumentaries and appeared on TV shows like “Modern Family,” “How I Met Your Mother” and the Late Show with David Letterman, as well as movies.

Those are in addition to a lineup that already includes the likes of comedy legend Jon Lovitz and former MTV stars Pauly Shore and Steve-O.

The Drafthouse has made a series of changes, including new seating, a new summer focus on first-run films, and opening a new Mexican restaurant in the former “green room” bar space.

Photo via Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse

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W. Kamau Bell Coming to Arlington Friday

Sociopolitical comedian W. Kamau Bell is coming to the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse for the first time this Friday.

The host of the CNN show “United Shades of America” is known for exploring tough subjects. In two seasons of “United Shades, Bell has spent time with members of the Ku Klux Klan and has sat down with Alexandria-based white supremacist Richard Spencer. The show was nominated for a Primetime Emmy award in 2016.

But although he’s been outspoken about his support of social causes, Bell says his comedy act is not about political affiliation.

“I feel the need to make the jokes about the people who I feel need to have jokes made about them, it could be the left, it could be the right, could be somewhere in between,” he said.

The comedian believes that too many of America’s issues have been politicized even though those issues exist no matter where someone is from. By poking fun at both sides, he believes he helps erases some of the social divides.

“We think of the north and the south and the west and the Midwest, but every town, every city, every part of this country, there are different things going on,” Bell said. He thinks that once people stop focusing on what makes us different, “we’d realize that we all want more money from our job, we all want better schools for our kids.”

In an especially polarized political climate, Bell thinks that his show can be a place for people to unwind. He says his visits to places with histories of racism often turn out to be the best shows, because the audience members need the break more than anyone else.

The author of the book “The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6′ 4″, African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama’s Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian,” released early this month, wants people to leave his show willing to engage with those with different perspectives.

“We are not as strong in our communities as we think we are, we need to get to know our neighbors,” Bell said. “We need to get to know the people two streets over, we need to get to know people outside of neighborhoods.”

And although it can be uncomfortable, he believes it’s an important learning experience.

“Awkward can often lead to a better place, a smarter place and a more joyful and more informed place,” Bell said. “That’s what I’m encouraging people to do, lean into the awkward.”

Bell will perform two shows at the Drafthouse on Friday, an early show at 7:30 p.m. that is now sold out and a late show at 10 p.m. Tickets are $35 for general admission, $63 for general admission and a book.

Courtesy photos

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Drafthouse Fall Comedy Lineup: Lovitz, Arnold, Shore and Steve-O

Summer may have just kicked off, but the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) is already planning for a big autumn of marquee performances.

It’s expected to start Sept. 7-9 with comedy legend Jon Lovitz. Later that month, Pauly Shore will be performing a “one-nighter” on Sept. 24. Another former MTV personality, “Jackass” star Steve-O, will be in town Oct. 19-22. And comic/actor Tom Arnold will perform his standup act on Nov. 3 and 4.

In addition to the comedy, actor Val Kilmer will be at the Drafthouse on Oct. 6 and 7 for a special screening of his one-man play about Mark Twain, plus a question-and-answer session after the film.

The Drafthouse is in the midst of a series of changes, including new seating, a new summer focus on first-run films, and a new Mexican restaurant in the former “green room” bar space.

This summer’s comedy lineup includes “Super Troopers” star, director and co-writer Jay Chandrasekhar this weekend and W. Kamau Bell next weekend, followed by Chris Gethard, Gary Gulman, Kevin Barnett, Alex Moffat, Jade Catta-Preta, and Piff the Magic Dragon.

Photo via Arlington Cinema Drafthouse

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Price Increases, Upgrades Coming to Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse

As it prepares to begin showing first-run and art-house movies, the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse announced a price hike and a series of other upgrades.

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?

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Arlington Drafthouse to Add Art-House Films

Arlington Cinema and DrafthouseThe 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.

Art-House Model
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.

Flexible Booking
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.

Art-House Films

  • 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.

Family 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.

Live Comedy

  • 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.

Movie Pricing

  • 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.

DC Location

  • 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.

Timeline
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.

Seating
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.

Thanks,

Greg Godbout

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Changes on Tap for Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse

Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse by BrianMKAAn iconic local business may be making some major changes next year.

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2HST6WT

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.

Sincerely,

Management

Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse
http://ArlingtonDrafthouse.com

Drafthouse Comedy in DC
http://DrafthouseComedy.com

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