Looking to enjoy “Barbie” while reliving those childhood slumber parties with your best friends? Alamo Drafthouse has you covered.
This Friday and Saturday, movie-goers can get dressed up in their pajamas and bring their pillows to the Crystal City location of the theater for late-night screenings of the blockbuster film. There will be Barbie-themed concessions, merchandise and photo ops.
“With this ‘Barbie’ movie, because we’re trying to appeal to girls and women of all ages, we really want to bring back that kind of fun and nostalgia that we have from when we were kids, having sleepovers with our best friends,” said Megan Hia, the marketing and events manager for the D.C.-area locations of Alamo Drafthouse.
Hia says the “Barbie” slumber parties will be “rowdy showings,” with relaxed talking rules that allow for guests to express their feelings about the film and chat with friends. As a bonus, there should be air conditioning.
Barbie-themed booze will also be flowing. Alamo will have a kölsch called “The Babe” on tap from local brewpub Nighthawk Brewery as well as two specialty drinks: “Dream Summer ’80” and the “Dream Summer ’59.”
For Alamo Drafthouse, the event is one way Alamo is keeping the excitement for “Barbie” alive. The film had a massive $162 million opening weekend at the box office — making it the most successful first weekend of any film this year.
Hia says attendance rates for this movie in Arlington and D.C. are already on-par with well-attended movies pre-pandemic. She observed many moviegoers come in pink outfits and pose for photos outside the theaters.
“There’s so much excitement around it and you can really, really see that,” Hia said. “To have people come in costume and dress up — and dress up in pink for the ‘Barbie’ movie — that’s all about building that experience and celebrating the movies that are coming, and that’s really what the Alamo is all about.”
Tickets for the slumber party screening of “Barbie” at the Crystal City location, at 1660 Crystal Drive, are available on the theater’s website. There are still several tickets available for Friday night at $21 and a few for Saturday at $14.
Those seeking an escape from the midsummer heat experienced the opposite this weekend in the Regal Cinema in Ballston.
The theater at Ballston Quarter mall is suffering an extended outage of its air conditioning, just as droves of moviegoers flocked to the big screen starting Thursday for the highly anticipated release of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” — dubbed “Barbenheimer” for their shared release date.
“As of Thursday aka the release of Barbenheimer madness, the air conditioning was nonfunctional at the Ballston theater,” said a Yelp reviewer. “We checked out the theater, and it felt like 85 degrees in there.”
The theater is “unbearably hot,” according to a Google review posted Sunday.
While the outage has been ongoing for several weeks, according to tipsters, the informal double feature cast a spotlight on the uncomfortable situation.
Even the New York Times mentioned the Ballston theater’s plight in a discussion about the success of “Barbie,” for which Gerwig now holds the record for the highest-grossing opening in history for a female director.
Some movie-lovers stayed despite the heat, while others took advantage of refunds and vouchers Regal offered to those who chose not to stay.
Asked for comment, the general manager of the theater referred ARLnow to Regal’s corporate team. The company did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.
Regal’s owner, CineWorld, is also feeling the heat financially. The company filed for bankruptcy in September 2022 due to increased financial pressure caused by the pandemic.
CineWorld anticipated ticket sales to remain lower than pre-pandemic levels over the next year, though “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” are providing a much-needed boost to the theater industry as a whole.
The two films raked in $155 million and $80.5 million respectively in their opening weekend. Between internet buzz and massive media campaigns, their performance exceeded projections and marked the biggest weekend at the box office this year.
Cinemas may face doldrums further down the road, however. Actors and writers have gone on strike, halting the production of numerous movies and TV shows.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is finally making its Crystal City premiere next week.
The nearly 50,000-square-foot complex at 1660 Crystal Drive is framed by an exterior marquee and a lit-up vertical sign. Inside, it has 9 theaters and 915 seats, all equipped with swivel tables, power recliners, and server call buttons. There’s one particular large theater called “The Big Show,” essentially a large format screen with lots of speakers.
The Crystal City location is also aviation-themed, taking its cue from the theater’s proximity to Reagan National Airport.
“Each Alamo Drafthouse location has a unique interior theme, and the D.C. team was inspired by the theater’s proximity to the historic Washington National Airport when designing Alamo Drafthouse Crystal City,” says a press release. “From aviation design elements throughout the lobby and hallways, to a horde of snakes attacking a plane at the entrance to The Big Show, the theme continues throughout the building and completely takes flight in the theater’s specialty bar, Departures.”
The 50-person second-floor, airport-themed bar overlooking Crystal Drive “evokes the feeling of a vintage lounge found within an airport gate.”
Departures’ blue and white coloring, wallpaper, and design of the round booths adjacent to the bar itself are intended “to transport guests back to the heyday of air travel.” It also will have a menu full of “signature aviation-themed cocktails.”
Flight-inspired movie posters and props decorate the entire theater as well.
Alamo Drafthouse is known for its special programming and events and the Crystal City location is planning its own assortment, including brunch screenings and “Terror Tuesdays.”
“Terror Tuesday uncovers an eclectic mix of horror and strange discoveries from the genre fringes,” notes the release.
The theater in Crystal City has been a long time coming. It was initially supposed to debut in the spring, but supply chain challenges and “construction feasibility” pushed the opening back about six months. ARLnow first reported over the summer that the plan was to open in October.
This will mark the fourth Alamo Drafthouse in the region, with other locations in D.C., Ashburn, and Woodbridge.
“After more than five plus years of looking for the right location and another five plus years of development, we are happy [to] be opening the doors to our part of the transformation of Crystal City and National Landing as a whole,” wrote co-owners Anthony Coco and Joseph Edwards in the press release.
“The theater’s theme, lobby bar Departures, and The Big Show spaces have come together to create something special and unique to this location, the co-owners continued. “Add on the Alamo Drafthouse’s top-of-the-line audio/visual presentation, unique programming, and unparalleled food and beverage service, and the Crystal City theater will provide an unrivaled out-of-home experience that we can’t wait to deliver to our guests.”
The first screening is set for 4:30 p.m. on Monday. It will be “Black Adam,” a superhero movie starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Embracing Arlington Arts has put forward a business plan for a future “Arlington Performing Arts Center.”
And it is taking great pains to prove it will survive on private financial support, and won’t take county funds or fizzle out like the county-run Artisphere in Rosslyn, which suffered from ineffective marketing and a relative lack of engagement from Arlington residents and artists.
The arts nonprofit proposes a roughly 14,300-square-foot performing arts space, with a black box main stage theater seating up to 150 people. The center would have four rehearsal studios, dressing rooms, a lobby with a box office, a concession stand, storage, offices and an art gallery wall.
“We are very excited to publish this business plan for a new venue in the County,” Embracing Arlington Arts (EAA) President Janet Kopenhaver said in a statement. “We know this is a challenge, but we also recognize that Arlington is a great County that can be made better with the addition of a performing arts/live music venue.”
Now, the organization said it is looking for the right site, and will announce its pick after consulting with the county. If the Arlington Performing Arts Center (APAC) is built as planned, the facility could cost $8 to $10 million to build, costs the nonprofit aims to cover with corporate and individual donations.
“This plan assumes that EAA will raise funds to support the new venue from investors, corporations, the developer, private individuals, foundations and other entities to cover the capital costs of the building,” the organization’s treasurer, Robert Goler, said in a statement. “Furthermore, this plan assumes no management requirement by the County, no County staff expenses, and all operating expenses being paid by the APAC operating entity.”
EAA already has some support from Amazon, which Kopenhaver thanked for “underwriting the consultant’s fees to research and draft this important document.”
“Our work with Embracing Arlington Arts is a part of our broader support of arts-focused nonprofits across the DMV,” Amazon spokeswoman Hayley Richard tells ARLnow, listing nearly a dozen other arts groups it has supported, including Signature Theatre, Arlington Arts Center and Synetic Theater.
According to the business plan, rent from theater companies and others will not fully cover the APAC’s operating expenses, and the arts booster group will have to raise about $25,000 a year to break even.
Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol has expressed excitement for the proposal.
“The opportunities that a professional mid-size venue will offer in Arlington are tremendous: It will bring high-quality arts experiences to residents and give local arts groups access to professional rehearsals and performances in Arlington,” she said in a statement included in the plan. “It’s exciting to see multiple sectors come together to support this vision, particularly in our current moment, where the arts are essential to help our community make meaning of and heal from the pandemic.”
The nonprofit surveyed residents as part of its research. While much of the feedback was positive, some predicted, according to the business plan, the APAC wouldn’t succeed because the Kennedy Center in D.C. is close by and Arlington already has too many venues.
EAA said APAC would host performances by local groups that would not be able to afford or sell out the Kennedy Center. A more modest theater would keep ticket prices down, expanding the scope of who could attend performances.
As for making do with what’s around, EAA says none of the nearly two dozen venues across the county meet the needs of several professional, local theater organizations.
Schools are too small and lack the ambiance guests expect when going to the theater, per the business plan. Meanwhile, existing privately run spaces like Synetic Theater and county-run spaces like Theatre on the Run wouldn’t be able to provide the flexibility EAA is seeking to host live music, readings, plays, receptions, artist exhibitions, camps and improv nights throughout the week.
Meanwhile, an earlier county plan that would have seen a developer build a Metro-accessible black box theater in the Virginia Square area fell through, leaving it up to private organizations like EAA to envision ways to fill the void.
“Our goal is to have a lively and vibrant facility that also serves as a community partner and good neighbor,” Kopenhaver said.
Just in time for the spooky season, Crystal City’s Synetic Theater is debuting a “bloody” adaptation of Dracula.
The two-decade-old, local non-profit theater is bringing one of the world’s most famous horror stories to its stage next month, with shows starting on October 13. The show is set to run Thursday through Sunday through Nov. 6.
A special Halloween performance on Monday, Oct. 31 is planned. Additionally, on Oct. 28, Synetic is hosting its annual Halloween party Vampire Ball, which will include a performance of Dracula plus food, dancing, physical theater, and themed cocktails.
Located inside the Crystal City Shops near the Metro station, Synetic Theater first opened in the neighborhood in 2010 after previously making its home in Rosslyn. It’s known for its physical and nearly wordless theater.
This adaptation of Dracula will adhere to Synetic’s well-known style, something co-founder and the show’s director Paata Tsikurishvili believes will help tell the 125-year-old story of the “vicious vampire.”
“With minimal dialogue in our storytelling, this production relies heavily on visuals, music, physicality, and most importantly, audience interpretation,” Tsikurishvili told ARLnow about what makes their version of Dracula unique. “Whether it’s Shakespeare or Stoker, Synetic provides room for audiences to find their own meaning in our productions.”
This will be the third time that Synetic Theater has adapted Dracula, with previous performances in 2005 and 2009, and will include a number of actors reprising their roles, including Dan Istrate as Count Dracula.
Tsikurishvili said the 2022 version will have “significant updates to the costumes, choreography, and set design” but the set will continue to be “very minimalist” to allow “audiences to fully focus on the actors, movement, and story.”
It’s been something of a rough go for the venerable physical theater company over the past few years.
In late 2018, Synetic nearly lost its lease at 1800 S. Bell Street, but building owner JBG Smith backtracked and agreed to allow Synetic to stay in the building until at least the end of this year. The pandemic happened just over a year later, forcing Synetic to shut down performances. It was only late last summer when the theater got back into its space and started doing regular performances again.
With all that is happening in the world today, Tsikurishvili told ARLnow that showcasing the story of Dracula now is “very fitting.”
“When you think about the moral of Stoker’s story — it’s about confronting darkness, but not alone,” he said. “In this season and in this show, we explore otherness and what it takes to push differences aside and work together against evil.”
The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Crystal City is currently hiring and wrapping up construction as it prepares for its premiere later this year.
In a recent update, the upscale theater chain posted construction photos and new details about its upcoming opening at 1660 Crystal Drive. The plan is to open “this fall,” the post said. ARLnow reported the hope was October.
There were also some specifics in regard to the look, feel, and aesthetic of the nine-screen, 50,000-square-foot complex.
“The cinema’s front facade will boast a beautiful marquee, reminiscent of the grand movie palaces of old, which will be accompanied by a vibrant vertical Alamo sign further up the building,” reads the post.
A collection of vintage posters will line the staircase and escalator on the way to the second floor, where there will be the box office and a 50-person bar “with a soon-to-be-announced theme and overlooking Crystal [Drive].” The bar will have signature cocktails, local beers, appetizers, and a happy hour. Adjacent to the bar, there’s set to be a rooftop patio as well.
The theaters will range from 50 to 237 seats, each with 4K laser projectors, power recliners, swivel tables, and server call buttons. The “Big Show” theater will feature a particularly large screen and lots of speakers.
“A peek behind the curtain in our Big Show auditorium, featuring a 66-foot wide PLF screen and over 70 (!!) speakers supporting an immersive Dolby Atmos surround sound experience,” says the update.
The theater is also looking to hire a number of positions, including projectionists, bartenders, servers, box office concierge, and a marketing manager.
The Texas-based theater chain first announced it was moving into Crystal City more than five years ago. Its location at 1660 Crystal Drive is next to a CVS, an Amazon Fresh and Tacombi Taqueria — and a few blocks from the future, 25,000-employee Amazon HQ2.
After a rough two years due to the pandemic, it appears that the moviegoing industry is rebounding somewhat after a good summer. That includes Alamo Drafthouse, which filed for bankruptcy early last year.
The Lubber Run Amphitheater free summer concert series is back, with the first show set for this Friday.
A total of 29 performances are scheduled between now and Sunday, Aug. 14.
The amphitheater, located near the intersection of N. Columbus Street and 2nd Street N., is an outdoor, open-air space, run by Arlington County to provide family-friendly shows in the summer.
The first show in the lineup is a concert from Mark G. Meadows, a jazz musician, and his band The Movement, along with singer Kanysha Williams. It is set to take place this Friday at 8 p.m. They are expected to feature songs “Moon River” and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”
The series has scheduled jazz, blues and rock performances, as well as theater, orchestra, a marching band and a puppet show. No shows are currently scheduled for Sunday, June 19, as the amphitheater is closed for Juneteenth.
The shows are open to all members of the family. Audience members are welcome to picnic at the venue, although alcohol is not allowed and smoking discouraged, according to a press release.
Unless otherwise specified, the concerts are set to take place at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 11 a.m. on Sundays. Bad weather may cancel shows, in which case information will be posted on Arlington Arts’ Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. Concertgoers can visit the venue’s website or call 703-228-1850 for more information about the schedule of the day.
This summer’s scheduled shows are below.
- Friday, June 10: Mark G. Meadows and The Movement, Kanysha Williams
- Saturday, June 11: Aaron Myers
- Sunday, June 12: Dan and Claudia Zanes
- Friday, June 17: Stacy Brooks
- Saturday, June 18: Bumper Jacksons
- Friday, June 24: David Chappell and Friends
- Saturday, June 25: The 19th Street Band
- Sunday, June 26: Tale Wise: “Pirates Lost at Sea!”
- Sunday, June 26: Arlington Philharmonic (4 p.m.)
- Friday, July 1: Griefcat
- Saturday, July 2: Elikeh
- Sunday, July 3: Mr. Gabe & Holly
- Friday, July 8: The Fuss
- Saturday, July 9: Joe Keyes & The Late Bloomer Band
- Sunday, July 10: Cody Clark Magic: “Railroad Submarine!”
- Friday, July 15: Desanguashington
- Saturday, July 16: King Soul
- Sunday, July 17: Happenstance Theater: “Pinot & Augustine”
- Friday, July 22: Wicked Sycamore
- Saturday, July 23: Soul Crackers
- Sunday, July 24: Rainbow Rock Band
- Friday, July 29: Carly Harvey
- Saturday, July 30: Veronneau presents Blue Tapestry
- Sunday, July 31: Encore Stage & Studio presents “A Sidewalk Stroll!”
- Friday, August 5: Avant Bard Theatre, Encore Stage & Studio, Dominion Stage and The Arlington Players
- Saturday, August 6: Avant Bard Theatre, Encore Stage & Studio, Dominion Stage and The Arlington Players
- Sunday, August 7: Avant Bard Theatre, Encore Stage & Studio, Dominion Stage and The Arlington Players. (6 p.m.)
- Thursday, August 11: The 257th Army Band, The Band of the Nation’s Capital. (8 p.m.)
- Friday, August 12: National Chamber Ensemble
- Saturday, August 13: Karen Jonas
- Sunday, August 14: Blue Sky Puppets: “The Three Not So Little Pigs”
Wet, Windy, Snowy Saturday on Tap — “A powerful storm system will cross the region Saturday. We are likely to see winds gusting over 50 mph Saturday, along with very low wind chills by Saturday night. We remain uncertain about snowfall, as the cold air will be chasing the precip — a wide range remains possible.” [Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]
Firefighters Union Wins Vote — “For the first time in more than FOUR DECADES — a public sector union will have the right to negotiate a contract with Arlington County. And it wasn’t just a win — it was a BLOWOUT.” [Facebook, Twitter]
PSA: Don’t Leave Keys Inside a Parked Car — An auto theft near Upton Hill park: “At approximately 12:40 a.m., a witness observed three unknown suspects rummaging through a vehicle. The witness yelled and the suspects fled the scene on foot. The suspects then entered into the victim’s car, located the keys inside and drove away from the area. The vehicle is described as gray in color, 2015 Honda CRV bearing VA license plate VKX2844.” [ACPD]
Marymount Adding Wrestling Teams — “Marymount University is moving forward on plans to add both Men’s and Women’s Wrestling as varsity sports, expanding the institution’s athletic offerings to 22 different varsity-level teams. Men’s competition will begin in the 2022-23 academic year, as Marymount currently searches for a head coach who will begin recruiting for the program immediately. Women’s competition will debut during the 2023-24 academic year.” [Marymount University]
How Arlington Landed HQ2 — “If you’re interested in how Amazon could reshape our region, it’s worth understanding what our region had to build to land them. It’s an underdog story that starts with a small team of local business-improvement officials who had neither the clout nor the cash of most of their competitors. Instead, they figured out what Amazon was really looking for and quietly began the process of shaping a city to fit those needs.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
An Irish Tale on a Local Stage — “Tis the time of the year that everyone wants to be Irish, if only for a wee while, and Encore Stage & Studio has joined the celebration of all things Eire with the world-premiere production of ‘Riley O’Brien and the Lost Leprechaun.’ While aimed at the younger set, the show is inventive in its conception and solid in its execution, making it a treat for all ages.” [Sun Gazette]
Fairfax County Local News — ARLnow’s latest sister site, FFXnow, is providing up-to-the-minute coverage of Fairfax County following its recent official launch. Sign up for the email newsletter or follow on Facebook or Twitter. [FFXnow]
It’s Friday — Sunny most of the day, then rain overnight. High of 59 and low of 37. Sunrise at 6:27 am and sunset at 6:13 pm. [Weather.gov]
Maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are similarities between being a judge in a courtroom and an actor on stage.
“It’s all really about trying to understand that all human beings are complex,” Judge William T. Newman, Jr. tells ARLnow. “They are not all good and they are not all bad.”
Newman is a judge, an actor, and one half of a legit Washington power couple. He’s the long-time Chief Judge of Arlington County Circuit Court who’s presided over some of Arlington’s most well-known cases — as well as a veteran stage actor who’s appeared in several local productions over the years. In his dual roles, he’s known for his authoritativeness, clarity, and booming voice.
But this month the multifaceted Newman is doing something he’s never done before: starring in a one-man show.
The judge is portraying the legendary playwright August Wilson in the autobiographical How I Learned What I Learned. Produced by Arlington’s Avant Bard Theatre and staged at Gunston Arts Center, performances will be running through Dec. 19.
“It’s quite a challenge,” Newman says about being the solo performer on stage. “It’s you just there. It’s the raw essence of who you are up there.”
He notes the difficulty in holding the audience’s attention, avoiding becoming one-dimensional, and being able to shift tone on a dime.
“It’s trying to set different levels. Some of it is funny, some of it is sad,” he says. “You have to be ready to do the next thing, which may be totally the opposite.”
How I Learned What I Learned, published shortly before Wilson’s death in 2005, is an autobiographical look into the writer’s life and what it meant to be a Black artist in the 20th century. Wilson wrote the lead role for himself, which provides another unique challenge for Newman.
“August wasn’t an actor. He was a writer. So, in a sense, it’s trying to do this without overdoing it,” he says. “He’s a story teller and I’m trying to tell his story.”
Despite much of the play taking place in the mid-20th century, there’s plenty in the material that remains very relevant today. Citing the Black Lives Matter movement and last year’s protests over the killing of George Floyd, Newman calls Wilson’s work “prophetic” in that it deals with inequality and the country’s inability to cope with its history.
“August was really talking about how we need to come together as a community, as both Black and white,” he says. “To look at each other and not be as wary of each other.”
Newman notes that he completely agrees with Wilson’s assessment that we are “victims of our history.”
This isn’t Newman’s first show with the three-decade-old Avant Bard Theater (it was previously known as the Washington Shakespeare Company). In 2017, he starred as Oedipus in the theater’s production of The Gospel at Colonus.
This is his first time back on stage in about two years, however. Like it is for many local performing arts organizations, this holiday season is a greatly-anticipated return to performing in front of live audiences.
While Newman is very much looking forward to it, he admits he forgot how much it can take out of him both in terms of time, focus, and energy. Acting is about bringing life experiences to a role, he says, which can be exhausting.
For Newman, some of those life experiences come from the courtroom, where he hears cases and listens to people profess their innocence all day long. He says his acting and engaging in the arts brings “a sense of humanity” to his day job.
In Wilson’s writings, there are plenty of “shady” characters, but Newman knows those characters come from real life.
“There’s a human element to everything that they do… It’s part of what goes on in life,” says Newman. “These are real people, who do these real things, and say these real things.”
How I Learned What I Learned runs Thursdays through Sundays, from Dec. 1-19 at Gunston Arts Center, Theatre Two (2700 S. Lang Street). This article was funded by the ARLnow Press Club and first appeared in Saturday’s club newsletter.
Arlington arts organizations may have lost as much as $10 million in 2020 due to the pandemic, but they were able to get by with help from friends of the arts.
Many arts groups in the county reported losing 41-60% of their expected income, according to Embracing Arlington Arts, a group of local residents who work toward bolstering the arts in the county. But the arts organizations survived on a combination of government and private grants, generous locals and virtual performances.
“Most arts groups had no earned revenue,” said Janet Kopenhaver, the founder of Embracing Arlington Arts. “While they were offering these virtual things, you can’t charge what you would normally charge for a ticket. You had to depend on your donors and the donors came through.”
The National Chamber Ensemble, which sold season tickets for virtual concerts, said Zoom and donations from patrons helped the group stay in tune.
“We had wine and cheese receptions over Zoom with the audience,” said the ensemble’s artistic director and first violinist Leo Sushansky. “Everything balanced each other out because virtually a whole family could watch with one ticket, but people who didn’t live nearby like in England or New York could attend performances also.”
Arlington-based Synetic Theatre’s Managing Director Jason Najjoum said the theater also received generous donations.
“Our individual donors continued or increased their support, which says as much about the work we do as the Northern Virginia/Greater Washington community we call home,” Najjoum said. “We were able to keep our staff fully employed, and even added a couple of team members.”
Groups accessed the county’s annual arts grant program, small business grants from the county, and the more-competitive state and federal arts grants funding, Kopenhaver said. Arts groups could also cash in on federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.
Najjoum said Synetic relied heavily on PPP funding to create a custom streaming website and app.
“None of this would have been possible without significant government support,” he said. “It was hard won by countless lobbyists and advocates, but the local, state and federal government really stepped up and provided the support we needed.”
Amazon contributed too, donating to several area arts organizations, including Synetic.
“We were able to support the acutely affected freelance arts worker class through an artist relief program that provided $60,000 in support to 32 arts workers,” noted Najjoum.
But artists are still uncertain about what the future holds for them in Arlington.
“The question remains: with government support ending, will ticket sales come back strong enough to replace it, especially given that our upfront production expenses will also be up? Producing theater has always been very expensive,” he said. “This will only work at the bottom line if audiences and donors increase their support going forward.”
Although many arts organizations weathered the shutdowns, a perennial issue facing these groups has resurfaced: space.
“We need a cultural center — a vibrant, busy venue. It would be a game changer,” said Kopenhaver. “We are losing arts groups because of lack of venue. It’s a critical issue.”
A few have already left because they cannot perform in middle schools, which she said is where most perform — away from transit, restaurants and other walkable amenities.
Embracing Arlington Arts is working with developers to create a flexible space in an area with more amenities that can accommodate arts audiences.
“We fear, if the venues keep dwindling, there will be nowhere to perform,” Kopenhaver said. “At a middle school you can’t have receptions, you can’t have alcohol, you can’t have talk backs, which are becoming popular, because the janitors are kicking you out.”
On top of that, the child-sized restrooms are uncomfortable for the patrons, many of whom are retirees, she said.
Synetic’s venue in Crystal City has been in high demand during the pandemic, and has been used for church services, film shoots and pageants, said Najjoum. But with more performances, Synetic needs its space back.
Meanwhile, the National Chamber Ensemble has been out of a concert hall for four years, after the county-run Rosslyn Spectrum (part of the now-defunct Artisphere) was closed to the public. The ensemble now performs at Gunston Arts Center or the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, along with other performing arts organizations.
When the pandemic hit, and those venues shut down, Sushansky said patrons opened up their homes.
“We went to the private homes of our patrons and these people had marvelous instruments,” he said. Still, he added, “it would certainly be nice to have our own space. It has to be a collaboration of the county.”
And COVID-19 remains a persistent threat.
Following the lead of Broadway theaters and other local D.C. arts venues, Synetic will require proof of full vaccination, either physically or digitally, or a negative PCR test, for the rest of the year. Audiences will have to wear masks at all times, except while eating or drinking. It will continue streaming its performances.
The National Chamber Ensemble is waiting to see the guidance closer to the start of the season on Nov. 6. Sushansky said he delayed the opening in hopes that coronavirus cases will go down. He says he’s eager to resume in person concerts again, but will retain the virtual option for those who are still not comfortable coming out.
“I wanted to create something for my community, so I can’t wait for communication in-person to resume,” he said. “It’s really special performing for the Arlington audience.”
The following is a round-up of upcoming shows from local arts organizations, organized by the type of performance.
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.”