Cinemas and movie theaters represent an era gone by. It wasn’t that many years ago that we used to get our news in a movie theater. And as we have transitioned from VCR to DVD and now not only cable but live streamed films, the most unique movie theaters are a dying breed. A real shame, because these places were a true travel experience – a place any traveller couldn’t miss. Well, here are a few of the most unique move theaters and coolest movie theaters still around. Check them out next time you’re on the road. With your patronage, maybe they’ll last a little while longer.
Alamo Drafthouse – Austin, Texas USA
In true Keep Austin Weird fashion, the Alamo Drafthouse is pretty…weird. But it must be the most unique movie theater in the states – I mean, they have a “Weird Wednesday” night where they play cult classics, introduced by their one-of-a-kind host, Lars. It’s hard to describe, you just have to go. The Drafthouse also is one of the main venues for the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival, so right now it is a hopping place. I love the Drafthouse’s strong grip on the classic movie watching experience, which puts them at the top of my unique movie theaters list (even if it is one of the more weird things to do in Austin).
Filmhuis Cavia – Amsterdam, Netherlands
You won’t find this listing in any guidebook – the FilmhuisCavia (website mostly in Dutch) is truly a local’s secret, in most senses of the word. It’s hard to find – in fact, it’s upstairs inside and above a fitness centre in a rural neighbourhood. But it’s worth looking for; they only show very indie and off-beat films, and I have never been disappointed in the selection. There’s a bar and the cinema room itself is very cosy; in fact, if you run out of beer, you can ask the guy and he’ll get you another one and you can pay afterwards. How’s that for customer service?! Unique movie theaters just don’t get any better. Subtitles are only in Dutch, so careful if you choose a film that’s in a language you don’t understand.
Rooftop Cinema – Melbourne, Australia
As we all know from my list of the best things to do in Melbourne, I am in love with the Rooftop Cinema. But how can you not love a rooftop bar that has not only an outdoor cinema but also a fabulous view of the Melbourne skyline? Surreal, to say the least. Remember, it can get bloody hot in this part of Australia, so the idea of an outdoor cinema isn’t all that outrageous. This is one of our unique movie theaters that I will never get enough of.
Brew & View at the Vic Theatre – Chicago, IL USA
The Brew and View was on our list of fun places to go in Chicago, and for good reason – when it’s blazing hot out in Chicago summer or blazing cold in Chicago winter, this is the place to be. It’s not a high brow establishment; the name says it all: beer and movies. The venue, the Vic Theatre, is a gorgeous old building that doubles as a live music venue and at times you can hear the rumble of the “L” train running by. As unique movie theaters go, this is a must-enjoy Chicago experience. Oh, and did I mention I love their choice of films? Be sure to check the website because as I mention, some nights are live music and others are beer and film.
DRV-IN NYC – New York, New York USA
I’m so sad to say that the DRV-IN is closed, as they’re moving. But as soon as they open, get there: if you like unique movie theaters, add this to your list, NOW. Why? Because New York isn’t really the best place for a year-round outdoor movie theater, DRV-IN took the outdoors inside. It’s a cult classic of its own right, with car seats and buckets of popcorn from a concession stand. Yes, it is a touch cheesy – but worth it for the hilarity factor.
The Civic Theatre – Auckland, New Zealand
The Civic Theatre is a gorgeous art deco theatre that opened in 1929 as the first purpose built cinema in New Zealand. It is a very unique movie theater in that only six other venues are still standing build in the same style of construction, though the gorgeous and atmospheric interior feels one of a kind. Similar to the Brew & View, the Civic is also a regular theatre featuring ballet and opera, so be sure to check ahead to know if films are playing. The venue is host to the Auckland International Film Festival.
Revue Cinema – Toronto, Canada
What makes the Revue Cinema a very unique movie theater is the fact that is community run venue, non for profit. It’s one of the oldest cinemas in Canada, and was the oldest continuously running cinema until it was closed in 2006 and brought back to life by local residence. If cinemas could talk, the revue would have a lot to say: it was a popular stop during WWII especially for shift workers and those looking for a bit of peace in troubled times, and in its youth also had stage facilities. Next time you’re in Toronto, give something back to the community and stop by the Revue.
Paramount Opéra – Paris, France
It is a shame – Paris was one home to many of the world’s most glamorous and unique movie theaters. Today many of those venues are supermarkets or vacant lots. The last remaining of these film giants is the Paramount Opéra, now named the Gaumont Opera (run by Pathe). It’s original name, though, was the Théâtre Du Vaudeville. Some of the older rooms have those gorgeous chandeliers and opulent ceilings, while others are more boring. The exterior, while changed over the years, is still beautiful.
Colosseum Kino – Oslo, Norway
Leave it to the modern Europeans to try and make another Colosseum – and as far as unique movie theaters go, the Colosseum Kino in Oslo, Norway, takes the cake. It’s the largest THX cinema in the world, and while inside you won’t have the old world ambience of some of the previous mentions, but you will have space – lots of it. The domed roof is enormous, and you’ll feel tiny in this cinema. There’s also a lovely coffee/wine bar, useful before or after the film, and despite the mainstream films shown here, the ownership of this venue understands that a lot about cinema is the experience.
Bet Gabriele – Tsemach Junction, Israel
This multi-purpose venue sitting at the foot of the Sea of Galilee is by far the most unique movie theater you will ever find. The Bet Gabriele was the historic site of the signing of a peace treaty, and besides a cinema there is a popular restaurant, art gallery, and a gardens that sometimes host photography exhibitions. It’s out of the way and certainly an off-beat stop, but for the true cinema lover, this is a one of a kind experience.
Ciné de Chef – Seoul, South Korea
If you’re looking for a unique movie theater that offers food and fabulous luxury, then Ciné de Chef is what you’re looking for. Apparently each of the 30 chairs in the cinema cost $7k each, so enjoy while your Le Cordon Bleu chefs prep your Asian inspired sensations. There’s English speaking staff on hand to help you make your way – along with escorts, valets, and staff members to cater to every little need. (This is where you shake your head and say, “only in Asia…”)
AMC Pacific Place – Hong Kong
Just by virtue of being in Hong Kong explains the atmosphere of this unique movie theater: it’s sleek, it’s showy, and it’s technologically advanced. The AMC Pacific Place theatre feels a bit more like the Starship Enterprise than it does a filmhouse – and on board you’ll get some of the highest quality video and audio in Asia.
Cine Acapulco – Havana, Cuba
There haven’t been any cinemas built in Havana for years, and many of the original ones destroyed, so the ones that are left are certainly a dying breed. Cine Acapulco is the “newest luxury” and unique movie theater in Cuba, opened in 1958. It is a film festival venue as well as concert hall and special events venue, so when you’re in Havana, be sure to see what’s playing at Acapulco, a Havana hot spot.
Teatro Variedades – San Jose, Costa Rica
Teatro Variedades is the oldest cinema in Costa Rica and still operating today in San Jose and was where the first film was ever shown in the country. The building is Neoclassical style, a unique movie theater style. You can see films, shows, and even art exhibitions here. While not as opulent as the city’s National Theatre, there’s just something warm and special about the Variedades that keeps people coming back.
Cinespia – Los Angeles, California USA
We end our list on a big of a dark note, because as you might not be able to tell from the photo, the Cinespia theater is actually inside a cemetery! Watching movies with dead people is certainly a unique move theater experience, though perhaps some of you would rather snuggle up to someone alive than dead. One of our community members contributed this suggestion, and she can confirm it is an excellent venue without any of the ghost hauntings or sightings that you would expect. Unless, however, it is a scary ghoul on screen…