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As the new generation of 10- to 25-screen multiplexes opens, national film-exhibition chains are dumping older cinemas as fast as they can get out of the leases. Although it may seem otherwise, not all of the spurned moviehouses are destined to stand vacant or be converted to CVS stores. One abandoned theater, the former Cineplex Odeon Embassy near Dupont Circle, will be reborn next year as a two-screen art house-cafe.
The reconstituted cinema, dubbed Visions, is being developed by Andrew Frank, who owns the Sirius Coffee Co. in Van Ness. Because the theater’s opening is still five to six months away, Frank prefers not to talk about the project yet. He did, however, reveal some details recently in his coffeeshop’s newsletter.
Visions will have two auditoriums, one with roughly 250 seats and another about half that size. The plan is to operate one theater as a first-run screen for foreign and independent films and the other as a thematically programmed repertory venue. (Like the American Film Institute and the old Biograph, this is what’s known in the business as a “calendar house,” where films are scheduled in advance, rather than booked for open-ended runs.) One of the theaters will have a private lounge described as “similar to a skybox at a sporting arena.”
Taking its cue from the bookstore-cafe format developed at independent retailers such as nearby Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe, Visions will supplement its film and food with special events. Local film clubs that preview upcoming art-film releases will be invited to meet there, and filmmakers and film experts will discuss cinematic issues.
The sidewalk cafe will feature “international tapas” with mostly vegetarian fare derived from Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine. In addition to coffees, teas, juices, and smoothies, Visions plans to serve beer, wine, and mixed drinks. There’s no word yet on whether Raisinets and Junior Mints will also be available. —Mark Jenkins