One of the only movie theaters near campus will close its doors next year.
The AMC Loews Entertainment Corporation announced last week it will not renew its contract with the leaseholder for the Dupont Circle Theater – located on 19th and L streets. The location will officially close in January 2008, when the contract expires.
“The landlord just wanted to do something else and move in a different direction,” said Andy DiOrio, a spokesperson for AMC.
Brad Schou, spokesperson for Peter NG Schwartz Management Corporation, which holds the lease to the building, suggests the closure is the result of the fledgling theater business.
“The theater business has really changed over the last ten years, and I think the change here locally at 1350 Connecticut is a representation of what’s happening in the broader market,” Schou said.
He added that the growing rents and commercial opportunities in Dupont make the space better suited for another type of business.
“(AMC’s) business model is really changing. They are moving in the direction of very large multiplex theaters and the location does not fit that type of business model,” Schou said. “They just don’t have the ability to fit in big screens and stadium seating.”
Robert Halligan, the president of Dupont Circle Citizens Society, said competition from “big and fancy” movie theaters around the city made it hard for the smaller theater to compete.
“There are a lot of people going to the theaters – it hasn’t gone down nationwide,” he said. “But there’s a lot of competition (in D.C.) – an interesting lecture, going to a museum. We’re just busy people.”
In the past 10 years, the number of movie theaters has decreased, while the number of total screens continues to rise, according to the National Association of Theater Owners.
The five-screen Dupont Circle Theater is smaller than its competitors AMC Loews Georgetown – with 14 screens – and E Street Cinema – with eight screens.
Unlike its competitors, the Dupont theater often showed independent films and other alternatives to big blockbusters.
“This theater is one of my favorites,” said Lynn Edgar, a Virginia resident standing in line at the theater. “They always play great movies that you can’t always find other places. It’s a shame.”
Jenna Shey, a resident of Dupont Circle, said that the accessibility of the Metro stop makes the theater an integral part of the city.
“It’s the only theater right off the Red Line,” Shey said. “Other than restaurants, there’s not much else to do in the area.”
The Dupont theater is the fourth in the area to close in four years, Halligan said.
Halligan said he received many calls regarding a new theater at Florida Avenue and 20th Street, but the deal is probably not going to happen.
The manager of the Dupont Circle Theater, Mohammed Ala, said college students were not his prime demographic. Normal moviegoers are “around 40,” he said. “Although, it depends on the movie.”
Despite speculation that a movie theater might move into the space formerly occupied by Tower Records at GW, Executive Vice President Lou Katz said the space is not large enough. Student Association President Nicole Capp also said there is no pressure from the SA to bring a theater to campus.
“No one in the student body has really responded fervently,” Capp said. “I actually didn’t realize it was closing either. It’s a real shame though and I hope all the students get a chance to check out the venue before it closes.”
According to CinemaTreasures.org, the District now maintains at least 14 movie theaters.
“It’s really too bad,” said Dupont resident Sherry Schwechten. “There aren’t many theaters like this. Now we’ll have to travel across town to go to the movies.”