Some things about the Clova Cinema have changed over the years; as it passed from owner to owner, it has been a video-rental shop, a youth centre, and a stage for live performances. But despite its numerous incarnations, the rich red facades, the art-deco decorations, and the bright marquee have remained proudly in place. These features hearken all the way back to the theatre's 1947 opening, when Humphrey Bogart dominated the screen and popcorn was popped in gleaming machines instead of Buick-sized microwaves. Now, the cinema's single screen flickers to life with weekly evening and weekend matinee showings of current releases. The theatre is rife with family touches, from the real butter on the popcorn to Cupcake the dog, who is on hand at matinees to entertain guests before the show and sniff out unsilenced cell phones.
During Reel Babies movie showings, theatres transform into child-friendly arenas where new parents can enjoy recent releases while tending to tykes. Empire Theatres keeps the auditorium lights dim and lowers the volume on new films such as Our Idiot Brother, One Day, and The Debt, ensuring an environment conducive to child-care. Parents can transport their mini-me to the auditorium's "exersaucer", baby swing, and play mat, allowing young minds to expend energy otherwise spent solving Fermat's Last Theorem. Additionally, a changing table and bottle warmer ensures parents can remain in the theatre for all reunion scenes between protagonists and their coffee makers.
It sounds just like a movie: a former Disney employee and a former mayor team up to run their own theater. That's exactly what Jeff Brein and Sam Granato did in 1988 with Bainbridge Cinemas, where they still spend Friday and Saturday nights tearing tickets and scooping popcorn. Besides Bainbridge Cinemas, their theater collection—Far Away Entertainment —oversees seven other local theaters, including the historic single-screen Lynwood Theatre. Opened in 1936, Bainbridge Island's first talking picture house now specializes in independent features and foreign films in which actors rearrange the English alphabet to make strange new sounds.
Over at the two-screen Admiral Theater, projectionists give newer Hollywood releases a second run, plus host screenings every year for the Seattle International Film Festival. Far Away's five remaining theaters, each with three to five screens, show digital versions of Hollywood's freshest celluloid. Lean back in the Anacortes' reclining seats, or scarf down an all-beef frank at Oak Harbor while taking in a flick or live screening of the Metropolitan Opera.
Foreign, classic, and Canadian films light up the big screen at Pacific Cinémathèque, a 194-seat theatre recognized by the Vancouver Sun as the best art-house and foreign-film venue in 2009. Established as a film society almost four decades ago, the movie palace has since flourished into a polestar for under-the-radar films, showcasing lesser-known works and cinematic icons alike during single and double billings six nights a week. In an effort to enhance Vancouver's cinematic culture without transplanting the Hollywood sign to the top of One Wall Centre, the theatre is also home to several educational opportunities including a film reference library and the West Coast Film Archive, which preserves the legacy of independent filmmaking on Canada's west coast.
Dunbar Theatre keeps things simple: top first-run films, fresh popcorn, comfortable seats, a friendly staff, and one big screen. But in simplicity is something fresh. Those newly installed seats have enough room that audiences can stretch their legs, armrests raise for cuddling, and a balcony lets viewers change up their sightlines. Old-fashioned styles aside, the movie house stays up-to-date with recently upgraded projection technology and a sound system with the clarity of 10,000 Morgan Freemans. Located near UBC, the theatre is within walking distance of numerous diners and cafes, making it a date-night no-brainer. As one of the few remaining independently owned movie theaters in Vancouver, Dunbar Theatre also offers specials, including free movie giveaways, to fans of their Facebook page.
The friendly filmwheelers at Fifth Avenue Cinemas screen an eclectic mix of mainstream hits and little-known independent flicks in their Burrard Street theatre. Your Groupon is good for two tickets plus a large serving of popcorn, blanketed in a rich coat of real butter and made from corn that contains no genetically modified organisms or evil-sauce. The theatre boasts snuggle-inducing "love seats," in which each armrest can be raised so you and your date or anthropomorphic dachshund can cuddle throughout the film. Upcoming flicks include Philip Seymour Hoffman's feature-film directorial debut, Jack Goes Boating, and Woody Allen's upcoming You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.