Now that it has been fully restored, the Rio Theatre immediately recalls the splendour of its grand opening in 1938. Hiding behind the old-fashioned aesthetics, however, are a digital HD projector and surround-sound speakers that immerse filmgoers in an eclectic array of first-run blockbusters and cinema classics. Showing films again as of April 2012, the theatre’s movie selection ranges from sci-fi and horror to wholesome family films, though the program coalesces around a love for pop culture that the owners share with their most ardent fans.
Aside from the daily show times, cult classics—frequently in their original 35 mm form—screen at midnight on Fridays. Guests from all walks of life come out to these packed showings, where they can snack on popcorn made with real butter or win prizes for dressing in costume as their favourite character or key grip. The 420-seat theatre also hosts concerts and events throughout the year, including past performances by Janeane Garofalo and local musicians Bend Sinister.
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.
The Vogue Theatre presents listeners with an evening of poetic lyrics, high-octane guitar playing, and euphonic melodies from three talented acts. Hailing from Vancouver's east side, The Fugitives combine intricate songwriting with folksy musical accompaniment to craft hypnotizing live performances that tickle ears and help uptight pocket watches unwind. C.R. Avery dazzles audiences with deftly flowing spoken-word poetry, percussive beatboxing, and ear-tickling harmonica riffs, and guitar-picking mastermind Wil shreds six-stringed music makers with moody, intense songs of love and loss. In addition to individual acts, a group performance will combine all three acts into an intoxicating musical melange that, like a pig with pterodactyl wings, is greater than the sum of its parts.
Vancity Theatre screens festival-style films from around the world year round, with top-notch sound and projection equipment fully conveying every punch, skid, foreign phrase, and meaningful silence shown on the silver screen. Movies are only open to members of the nonprofit organization—as such, this deal includes a one-year basic membership ($2), which also gets you admission to the organization’s Annual General Meeting. Sample the theatre's filmic fare with a double-bill ticket ($13), good toward two consecutive films on the same day. Upcoming films at the Vancity Theatre include the concert film Leonard Cohen: Live at the Isle of Wight, 1970, the Bernard Herrmann–soundtracked noir On Dangerous Ground, and the light-hearted Martin Scorsese romp Taxi Driver. Wash down the flickering images with a medium popcorn ($3) and a can of pop ($1.50).
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.