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Welcome back to the second part of our 12 best theater trips in the world! (If you missed the first half, you can catch up on-demand here.) Break open the popcorn - it’s about to start.
New York. Kicking off with the most obvious in terms of theater shows, thanks to Broadway, which boasts more than 40 different establishments! We probably don’t need to say a whole lot more about this, but if you’re anything quite as passionate as we are about the stage, you’ll appreciate that we just love to talk about it! And so, we will state the obvious that you can catch a world-class show any night (and day) of the week - from both highly-coveted musicals to off-Broadway plays, with a smattering of low-key local performances in between. Visit New York
Boston. Be part of a passionately small and dedicated to all-things-theater crowd. Visit Boston
Chicago. With theaters scattered all over the city, you can also enjoy Chicago’s Fringe Festival here, too. Visit Chicago
Notable movie theaters (there are a lot - bear with us) include:
- Alamo Drafthouse, Texas. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes this place so cool, but contenders include the range of events hosted here (such as Quote Alongs), the zero-tolerance policies that ban children under 6, cellphones and pre-movie ads, the state-of-the-art projectors and the mouthwatering chef-prepared food and alcohol delivered to your comfy seat and personal side table.
- The Castro Theater, San Francisco. Since opening in 1922, the instantly recognizable Mexican-inspired facade of this elaborately designed movie theater in the city’s most prominent LGBTQ+ neighborhood continues to captivate all who pass it. And in case that wasn’t enough, the 1,400-strong seat theater, complete with a gold-flanked screen and metallic chandelier, often organizes sing-alongs to classic musicals, too! Do Rey … wait for me! Book your tour here
- Paris Theater, New York. If you fancy a break from a Netflix and Chill but don’t want to depart from the streaming giant just yet, head to this movie theater that’s remained under its ownership since 2019! (Based on a true story.)
- Egyptian Theater, Los Angeles. Sharing the same architect as a little-known Chinese Theater down the street (more on this soon!), this pharaoh-themed wonder is a sight to behold.
- Plaza Theatre, Atlanta. Showing everything from black and white movies to today’s raciest productions, this vintage, indie offering, is the city’s longest-standing theater and - as such - a well-loved landmark.
- Metrograph, New York. This state-of-the-art two-screen cinema may not have been around all that long - having only opened in 2016 - but it still manages to provide a real throwback vibe, courtesy of the old-school flip back wooden chairs and shirt-and-tie uniform worn by the staff.
- Coolidge Corner Theatre, Massachusetts. Originally built as a church, this four-screen behemoth - the largest of which seats a whopping 432 people - serves as a fitting worship house for movie enthusiasts, thanks to the dark wood paneling, ceiling mural and luxurious seats. We’ll say amen to that!
- Music Box Theatre, Chicago. Chicago’s leading arthouse cinema boasts both Spanish and Italian architectural touches, a twinkling-lights and projected cloud-ceiling and popcorn that’s made with real butter! Director Q&As are popular here, along with regular screenings of movies from around the world.
- Orinda Theatre, California. Flying high with an aerodynamic-inspired art deco vibe, this 1941 theater keeps up with the latest screenings while managing to retain a touch of the old nostalgia.
- New Beverly Cinema, Los Angeles. We shouldn’t really have to say anything other than the fact that Quentin Tarantino owns this central LA joint and screens an eclectic range of movies from his own personal collection. Truly a path for the righteous.
- TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles. Easily the world’s most famous movie theatre - also known as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre - thanks to the concrete handprints of A-Listers and costumed characters outside. You’re sure to have seen snaps of the stars at a movie premiere here, too, as well as an Academy Award ceremony. Most tourists probably never make it past the forecourt, which is - in our opinion - a huge travesty as they’re missing out on a dazzling auditorium (IMAX, no less) that boasts a heady infusion of reds and golds. An ultimate Hollywood icon that’s not just a movie theater but an entire experience.
- Village East Cinema, New York. Only one out of the five screens here is particularly memorable, but boy, if you’re assigned theater 1, you’ll know it! A 440-seat ornate movie palace in what was once the heart of New York’s Jewish Theater District, look out for hints of Judaic references, such as a giant Star of David.
- Nitehawk Cinema, New York. Offering a varied mix of today’s best art house productions along with cult classics, this small-yet-mighty luxury theater stands out for its themed food and drink specials.
- Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, San Francisco. Playing only the best selection of indie films - along with the biggest blockbusters - but what else would you expect from a cinema that’s owned by the Sundance Film Festival? Other highlights include upscale cocktails and nibbles, reserved seating and no ads before the movies.
- Tampa Theatre, Florida. A historic movie palace that - once through an indoor Mediterranean-themed courtyard with flowers and gargoyles - shows both new and classic films. Arrive with plenty of time to experience the sound of the Mighty Wurlitzer theater organ - a semi-permanent fixture ever since its opening in 1926.
- AMC Empire 25, New York. A giant multiplex, boasting 25 screens and never-ending escalators, is the impressive offering here in the heart of Times Square.
- Studio Movie Grill, Illinois. Top-notch technology powers this eight-screen megaplex, enabling consumers to enjoy the food and drink of an impressive menu at the touch of a button.
Melbourne may not have as many theaters as London or New York, but its vibrant arts district exudes real quality, offering both Broadway hits (it was the third location for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, for example) and smaller shows written locally.
Of course, this segment would not be complete without mentioning the Sydney Opera House - of which its silhouette makes up part of the skyline - and is both Australia’s most visited landmark.
Notable movie theaters include:
- The Sun Theatre, Melbourne. Opening as a single-screen, 1,050-seat cinema in 1938, it may have a well-documented history of closures but has since evolved into an impressively beautiful complex that holds eight cinemas - each named after a cinema that is no longer open in the city. Expect an eclectic choice of movie screenings.
- Golden Age Cinema and Bar, Sydney. It’s not every cinema that can lay claim to living inside the basement of a Paramount Pictures building, but this heritage-listed site - built in 1940 - was erected as the offices of the leading production company.
- Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, Sydney. Built in 1935 by the top theatrical architect of the time, this is - undoubtedly - the grandest movie theater in the city. It’s even more impressive today, thanks to a multi-million dollar restoration a few years ago, and boasts six differently themed screens. Here you can enjoy a mix of predominantly mainstream hits from the USA, UK and Australia, along with some more arty productions and the odd cabaret show.
- The Astor, Melbourne. The huge auditorium - spaced over two levels - seats over 1,500 people (!) and is regularly packed when much-loved classics are screened. Most of the vintage details are still in situ - glamorous red velvet curtains, an old-fashioned piano and 30s movie posters - all adding to the air of nostalgia.
3. Hanoi, Vietnam
The Water Puppet Show in Hanoi celebrates a tradition unique to Vietnam that dates back to the 11th century. Hidden puppeteers stand waist-deep in water and manoeuvre their puppets, which are attached to bamboo poles and look like they are moving by themselves. The stories told are of ancient folk tales, using mime and a Vietnamese orchestra. Expect to be taken through a colorful journey of legends, mythical creatures and daily life in this fascinating place.
4. South Africa
Home to a selection of significant theaters, South Africa is no stranger to a diverse mix of productions, ranging from Broadway musicals and ballet to comedy and panto - especially in Johannesburg. For something more unique to this country alone, you’ll also be spoiled for choice when it comes to diverse, authentic and cutting-edge African voices.
The most notable movie theater here is the Labia Theatre in Cape Town - a quaint indie cinema (and South Africa’s oldest) that’s nestled under the imposing Table Mountain and prides itself on combining some vintage charm with modern technology. John Cleese, Matt Damon and Salma Hayek have all been spotted here, which should tell you all you need to know.
5. Athens, Greece
Classical theater has its moment here in Athens (well, would you expect anything else?) and boasts some of the world’s only authentic amphitheater viewing experiences.
For an unbeatable movie theater experience, head to Cine Thisio - the oldest outdoor movie theater in Athens that’s been in operation since 1935! The experience of viewing new studio releases or classics amidst the backdrop of ancient sites, such as the Acropolis and Parthenon, is truly second to none. The epitome of a room with a view.
6. Tokyo, Japan
This one’s for all the robot and futuristic lovers, thanks to the range of eclectic and electric performances on offer here, as well as traditional Kabuki theaters, too.
In terms of movie theaters, Uplink X is the smallest in Japan, with just 40 seats, so check this out if you like to enjoy your popcorn in an intimately social setting (the seats are not screwed in so you can move around during the screening!).
Let the credits - and good times - roll.