It’s hard to believe but at one point, the movie theater in Union Station, which has been closed since 2009, represented a refined experience.
The movie theater at Union Station, closed since 2009, opened to great fanfare. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Twenty-five years ago, Washington braced for the Nov. 18 grand opening of the AMC Union Station 9, at the time a state-of-the-art facility with TXH Dolby stereo, “large curved screens” and “exclusive cupholder armrests,” according to an advertisement in the Nov. 13, 1988, edition of Roll Call.
A special preview weekend featured screenings on Nov. 11 of “Shanghai Express” and “Twentieth Century” with a “dessert and cognac reception” to follow the Marlene Dietrich and Carole Lombard vehicles from the 1930s. To sync the theater with its railroad and Metro roots, the Nov. 12 and 13 special screenings included ”train classics” such as “Murder on the Orient Express,” “Silver Streak,” and “Strangers on a Train.”
Ah, how times have changed. As anyone familiar with the Union Station theater knows now, the real entertainment would eventually be provided by the audiences. People liked to talk back to the screen, sort of the way baseball fans cheer on Jayson Werth or boo Justin Upton. One Christmas season a few years back, during a screening of “Syriana,” a fellow patron spread out his gifts and proceeded to wrap them during the show. It was all good fun, unless, of course, you were there to see a movie.
Roll Call After Dark is about what Washington does when it's not at work.
The District of Columbia is a cultural capital where you can you get your kicks from movies projected on the National Mall, lectures on vermouth or Russian avant-garde art. There's always something to do.
Jason Dick is the Hill Life editor for Roll Call and has also worked at Greenwire, CongressDaily and National Journal Daily during his time in Washington. @jasonjdick