Photos courtesy Madeline Marshall
Near the corner of 23rd & M St. in DC’s West End is a new movie theatre that has a true personal touch. You cannot enter or leave the West End Cinema without a personal greeting/goodbye from the theatre’s General Manager Josh Levin. Despite the lofty title, Levin and his business partner Jamie Shor are very visible in the day-to-day operations. When I visited the cinema this past weekend Levin was busy typing away on a Macbook in the front lobby. From his makeshift “office” he can answer e-mails while also serving concessions and talk with patrons on what they thought of the films they saw.
Levin and Shor are no strangers to the film industry, Levin is a local bar owner and works in the film distribution scene while Levin is the President of PR Collaborative, a local film PR/Marketing firm. They opened up West End Cinema four months ago because they wanted to see more screens in the city for Independent/Arthouse film.
Within city limits, DC only has a handful of options when it comes to the silver screen. Out of the bunch AMC and Regal dominate with E-Street Cinema being the only other option for those looking for an alternative to the Katherine Heigl romantic comedy or the big budget blockbuster.
West End Cinema offers an additional choice with three screens screening foreign, independent, and alternative movies.
Levin told me that there isn’t a lack of demand in The District when it comes to art-house film, in fact DC is the perfect audience for their films.
“DC has the most educated, the most well traveled, the most diverse in the country,” Levin says.
With the Academy Awards only days away West End has seen a surprise boost in tickets for screenings of the Oscar nominated short documentaries. This marks the first time that the short documentaries were distributed and West End learned that there are quite a few Oscar watchers in the area (besides myself.)
“I don’t think the industry expected people to be interested in the documentary shorts and if we are any indication- the industry is wrong. Lots of people have come, they’ve stayed the three and a half hours, they really get a lot out of it,” Levin continues, “So many people now are invested by the outcome- Oscar pool, every blogger, every columnist, has their ‘will win, should win, should of been nominated [list].’
While West End can’t compete with AMC in regards to seats or screen sizes, there’s no beating their personal feel and rapport. When was the last time you could go see a thought-provoking film and then discuss it with a theatre owner who’s as passionate about film as you are?
Tomorrow I’ll finish up my conversation with Josh and find out who he’s picking to go home with the Oscar on Sunday.
West End Cinema
2301 M Street NW
Washington, DC 20037