Circle Theatre

2105 Pennsylvania Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20037

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Circle Theatre

The Circle’s Art Deco stylings were a bit tattered by the time it became a repertory house in the 1970’s and 1980’s showing double features with a matinee of only $1 (full price was $2).

Many homeless people found comfort in the not-so-comfortable chairs.

The screen was small, the house lights were dark, the deco trimmings were crumbling, but it was a popular haunt for older films.

The theater was adjacent to “The Inner Circle” which ran first and second run movies.

Both theaters were demolished in the early-1980’s to make way for a parking garage.

Contributed by Paul Schwartz

Recent comments (view all 27 comments)

CharlieCoates on November 12, 2014 at 2:45 pm

I was a regular at the Circle from 1970-1972 while stationed at the Pentagon. Double features were the rule and the films shown always had some sort of relationship, usually by star or genre.

I vividly remember my first visit to the Circle in May of 1970. The double bill featured Bogart: Casablanca and The Big Sleep. The audience was dominated by college students and their enjoyment of and involvement in the films (particularly Casablanca) was palpable. Of the many days and nights I have spent at the movies, that ranks as one of the best.

NoneSoPretty on January 13, 2015 at 1:43 pm

When Mary Pickford died in 1979, her portrait behind the popcorn stand was draped in black velvet bunting. Keep on dialing 331-7480, no need for 202 area code!

deeceevoice on November 17, 2015 at 10:47 pm

The Circle Theatre was one of a stable of theaters (along with The Inner Circle and The Outer Circle) owned by the Pedas Brothers at 21st and Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. It specialized in “repertory cinema.” There was a regular collection of film classics that played there in steady rotation, and if you shelled out $10 for a book of ten tickets, you could catch a double feature for a dollar. And back then, popcorn didn’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Those were the days. :)

deeceevoice on November 17, 2015 at 10:50 pm

The Circle West End is the only Circle movie house remaining in D.C., but I don’t think it’s still owned by the Pedas Brothers.

Betzee on July 2, 2016 at 1:20 pm

As a graduate student at GWU from 1984 to 1986, I spent a fair bit of time in the Circle Theatre. I can remember one evening screening in which a homeless man was sleeping in the back. When he woke up and began to mutter loudly part way through the film, members of the audience initially didn’t know what was going on. The Circle was a bit down on its heels, but still a beloved art house and repertory fixture of the Washington arts scene.

Hobartt on January 25, 2017 at 2:11 pm

Three memories. 1. Standing in the back pacing and smoking nervous as a cat watching Dylan’s Renaldo and Clara, a painfully intimate film…one of the very few showings of the uncut version before Bob pulled it.

  1. Being consumed in the fog of Anna Christie…literally losing the line of consciousness and aswirl in the mists of dream, film, and some timeless void apart from both…(true of the 30’s films shown there like Grand Hotel or Morocco). The Pedas Bros. owned rarely played and pristine prints, I believe, which made the retrospective showings feel like they were immediate a first run. The theater was a virtual time machine. The audiences were a mix of ‘70’s hipsters and people who had seen the films first run.

  2. The analog clock, blue lit, dimly visible and discreet, on the upper left of the screen, which taught me about editorial rhythm, film time as it relates to quotidian time and 24fps.


Toadthecat on January 25, 2017 at 3:11 pm

I go back to the 40’s & 50’s. 21st. & Penn was a residential ares at that time. Row houses and brownstones on Pennsylvania Ave. Hundreds of kids on Saturday afternoon. Double feature. Always western. Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and many others. But first there was the newsreels and then cartoons. Then we had the serials. Always leaving you in suspence until the next week.We were always rooting for the good guys. Booing and hissing at the baddies. You always heard a lot of yucks if there was a kissing. Unless the hero was kissing his horse. Popcorn and candy wrappers all over the place. They did not allow soda in those days. Outside were all over the place. I don’t recall ever seeing a bike locked. When it was over and the movie let out, 21st. & Penn was closed and all of the kids come out like a bunch nuts. Whooping and hollering and acting like a bunch of nuts. No trouble, We had a wonderful Saturday afternoon, every week. All for the price 15 cents. Great memories. No homeless and no clock.

indykelley on January 25, 2018 at 7:09 pm

A critical part of my film education. I was taking filmmaking courses in Workshop for Careers in the Arts (which became the seed of the Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts), and the Circle Theater, which was a repertory film theater, showed Hollywood and foreign films for $1 until the jacked the price up to $2!!

DavidZornig on July 23, 2019 at 7:09 pm

1981 photo added credit Mike Arian. Via Bill Geerhart courtesy Old Time D.C. Facebook page.

DavidZornig on October 28, 2019 at 9:52 am

A 1986 video of the “Saving The Circle” effort.

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