Circle Theatre

2105 Pennsylvania Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20037

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Circle Theatre

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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 24 comments)

ln569
ln569 on July 24, 2014 at 3:50 am

AS a student at GWU, I unwittingly attended a show on the last day of operation of The Circle. In November 1986, I saw an evening showing of Brazil because it was almost across the street from my dorm. The next day, I was at the bank located at Pennsylvania & 21st street applying for (and being denied) my first debit card when I looked out the window and I saw workers removing theater seats from the building, which was demolished and the rubble was left fenced in until March 1987 because they had discovered asbestos and it could not be properly removed. The liquor store did indeed remain until it closed.

Giles
Giles on July 26, 2014 at 4:32 pm

still no separate listing for the Inner Circle theater. I was recalling/mentioning this on Facebook the other day. I remember seeing Monty Python’s ‘The Holy Grail’ and ‘Life of Brian’ at the Circle – classic! And over at the Inner Circle, ‘Liquid Sky’ and two ‘no one under 17’ movies ’Re-Animator' and ‘Demons’ – apparently they were really lax on not enforcing that restriction [insert smiley face]

jimlawrence
jimlawrence on July 29, 2014 at 1:08 pm

“Book ticket!” was the cry from the lady who would sell me book after book of 10 tickets for $10. I still have one or two books. Of course, each ticket would admit you to two classic films.

Bob, the loveable old ticket taker took a shine to me and would only accept a ticket every other visit. I felt like I lived there – often attending several nights in a row, year after year. I would even walk miles uphill back up to Glover park after a particularly good film to savor it instead of taking the 30, 32, 36 or 38 bus up Pennsylvania and Wisconsin avenues.

I must take issue with the original poster – the seats were comfortable – and the poster who said the screen was small. It was large (several times larger than the Biograph’s screen)and one of the larger screens in town at that time. I remember the Uptown and Avalon being larger.

After seemingly hundreds of nights in that theater I don’t remember any homeless people. They certainly weren’t making their presence known to me.

I truly loved that beautiful old theater and was sad to see it go.

It was the foundation of my film education and the beginning of my love affairs with Kurosawa, Fellini, Cocteau, Welles, Bergman, Allen, Coppola, Capra, Hitchcock, Bertolucci, Ford, Kubrick, Chaplin, Scorsese, Huston, Altman, Wertmuller, and dozens more.

Does anyone remember Mr. Henry’s across the street on the same block? Many wonderful meals discussing film there before and after the show.

CharlieCoates
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
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
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
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
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
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.

Hobartt

Toadthecat
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.

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