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 17 comments)

rlvjr
rlvjr on December 31, 2006 at 9:46 pm

When the Circle was still a regular neighborhood theatre in 1956, I took Mary Louise here to see Rogers & Hammerstein’s Carrousel. We started a kiss at the 20th Century-Fox drumroll and kept it up till the picture ended. Glad it was a 2 hour movie rather than the usual 90 minutes. Quite possibly the most enjoyable movie I never saw.

Dutchman
Dutchman on July 30, 2007 at 12:33 pm

Built in 1911, the Circle was the oldest movie theater in DC until it was demolished in the late 1980s.

gunboy3
gunboy3 on October 3, 2008 at 1:55 pm

With all due respect to rivjr, there was many a matinee that was sparsely attended. Remember “WR Mysteries of the Organism”? Who showed up for that one?
That aside, it was a wonderful, funky place to see several different double features a week. And boy did I
Remember the clock, with its glowing blue face over the exit?
Sigh

JohnTChance
JohnTChance on March 20, 2009 at 7:24 pm

The Circle was a great resource for film lovers, with an eclectic programming schedule that mixed classics with cult. Before VCRs and cable TV, venues like this were the only way to catch great films that may have had a limited local release. Miss those days!

CONELRAD1999
CONELRAD1999 on June 5, 2009 at 1:44 pm

I spent a major chunk of my youth in this theater. The nearby Biograph and AFI were more refined repertory houses, but the Circle has a certain rough charm about it. Maybe it was the large (and often vocal) homeless audience. Maybe it was the occasional out-of-sequence reel change by the projectionist. Maybe it was the fact that a double feature-sustaining Roy Rogers meal could always be snuck in with a minimum effort. Maybe it was the incredibly cheap tickets. Regardless, the Circle will always be missed by D.C. film fans who knew from the start that VHS was a poor substitute for a Circle Theater experience.

mh1greene
mh1greene on July 30, 2009 at 12:31 pm

As a student at GW in the early seventies I’m pretty sure I spent more time at the Circle than I did in class…probably learned more too. Even now I look over at the abomination of a building that stands in its place and think about all those great film festivals (Bergman, Kurosawa, Trufeau, etc.)that I saw for a dollar. At their peak the Pedas owned many other Circle moviehouses in DC; the Inner Circle, the Outer Circle, Circle West End, etc. It was a great place to see a movie. How about the old DuPont, the Biograph, the Janus and the Cerberus? Wow, those were the days. Thank God the Uptown is still standing. When they junk that one, I’m going with it. – Mike Greene

mh1greene
mh1greene on October 29, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Great picture! Thanks. I had forgotten about the eatery next door…I wonder how many incarnations that had. And in the sixties there was a liquor store on the corner. Hey, what’s happened to all the liquor stores?

Really hurts to think that place is gone.

ln569
ln569 on July 24, 2014 at 6:50 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 7:32 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 4:08 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.

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