Janus 3 Theatre

1660 Connecticut Avenue NW,
Washington, DC

Unfavorite 3 people favorited this theater

29 December 2006

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Janus opened in 1965, on the ground floor of a late-1950’s-era office building located in the DuPont Circle neighborhood of Washington. It was built for John Louis Field and Hugh N. Jacobsen as an independent twin theater, one of the first twins to be built in the DC area. Its auditoriums sat 180 and 153. It was known for showing off-beat and avant garde films, and the Janus Film Society hosted midnight Saturday and noon Sunday screenings in its earlier years.

Later, the Janus was acquired by Cineplex Odeon (later Loews-Cineplex) which would eventually triplex the theater. The theater was nicked named the “Heinous Janus” by Washingtonians due to the theater’s less-than-stellar decor, its strangely sloped floors which were not quite stadium seating, and a column in the center of one of the original auditoriums. Still, it was one of the few theaters in the city which, even after ceasing to operate as an independent, screened a varied mix of first-run and more unusual films until the end.

When the Janus was shuttered in 2002 by Loews, ironically, one of the last films playing there was “Hollywood Ending”. A restaurant has since taken over the former theater space.

Contributed by Bryan

Recent comments (view all 18 comments)

Edndc
Edndc on July 17, 2006 at 5:06 am

In 1967 or 1968, at age 15, I convinced my big brother to drive me “downtown”, and drop me off at the Janus Theatres, to see “A Man and A Woman”. In that era, my suburban parents had identified the Dupont Circle neighborhood as being ‘a little rough’. While I was free to explore much of the city on my own, Dupont was on their “off limits” list. (This meant that there were either “unsavory characters” or “bohemians” around, which translated as liberal grad students, dope-smokers, or homosexuals — all of which attracted me as a moth to a flame…)
I remember staring at the multicolored glass-tile mural on the buildings exterior, and feeling my heart pound wildly. This was not my average Colonial-style neighborhood theater, and the modern artwork on the outside reminded me that this was a GrownUps Theatre, where people entered to see Serious Films about Thought-provoking Issues, and when they left afterwards, their experience had changed their thinking.
Would this happen to me? Would it show on my face — that my thinking had been changed, because I had experienced a Serious GrownUp movie? Would my parents know that I was Changed Forever — that seeing a mature film had triggered an epiphany — one where I finally knew that I was able to think my own thoughts, outside of the narrow suburban cocoon that they frantically sought to reinforce around their pre-gay teenage son?
I remember buying my ticket with shaking hands, fearful that the disinterested cashier might look up, realize that I was far too young to be seeing such a serious film, and somehow humiliate me in public. (Call the cops? Call my parents to come fetch me, to snatch me from the threat of exposure to Complex French Emotions?)
ONce inside the auditorium, I felt safer. I knew that in the darkened theatre, no one would notice whatever coming-of-age transformation I was about to experience.
And to tell the truth, I did do some growing up while watching the “Too Mature” film at the “Suspiciously-Liberal-and-Modern” theatre in the “off limits” neighborhood. I understood every word of dialogue, and realized that I had underestimated my mastery of French. I ached for the sexy guys in the film, and realized that no one in the audience around me was noticing. I vicariously tasted the complexities of grownup love, and knew that I was hungry to experience such things myself.
I guess you could say that I was one of those people who entered the Janus as one person, and left after the movie with my life changed forever.
In later life, I would still experience a residual burst of adrenaline, every time I walked by, until the day the Janus closed.
So yes, I do have some memories of the twin-screen theatre that was named after a two-headed Roman god.

JefHyde
JefHyde on January 7, 2008 at 12:54 pm

I worked there in the early 70’s— as well as at the Cerberus, the Janus’s sister theater in Georgetown. Both were owned by the same people; the Cerberus was built with the profits made by running I AM CURIOUS, YELLOW and THE ENDLESS SUMMER, at the Janus. The owner had a personal epiphany, and came out of the closet after being married and fathering children. He changed the Janus format from first run theater to all hard-core porn. He showed straight films in one theater and gay films in the other. I was promoted and sent over from the Cerberus to help run the Janus shortly after the change. I spent my days in the boxoffice directing traffic. We got a lot of “raincoat” trade during the daytime hours.The auditorium with the self-contained restroom became the gay house. This would be convenient for men cruising one another in the darkened space, but not so wonderful for me when I had to make the rounds of the place and check the bathrooms for supplies and cleanliness. I interrupted quite a few parties…

The FBI busted the place after sending agents in to watch the films on three successive days. Oddly enough, it was a straight (hetero; man and woman) film that caught the heat— a picture called LITTLE SISTERS. This was at the same time that DEEP THROAT was running at various locations, and the whole nation was up in arms about porn and community standards and so forth. The FBI seized the print and shut us down for a little while.

The owner— a man whom we employees used to describe as having “delusions of adequacy” eventually pretty much ran both theaters into the toilet and sold out to the KB Theaters chain. None of us wanted to work for some large, impersonal hard-ass corporation, so pretty much all of us bailed out.

I went on to work for 12 years at The Biograph Theatre, down the street from the Cerberus, in Georgetown. It was the best job I ever had…

JackCoursey
JackCoursey on December 26, 2008 at 3:12 pm

Here is a 2008 photo of the former Janus Theatre.

KingBiscuits
KingBiscuits on March 21, 2009 at 12:48 pm

Wow. Nowadays you never see runs of 97 weeks, 75 weeks, 53 weeks and 36 weeks unless it’s an IMAX film.

SethLewis
SethLewis on March 21, 2009 at 12:50 pm

The oddest most unsatisfactory of several DC theatres I experienced in the mid 90s…Managed to survive Hoop Dreams, Dead Man Walking and American Buffalo in Number 3, Fargo, The Postman and La Haine in Number 1 but you have to wonder how they got away with it not that the Foundry or Dupont were much better…on the other hand they didnt have a pillar in the middle

sconnell1
sconnell1 on April 1, 2009 at 6:30 pm

The Janus 1&2 opened on July 2, 1965 with the film SYMPATHY FOR A MASSACRE.

dpjaudon
dpjaudon on June 14, 2009 at 11:53 am

I saw “Bad Lieutenant” there in 1993 while visiting a relative. I remember the theater being fairly skeevy, but still appreciated the opportunity to see “Lieutenant,” since it was not playing in any theater where I lived at the time.

AlanHerman
AlanHerman on February 20, 2010 at 5:11 pm

It is amazing how many projectionists went through the KB chain in DC. Glad to see you guys, yet, no mention of KB anyhwere. I worked as a union projectionist for the Janus, as well as for most of the KB chain in Va, DC and Md. I did see them as pretty big and unorganized, but it brought me into the high end theater segment, after working in lower grade cinemas, such as the Rolling Valley cinema. The Janus was small, but served its purpose for DC.

WilliamBeran
WilliamBeran on October 1, 2010 at 2:39 am

This brings back such memories…the death of Tony Curtis reminded me that the old Janus Film Society screened “Sweet Smell of Success” back in the 60’s when the movie was pretty much unknown, and now it’s an acknowledged classic. The theater was funky, but the movies were wonderful.

cblog
cblog on November 6, 2012 at 2:43 pm

This was the first theater I went to in the district, seeing the Star Trek film focusing on whale song. Dinner and a movie dates included meals at Katmandu, Fonda, Bermuda Club, and Dupont Italian Kitchen.

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