Since January, 2003
 Sliding from Before to After

The cat got let out of the bag during a recent neighborhood walking tour (probably a bit sooner than desired) that Yards developer Forest City Washington is working on bringing a "high-quality theater operator" offering an "elevated experience" to land currently controlled by DC Water along First Street SE between Nationals Park and the Yards.
FCW tells me that it is still early in the process, that an overall deal with the city and DC Water for the land needs to be finalized first, but that if it all moves forward, "the theater operator would be new to DC and would offer a premium quality option that is differentiated by quality of design, food and customer service."
It's probably worth noting that Forest City was awarded the right to "enter into exclusive negotiations" for a six-acre portion of the larger then-WASA site by the now-defunct Anacostia Waterfront Corporation in December 2005, at a time when a development strategy was being formulated by Forest City, Western Development, Cordish, and Monument Realty for the "Ballpark District" (remember that?)
Forest City's plans for the DC Water site would also include residential and retail in addition to the theater, and with this site being close to the possibly-getting-started-next-year residential building and plaza at the foot of 1st Street that will be Florida Rock's first phase, the ballpark's eastern and southern sides would certainly begin to be "activated," even on the 280ish days of the year when the Nats aren't playing.
However, despite the oft-stated desire of residents to have a movie theater in Near Southeast, as well as the continued yearning for more development in general, there has been a bit of trepidation about this particular plan in some comments on a neighborhood mailing list, especially given that it could be a pretty large theater. Would it bring too much traffic, would it be too much of a draw for boisterous crowds--Gallery Place was mentioned a number of times as an example to avoid at all costs. For others, of course, the notion of a theater so close to home is exciting news, and a plan to be supported.
Forest City anticipates it will go before ANC 6D sometime this fall to brief the community on the plans and to get feedback.
Earlier this year, there was an item about Landmark Theatres wanting to open a second DC location, with the Yards being a possible destination (though city officials apparently were/are for something east of the river). However, Forest City's statement saying that the operator they are talking to "would be new to DC" seems to take Landmark out of the running, along with AMC and Regal, the two largest chains in the US.
Comments (41)
 More About The Yards at DC Water Home


Packinblackandred says: (9/28/12 8:43 AM)
As long as this isn't a gigantic eyesore, this is wonderful news! Exciting that it would be a new company--personally, I'm not the biggest fan of Regal Cinemas, so hopefully it's a nice company.

Yard Dog says: (9/28/12 9:40 AM)
they should name it "Regal Sewer 6"

ZoolanderANDtheBoYz says: (9/28/12 10:58 AM)
The whole idea of walking from my condo and going to Thursday midnight show gets me excited.

ZoolanderANDtheBoYz says: (9/28/12 11:06 AM)
Landmark Theater won't sign a lease right across the river. If they do, they were probably getting high with Marion Barry.

Darley says: (9/28/12 11:34 AM)
The pearl-clutching and classist/racist dog-whistling on that listserv thread was an embarrassment.

Jaybird says: (9/28/12 12:07 PM)
Any indication this would be an indie/foreign films theater like E Street or more mainstream? Perhaps a little of both?

ZoolanderANDtheBoYz says: (9/28/12 12:09 PM)
@Darley..please elaborate.

JD says: (9/28/12 12:13 PM)
@Jaybird, I don't know anything more than what I quoted from Forest City above. Until they name the operator, we probably won't know.

And, too the others, I'm going to be watching this comment thread veeeeeery closely.

Boris says: (9/28/12 2:13 PM)
This is a horrible idea. Development in our neighborhood should look more like U Street, H Street NE, or 8th Street, not Gallery Place or Columbia Heights. Let's keep it a real neighborhood and not some big box playground.

Gamble Rogers says: (9/28/12 3:01 PM)
Who would want a newfangled movie theater in the neighborhood? Silly kids -- always pushing for more, more, more.

We should all be content with the amenities and landmarks we enjoy now, such as the iconic U-store building, our vibrantly-painted shipping container paradise, and the Pit of Sarlacc on Half Street. Let's enjoy what we have for a change!

LTR says: (9/29/12 10:36 AM)
If it is a new theater that focuses on quality of design, food and customer service, then it is quite possibly the Alamo Drafthouse that is opening locations in San Francisco, New York, and more. It would make sense that given that the theater chains serves "food" and focus on "customer service."

Their theaters aren't large massive megaplex's but they are very nice. They run first run films and indies too. They also put on special events continually like "quote along movies", heckle vision, and much more. (see special events that they tend to do here: link

If it isn't Alamo Drafthouse theaters, I hope a gentle suggestion to Forest City to ask them to bid would be useful. They are now large enough to be able to consider the investment as well.

For example of the type of attitude a theater like this has for "talkers" during a movie... this is a PSA that Drafthouse puts in front of its movies and was for a short time a viral video last year. Please watch this (Note: This viral video from last year does contain a rather angry woman using some bleeped out language, but it does get the point across as to why this theater chain is so popular these days.) > link

PJY03 says: (9/29/12 12:20 PM)
@Boris You've got to be joking. U Street? H Street? That ship has sailed Bro! In case you didn't notice when you moved here, this neighborhood has a 40k seat baseball stadium and 13 story luxury high rises all around it. I have no idea why anyone would live here thinking this neighborhood would evolve along the lines of a row house/boutique shop hipster paradise. That's just nuts. There are other neighborhoods if that is what you're looking for, including the ones you mention above. But that's just not the development plan for this neighborhood.

@ZooLander, I believe Darley is referring to the fact that some of the "concern" over having a theater in that thread seemed like code for "ZOMMGGG Black Kidz hanging out in R neighborhood!" I believe there were several references to "Riff Raff". Not ALL of the concern over the theater had that tone, but some of it did strike me that way. Incidentally, Gallery Place does have more crime than Navy Yard. Ascribing this purely to the presence of a movie theater is specious reasoning at best.

From the comments in JD's post, and knowing that Alamo Drafthouse is expanding into the DC/NOVA market (building a megaplex out in Loudon right now), they are my guess for the occupant.

conngs0 says: (9/29/12 4:41 PM)
On the subject of the movie theater, I think it has the potential to be a great development. But of course, it all depends on the execution. With that in mind, this post reminded me of a very interesting article I read in the Washington Post last month about the Southwest Waterfront development:


JD, to what extent if any are the police being consulted on the prospective developments like this movie theater? I think that the concerns of the immediate area around the ballpark turning into a Gallery Place esque bottleneck are well-founded. Post baseball game traffic is going to be inevitable, but now is the time to try to preempt a lot of congestion from occurring. After all, a lot of neighborhoods manage to incorporate movie theaters without interrupting the aesthetics of the streetscapes or the cohesiveness of the traffic patterns.

Westnorth says: (10/1/12 12:56 PM)
ArcLight, Silverspot, and iPic are opening multiplexes in Montgomery County, in addition to Alamo Drafthouse and Angelika coming to Virginia. All of them offer a more premium viewing experience.

@Boris: “Putting 500 really funky stores under one roof would be cool, but no one will finance it.” - Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal, 2003. Big new buildings on big sites tend to come with big price tags, which (usually) only big companies can pay. Forest City has done a great job working with smaller restaurant tenants, but with neighborhoods as with B.O., "funk" takes a while to set in.

SBS says: (10/1/12 1:55 PM)
This is great news - any of the theatre companies mentioned above would be a great addition to DC as well as our neighborhood. I thought the goal here was create a dynamic, interesting and unique neighborhood as a destination to live and for other others to want to visit (rent, spend money). I'm at Gallery Place to see movies regularly. The theaters are well run, convenient, and in the middle of a thriving commercial and residential hub. We should be so lucky to see our neighborhood evolve to have that vibrance and level of investment. If what you are looking for is people who all think, look and act alike, you might want to rethink living anywhere in the city. Try Virginia, not dead, just Reston. JD - thanks for being sensitive to the insensitive

Jaybird says: (10/1/12 6:25 PM)
Angelika is now open. Nice sleek look with lots of glass, which would marry up well with Nationals Park and all its glass. Also a cafe.

ZoolanderANDtheBoYz says: (10/2/12 8:56 AM)
Off the topic, the nationals are the champs now. I heard on some talk show that there might be a world series in 2015. Would this give the developers and financiers a confidence to start a construction in 2013 the half street project?

JMP says: (10/2/12 11:36 AM)
I strongly disagree with the assessment about the impact of a theater.

1. Aesthetics - Until now, we have been really pleased with the effort to revitalize old, historic buildings (i.e., the Boilermaker Shops, Lumber Shed) as well as make new development look "old" (Capitol Quarter, Foundry Lofts). Furthermore, the Yards Park has really opened the waterfront to beautiful views. A giant movie theater would be horrible black eye on the area - gigantic megaplexes look like ugly cardboard boxes with no redeeming aesthetic qualities. You simply cannot "tuck" the "biggest movie theater in the city" behind anything. The complex would be a sprawling, ugly mess and run completely against the current neighborhood plan.

2. Traffic/Parking - How in the world will the neighborhood be able to handle a Saturday night home game along with the opening weekend of the next Avengers movie? The parking and traffic would be an utter nightmare. Where are all the people going to park? I know the Metro is close by, but let's be honest, people will still drive and want to park (e.g., Nats games).

3. Late night crime - Just Google "Chinatown Gallery Place crime" - this is precisely why we should oppose this effort. Until now, the development at the Navy Yards has been geared toward families (i.e., baseball, parks, ice skating, restaurants), but a movie theaters attract late-night crowds. Nothing family friendly happens late at night. With a risk of increased crime, home values will plummet.

4. Bringing in tenants - How does a megaplex "bring in tenants"? Right now, the apartment buildings are full, and retail establishments are tripping over each other to get into the Lumber Shed and Boilermaker shops. What could a megaplex possibly bring that isn't otherwise coming to the neighborhood, other than fast food chains?

Regarding what "kind" of theater, if they are promising the "biggest movie theater in DC", then it surely won't be an independent, foreign film theater (or anything like E Street). Think about it - why would they put in two dozen theaters for such a small niche? No, this will be Gallery Place 2.0, and bring along with it all the problems that Chinatown/Gallery Place has. I see no positives from this effort, and I absolutely oppose it.

ZoolanderANDtheBoYz says: (10/2/12 12:12 PM)
@JMP..I completely disagree with your comment. As a matter of fact, your opinions are bias. I think you forgot you live in a city. I know you don't want to see a teenage black kids outside the neighborhood hanging out because you have a diluted perception. I will leave the job of the security to the city police. Navy yard is not gallery park. If you don't want a movie theater..go move somewhere else. I am sure, I will be deleted by JD for expressing my opinion.

conngs0 says: (10/2/12 2:54 PM)
It's interesting how some people see the quotes "high-quality theater operator", "new to DC", and "premium quality option that is differentiated by quality of design, food and customer service" and then envision a huge multiplaex and Gallery Place 2.0 while others think of it as an opportunity to further differentiate the neighborhood from other parts of the city. The fact of the matter is that both reactions are premature since we don't know enough about the project.

However, to conclude that crime in Gallery Place takes place because a big movie theater is there strikes me as at least a bit of a non sequitur. There's a little more to it than that. I'm re-submitting this link because it looks like the one above doesn't work: link

Regardless, the execution is what determines whether a movie theater (or any project) becomes an asset or a detriment to a neighborhood's value with respect to crime, aesthetics, traffic flow, and further economic development. For instance, if the project has underground parking, then it might even add spaces for the overall neighborhood. Also, if you give people more reason to come to the neighborhood and stay there, then that provides more of an opportunity for other establishments to make money over a larger amount of time. If the traffic pattern is well-conceived, then congestion can be kept to a minimum. So, I just think we have to wait and see what's proposed.

NavyYard82 says: (10/2/12 3:04 PM)
Maybe we could actually have a constructive conversation about our community without someone ignorantly playing the race card. First of all, JMP never mentioned race, nor did he/she even imply race - all they said was "Google 'Chinatown Gallery Place crime'". I just did that and the first two results were from the Washington Post with the following headlines: (1) "Fights, teens among challenges as D.C.'s Gallery Place entertainment area matures" and (2) "Man shot near Gallery Place Metro Station Monday morning, police say". If you actually read the articles, neither article mentions the race of the victims or assailants - they could be white, black, or neither. Rather, it is a documented fact - written in the Washington Post - that crime rises when you have clusters of teens (regardless of race) hanging out in a place after midnight. I concur with the statement, which is one of the first rules of parenting, that when it comes to teenagers, "Nothing good happens after midnight."

Maybe instead of trying to change the subject to race, which is NOT part of the argument, then we could actually get somewhere with this debate. I think JMP's points were careful, reasonable, and well made.

NavyYard82 says: (10/2/12 3:08 PM)
One other point...I've noticed that this discussion has focused primarily on the negatives - in other words, a lot of people have expressed strong concerns over the very compelling downside of this project, while opponents are trying to argue that the negatives are somehow overblown. Other than, "I like movies. Movie are fun!", I haven't heard a single compelling positive argument. Why would this project be good (other than the developer trying to maximize its own return)? I haven't heard a single compelling reason why this would benefit the neighborhood. Just because a developer wants it is not good enough.

Boris says: (10/2/12 3:10 PM)
I don't see a mention of race in any of these posts, but you do, zoolander? Not wanting crowds of people hanging out in the early hours of the morning is a quality of life issue that transcends race, I would think. In case YOU didn't notice, there have been three major muggings in our area in the last month--one victim is hanging on by a thread. Secondly, There were 15 cop cars in front of the Jefferson Saturday night when two idiot drunks who were at the Beer Festival got into it. BTW, they were white, if that really matters to you. We live in the city. I get that. Crime happens. I get that. However, we don't have to invite the crime in when there are plenty of alternatives to a 12 theater multi-plex that the developer said he wanted, "the largest movie theater complex in the city" to be exact.

Listen, if you want to argue on the merits, fine. Get over the race thing.

JD says: (10/2/12 3:51 PM)
This is the point where I suggest that some honest "full disclosure" statements be added to comments, rather than, say, pretending you don't know the person whose comment you are supporting.

(The webmaster knows everything, best not to forget that.)

SWag says: (10/2/12 4:13 PM)
"I know you don't want to see a teenage black kids outside the neighborhood hanging out because you have a diluted perception." - Ouch

@Zoolander - You should really take a look around, and see what types of positive things a lot of the young black youth are doing in the community (especially given the resources available to them). You'd be surprised.

Not only that, but how selfish of us to think we are separate from these "teenage black kids". We want all the benefits of living in the city, but feel NO obligation to give back. Those black kids have been here long before you and I even thought about moving here. They have a right to utilize ALL of the development the same way you do. If you see the "teenage black kids" as a problem DO SOMETHING TO HELP. It's doubly beneficial -to you AND them! Shesh

Maelstrom says: (10/2/12 4:59 PM)
@Boris - this last saturday night at Jefferson? Those must have been some quiet cops; I slept right through it.

Eric says: (10/2/12 7:33 PM)
"- they could be white, black, or neither. Rather, it is a documented fact - written in the Washington Post - that crime rises when you have clusters of teens (regardless of race) hanging out in a place after midnight."

You've got to be kidding me. Call a spade a spade. You look as ridiculous as Norman Minetta when he was claiming an 80 year old white lady was just as likely to blow up an airplane as a 22 year old Pakistani male.

" You should really take a look around, and see what types of positive things a lot of the young black youth are doing in the community (especially given the resources available to them). You'd be surprised.

Not only that, but how selfish of us to think we are separate from these "teenage black kids". We want all the benefits of living in the city, but feel NO obligation to give back"

This whole quote has to be a big sarcastic joke. Give back? Perhaps you need a refresher on where our tax dollars are spent and on whom. The "here before you" argument is nonsense. White people were in DC way before black people, and native Americans before that. No one has a "right" where ever they desire without paying.

ZoolanderANDtheBoYz says: (10/2/12 9:53 PM)
Yes, I will say it again. There is a reason why you oppose a movie theater in our neighborhood. Who hangs out outside gallery metro?? teenage black kids. I don't have problem with the kids and never seen them doing any wrong doing.
@Boris live in a bubble. Every thing is about race here in a great beautiful state but not yet District of Columbia.

Boris says: (10/2/12 10:29 PM)
@Maelstrom It was 10pm, so it sounds like you must have had a good day if you were out by then. FYI, there was a helicopter too, so it must have been a REALLY good day.

@Zoolander If you see everything through a racial prism, you've got problems far beyond what I can diagnose on this blog. I have the names of some good shrinks if you need them.

Maelstrom says: (10/2/12 10:41 PM)
@Boris. Ah, it was earlier than I figured. I wasn't out cold, I was at Opera in the Outfield.

ZoolanderANDtheBoYz says: (10/3/12 7:06 AM)
I am not playing the race card and I do need shrink @Boris Yeltsin but not for any race problem. People avoid to talk about this Mr. Yeltsin, but every thing is about race.
Shrinks are hard to find these days. Please, send me a the list of good shrinks. But, I have to tell you this Mr. Yeltsin, I have 99 problems but it ain't the young black teengage..
And I heard "Son do you know why I'm stopping you for?"
Cause I'm young and I'm black and my hat's real low

conngs0 says: (10/3/12 9:00 AM)
So everyone agrees the movie theater is a potentially good addition to the neighborhood, right?

Maelstrom says: (10/3/12 12:33 PM)
@entire thread. I understand there are some legitimately differing opinions about this whole topic, but why so heated and flamey? Save us, Picard's facepalm!

JD says: (10/3/12 1:08 PM)
Believe me, the Picard facepalm has been at the ready for a while now.

Boris says: (10/3/12 4:19 PM)
Agreed, @Maelstrom. And I hope the Opera was good! But yes, let's just debate the issue.

And yes,@conngs0, the issue isn't the theater (to me, at least), it's the type of theater.

ZoolanderANDtheBoYz says: (10/3/12 4:53 PM)
Ok, we all agree the type of theater will be french. They only play french movies.

Ladies and Gentleman...

Un ETE BRULANT will be playing featuring Monica Bellucci

Tickets are $15 and we serve the best rabbits and Bordeaux.

Maelstrom says: (10/3/12 4:59 PM)
@Boris I haven't read up on these dinner/theater places that have been linked earlier in the thread, but I think something like individual indoor screens in smaller yards-style (mock historic) looking buildings with greenspace in between would be cool. Certain screens could be set up as the typical stadium seating, but others could be dinner/theater types with tables. Perhaps they could do different themes then like "mexican food and horror movies night". I am thinking along the lines of DC improv, but with movies. While I am not sure if this would be financially successful of feasible, it would be funner than a megaplex.

B in DC says: (10/4/12 5:59 AM)
So let's only support development if it meets a very specific business plan that we design and approve....

Westnorth says: (10/4/12 1:01 PM)
The Capitol Riverfront that I was walking around in today certainly could use some more tenants -- particularly retailers and restaurants to fill all those empty storefronts and big holes in the ground. And retailers *definitely* cluster around cinemas, which is exactly why all of those suburban malls (aching for some of that edgy urban vibe) have been falling over themselves to land the latest-concept cinema chains from NYC, LA, Austin, etc.

Also, I don't see what's particularly "family friendly" about the Capitol Riverfront's emerging local attractions; there are no playgrounds, no schools, no day cares, no Chuck-E-Cheese. That makes sense because the vast majority of people living in the future Capitol Riverfront will be living in tiny high-rise apartments -- and the vast majority (over 90%! and growing!) of households in the entire city today are not nuclear families. Catering solely to families is just not a winning economic proposition given that market reality.

As for a cinema's form, yes, they tend to be pretty big windowless boxes. Yet this site is relatively deep and backs up to the DC Water main sewage pump. There's plenty of space on that particular block to fit a big building, without spoiling anyone's views or deadening any streetscapes.

Lastly, for all the pearl-clutching over "OMG Gallery Place crime!," I don't see how it's a failure. It is attracting flashy new corporate HQs like Covington and LivingSocial, new restaurants continue to open, and it commands the highest retail rents in the region: more than twice as expensive as Georgetown, making it the most desirable market on the East Coast outside NYC. Occasional incidents of crime sure do happen, but given the large crowds there the overall crime rate doesn't seem out of whack.

PJY03 says: (10/8/12 11:05 AM)
Hearing some interesting things on this thread...

1) The idea that Gallery Place crime is directly due to the fact that it has a movie theater (as opposed to 24/7 fast food, bars, very high density etc).

2) The idea that movie theaters are not family friendly development.

The evidence for both of these claims appears to be flimsy or non-existent. In the case of the latter it runs contrary to a lifetime of experiences going to movies.

Also, we all know that there's a sewage plant on the land currently, right?

B in DC says: (10/8/12 1:46 PM)
+1 to PJY03.

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