Ah, suds and flicks: where to experience this heavenly pairing in Toronto, New York, Boston, Chicago and Pittsburgh
Sometimes there’s no better escape than to catch a movie on a big screen. The warm scent of popcorn and butter, the time you get to spend away from your daily life, the shared experience of watching a story play out on a big screen …
… now, who wants a beer?
While beer has been commonplace in European cinemas for generations, that piece of the picture has been missing in North America – until recently. Movie houses have been rolling out the barrel at last, providing a much-needed alternative to giant, tub-like servings of soft drinks. In some jurisdictions serving beer even means overturning archaic laws.
Canada’s dominant Cineplex chain introduced beer to its premium-priced “VIP” theatres last year, and beer is now available in regular screenings at certain licenced locations across the country. As the National Post’s Calum Marsh observed, “Beer is good: this is not a controversial opinion. Why our cinemas – and before that, our governments – resisted the obvious for so long is difficult to fathom.”
While mainstream Cineplex pours predictably mainstream beers, at independent cinemas it’s often independent brewers supplying the suds.
So if you’re looking to indulge in movie magic while falling under the spell of a lovely IPA (which goes great with popcorn, by the way), here are some classic film houses that will pour you a cup.
Toronto: Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema
This site – centrally located in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood – has been occupied by a movie house since 1913, when the Madison Picture Palace opened its doors. The building has gone through many incarnations since then. In the 1970s, it was an adult movie theatre, and for decades afterwards the Bloor Cinema (which is still how many locals will refer to it). Transformed into the headquarters of a long-running documentary film festival in 2012, the Hot Docs Cinema offers a daily schedule of short and long form films. Local beers include chilled Augusta Ale IPA from the Kensington Brewing Company, and nutty Mill Street Cobblestone Stout.
506 Bloor St. W., 416-637-3123
Brooklyn: Nitehawk Cinema
Found in the heart of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighbourhood, this dine-in cinema opened in 2011, making history by helping to overturn a law prohibiting the sale of alcohol in New York state movie theatres. This triplex offers a schedule of first-run and repertory films and several craft brews from New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island. Perhaps a Chelsea Checker Cab Kolsch for the weekly Nitehawk Brunch series? Or try a Bronx Rye Pale Ale with one of the gridiron-themed films in the Football Program movie series.
136 Metropolitan Ave., 718-782-8370
Pittsburgh: Row House Cinema
Theo Ackerson, general manager of Pittsburgh’s Row House Cinema, says every week the goal is to create “a mini-festival celebrating an director, actor or theme.” Depending on when you visit, it could be pyjama party night, a celebration of Japanese anime director Hayao Miyazaki or cereal cinema and Coconut Night with Monty Python and the Holy Grail are just some of the reasons this repertory movie theatre has become one of the hot spots of Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville district. Opened in 2014, this movie house has old-school touches such as all-natural popcorn with real butter, soft pretzels, ice pops – and a nice new touch, a rotating selection of craft beer. But for those beer lovers who need more options, next door and sister business Bierport provides a wide array of American craft beers to indulge before, during and after a screening.
4115 Butler St., 412-904-3225
Row House Theatre
Boston Area: Brattle Theatre
Located on historic Harvard Square in Cambridge, this is, surprisingly, the only independent cinema in the Boston area. Opened in 1953, the Brattle (often referred to as Boston’s unofficial film school) offers a mix of programming such as European cinema, the annual Bugs Bunny Film Festival, and 20th century classics such ranging from Casablanca and Spartacus to The Princess Bride. Members enjoy chilled cans of Slumbrew from the Somerville Brewing Company.
40 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-876-6838
Chicago: Brew and View at The Vic
A former vaudeville theatre in Chicago, The Vic theatre features its original Italian marble and ornate wall sculptures to for a touch of old-school movie glamour. It’s also cheap: At the regular Brew and View (i.e., beer) nights, new, classic and cult films are screened for the affordable price of five bucks a screening. But that’s not the only thing that is five bucks – so are cans of local brews, making this a wallet-friendly option for a night out in The Windy City.
3145 N Sheffield Ave, 773-472-0449