OPINION: Part two: The best movie theaters in Tucson

desert-cinema
Farrah Rodriguez | The Daily Wildcat

An image of a movie screen showing the desert by Farrah Rodriguez. 

In the first edition of this article, I explored some of the best and worst movie theaters in Tucson. Wrapping up the list are five more theaters that made it into my top five favorite theaters. If you’re curious to read about the others that made it onto this list, check out part one

5. Nightjar Tavern

Nightjar Tavern, after Casa Video and Film Bar, is the other place on this list that’s not only a movie theater. It’s a restaurant run by the same people who run the Coronet Restaurant, and it is such a cool place to see a movie.

Every Friday, Nightjar shows a different movie at 10:00 p.m. with a special late-night menu. The food and drinks are great (I recommend the wedge salad and the prosecco), but the best part of Nightjar is the movies they show. The movies Nightjar shows are usually cool, weird movies that won’t often get screentime at other venues, and that’s a big contrast with the classy pub atmosphere. If you’ve ever wanted to eat fresh mussels whilst watching “Pacific Rim” or Disney’s “Holes,” Nightjar Tavern is the place to be.

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Nightjar is also the only place on this list where I recommend seeing an outdoor movie. Their projector looks amazing on their patio and an atmosphere of people all there to watch late-night movies in a fancy pub makes it very fun.

4. The Screening Room

The Screening Room has gone through multiple iterations, some of which have exclusively shown movies and some of which have just been event spaces that didn’t show movies at all. Currently, The Screening Room is showing movies again, and I’m thrilled. It’s a great location. On the busy, loud street of Congress in Downtown Tucson is this nice, quiet movie theater that mostly plays classics. From old noir to eighties sci-fi, The Screening Room is a very fun place to see something right in the heart of downtown.

3. Galaxy Theaters Tucson 

I had never been to Galaxy Theaters Tucson before I started researching for this piece. I live just north of the University of Arizona campus, and Galaxy, located far east on Broadway and Houghton, is far off my radar. However, when I went there, I was blown away by how much I enjoyed the experience.

Galaxy presents itself as a fairly standard, mainstream cinema, but the differences compound as you get closer to the auditorium. Speaking with manager Karen Foley, it became apparent why: Galaxy is a chain, but it’s a very small one compared to others. Foley referred to it as her theater. When I asked why, she said, “This is one of my first times working for a smaller company, and I love it! I could call the owner right now, and he’d pick up the phone and talk to me. You don’t always get that when you work for a large corporation; I feel like my voice is heard.”

That affinity shows in the quality of Galaxy. The snack bar offers a creative way to “dine-in.” You can pick up popcorn and nachos at the concession stand, but hot, fresh foods like pizza and pretzels will be brought to your seat. It’s a great streamlining of the dine-in experience that allows you to not wait for food at the beginning of your showing nor be interrupted by other people ordering.

What really won me over about Galaxy was its projectors. I read online that Galaxy had the only all-laser projectors in Arizona, but I didn’t know what that meant until I sat down and watched a movie there. It’s an amazing experience. The projectors use lasers as opposed to other forms of light, and the visual is incredibly crisp. The movie I saw was in 3D, and I felt compelled to reach out and touch the screen at certain points like a child at an IMAX movie; I’m still impressed that something like a projector can bring out that child in me.

2. Century Park Place 

If you live in Tucson and you see movies, I’m sure you’ve been to Century Park Place. Park Place seems to be the default for seeing a movie in Tucson. It’s comfortable, it’s in a mall, so it’s easy to have fun and shop before your movie and it’s always packed. Park shows that the average person is still seeing movies in theaters simply by being a popular, reliable choice. Is there anything particularly special about Park? I suppose not, but I don’t think that matters. Park is a great place to see a movie because it’s a quintessential modern American theater, and I think it does everything it should. I firmly believe that it earns a high ranking here.

1. The Loft Cinema

I wholeheartedly believe that we are lucky to have The Loft here in Tucson. The Loft is a renowned institution of arthouse movie theaters and is a Tucson staple. For many Tucsonans, The Loft is a personal staple. Jeff Yanc, the program director at the Loft Cinema, told me that it’s normal for him to recognize people and see regulars. “A great part of the job is getting to know the audience. A lot of people come to The Loft because the event is at The Loft, even more so than the film itself. That’s what makes the job gratifying to me: the fondness people have for the theater,” Yanc said. 

The Loft has cool, offbeat programming that most theaters just don’t have. Every single month “Rocky Horror” is shown with a live shadow cast. On weekend nights, cult classics are played at 10:00 p.m., and every Monday (my personal favorite event), a horrible movie is shown, and people make jokes at the screen. It’s called Mondo Mondays, and it’s always the highlight of my week.

During our conversation, Yanc told me that he believes it’s important that The Loft can show that every movie has an audience, not just the new foreign and indie movies The Loft shows every day, but also the bad movies most people would never want to see. “There’s a community for every kind of film,” is a quote from him that I want on a T-shirt.

The Loft also holds the distinction of being a nonprofit. This means that The Loft receives donations and volunteers. During the aforementioned closure, donations helped the theater continue and showed that people in this community really care about the theater. The Loft recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, and it thrives off of these donations and fans as it helps keep Tucson vibrant.

Each of these theaters has a different purpose for the Tucson community, and each is a good choice to see a movie depending on your preferences.


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Kate is a sophomore at the University of Arizona. She loves improv comedy and comic books.


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