Culture / Entertainment

Houston’s Best Movie Theaters — From New Luxury Retreats to a Cinema Church

The Bayou City's 12 Must-Visit Movie Palaces

BY // 05.10.19

Lights, camera, action. There’s little out there as low-key entertaining as taking in a movie. But we’re not talking scrolling endlessly through Netflix, or even Amazon Prime or Hulu. We’re talking the real deal, getting your blockbuster fill on a legit silver screen.

Going to the movie theater is an experience, whether you’re a mid-afternoon matinee kind of person or a midnight premiere junkie. There’s just something about feel of a ticket, the smell of popcorn — stale or otherwise — and the feel of a plush seat before the previews roll.

But you film buffs out there have got to plan ahead for the ultimate Houston movie theater trip. No two independent cinemas or theater chains are equal. Each offer different pros, whether you’re eager to settle in for Avengers: Endgame or ready to sob at a subtitled French drama.

Houston has heeded the call for the ultimate cinematic experience, with everything from mega, million-screen options to drive-ins and exclusive luxury selections. PaperCity has rounded up Houston’s Best Movie Theaters.

Edwards Greenway Grand Palace 24

3839 Weslayan Street

Ah, Greenway. The site of many a post-movie cone courtesy of Marble Slab, plus a few arcade games (though it’s not the same since the connected Harlow’s Food & Fun closed.

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The theater itself has largely maintained its charm with a bajillion different screens, including 3-D, IMAX, RPX and Screen X showings. You’ll find action-packed favorites, dramas, rom-coms, the works. It’s the no-frills, quintessential movie theater that you just can’t live without.

Even if the $3 garage parking fee is beyond annoying.  

iPic River Oaks District

4444 Westheimer Road

Where better to take in a movie than the ultimate lap of luxury? iPic made major waves back when it opened in River Oaks District, offering Space City film buffs the finest digs for full-on movie immersion.

This upscale theater in River Oaks District promises the ultimate experience with its two-seat pod seating, with its “waiter ninjas” bringing food and drinks (alcoholic ones too) straight to your fully reclinable seat.

iPic Pod Seating
iPic’s pod seating is the lap of luxury.

Rooftop Cinema Club

1700 Post Oak Boulevard

Eager moviegoers had high hopes for this soaring cinema amidst the cityscape — and they weren’t disappointed. This Post Oak Boulevard movie theater (it’s on top of Whole F00ds) has some killer concessions, with a whole Good Dog outfit located at the entrance.

Everyone gets their own exclusive set of headphones, so you can feel free to adjust the volume or talk potential plot twists with your pals. And you’re free to take in all today’s blockbuster hits, alongside 1980s cult classics and 1990s favorites, plus routine sing-along nights — thinky Bohemian Rhapsody and beyond.

Star Cinema Grill

Multiple locations

This successful chain has left many a movie-goer with stars in their eyes. Star Cinema has locations around the greater Houston area (including Missouri City and Vintage Park) and the more, the merrier. It’s truly an experience for the stars, complete with a dramatic red carpet entrance and colorful portraits of famed actors on the walls, plus beloved characters like Yoda.

There is even a bar area with plenty of booze and a twinkling chandelier, just to keep with the glam vibe. The seats are ultra cushion-y, and there’s plenty of table space in the theater to spread out your goodies, whether it’s an Icee, traditional popcorn or something off the major menu, like quesadillas, chicken tenders, buffalo chicken pizzas or even inventive salads.

Landmark River Oaks Theatre

2009 West Gray Street

People may shorten this oldie-but-goodie to ‘River Oaks Theatre,’ but ‘landmark’ definitely applies. It’s impossible not to check out the mega, bold-lettered marquee sign up top to see just what cult classic is playing at midnight on weekends. The Room? Space Jam? Your guess is as good as ours.

The Art Deco space features three separate screens, one large one downstairs and two smaller ones upstairs, next to the bar. River Oaks Theatre is known best for its indie, foreign-language and art-house films you’ll be hard-pressed to find at major chains.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

2707 Commercial Center Boulevard; 198 Kempner Street

This funky spot was dreamed up in Austin, unsurprisingly — but it was founded by a Rice University alum. It’s revered for requiring strict movie-going etiquette among its guests, plus, of course, the food and beverage service.

It’s not all new classic movies and foreign films, though you’ll definitely find the likes of Get Out and Call Me By Your Name. Alamo Drafthouse is also big on events, like interactive Movie Party presentations, chef-inspired feasts with menus paired with the films and more.

Aurora Picture Show

2442 Bartlett Street

Aurora Picture Show is a nonprofit media arts center that exclusively shows non-commercial films and videos created and curated by artists. The films here flout convention and tradition, and are definitely worth seeing.

Admission is extremely cheap, at $10, or free for members. Right now, you’ll find Aurora’s Extremely Short Film Festival, a longheld favorite, and a selection of queer shorts from the past 50 years. Aurora also offers summer camps for the little ones.

The Showboat Drive-in

224422 Farm to Market 2920

This one may be out in Hockley, but this drive-in is more than worth the drive. This inviting experience calls for two feature films to take in under the stars, all for one low price.

It’s a total throwback, with the movies’ audio broadcast through your car radio’s FM transmitter, or a battery-operated boombox, your call. Sit in the bed of a pickup, out on a blanket or in a lawn chair, and munch on burgers, buttery popcorn, hot dogs and beyond.

the showboat drive-in
The Showboat Drive-in harkens back to the good old days.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

1001 Bissonnet Street

Visual arts isn’t just limited to paintings, sculptures, photographs and installations at the MFAH. Films make a huge impact, showed in the intimate theater downstairs. The unique venue often premieres important new indies.

Themes include specific actors or directors, current exhibitions and countries, for example. In addition to watching stunning films, you can visit the theater for talks by critics, scholars and media artists. Education meets recreation.

14 Pews

800 Aurora Street

This nonprofit, art-house theater is set up in a redesigned and revamped church, hence the name. The multidisciplinary, artist-run organization has screened more than 800 films and documentaries, plus hosted eight film festivals.

Take the trip for the weekly German Film Series, a collaboration with the German Consulate and The Goethe-Institut. Short films are also a major passion for 14 Pews. It’s a true cultural experience tucked away in The Heights.

14 pews movie theater 2
14 Pews is located inside a renovated church.

Regal Grand Parkway 22

7301 West Grand Parkway

This Richmond winner isn’t just about tickets on tickets — though you will find a million screens offering Hollywood’s hottest, plus foreign films and documentaries. There are showings galore, but that’s only half the fun.

Think legit bowling, and think gelato. You can seriously make a full day out of it.

Studio Movie Grill

822 Town and Country Boulevard 

The supreme movie experience is yours at the touch of a button at Studio Movie Grill, tucked into CityCentre — and it may as well be the centerpiece. You can have your food and drink delivered before or during the movie, your choice. There are four different seating types, depending on your mood, some with tables and some that can recline.

Tickets are fairly priced, and you’ll find that Studio Movie Grill cares. The company donates five percent of proceeds to local nonprofits when you order from the Two for $28/29 Sharing Menu. Most importantly, Studio Movie Grill offers SMG Special Needs Screenings, sensory-friendly showings designed for families raising children with special needs.

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