A lifelong moviegoer’s favorite places to watch movies

Published on: July 22, 2022 at 6:00 am EDT

A sign on the door of Parkway Theatre that reads: "Film for everyone. Every day."

Movie theaters are my happy place.

Even as streaming platforms become more popular and movies are released on Netflix or HBO so people can watch from home, going to the theater is an experience I can never, and will never, give up.

There’s nothing like curling up in the anonymity of a comfy chair in a packed theater, with popcorn drowned in butter by my side, or snacks I’ve snuck in under my jacket. I especially love that it’s a space designed for real focus — with no multitasking or distractions. It feels like a unique break from reality, one in which I can indulge in stories and characters from other worlds, and return refreshed.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in movie theaters, mostly in the Baltimore area where I grew up.

When I was younger, that meant early screenings of “Hannah Montana: The Movie” and “The Amazing Spider-Man” with my twin brother. In middle school, movie theaters took on a new meaning: They were the epicenter of the awkward middle school dating scene. In high school and college, stories like “Moonlight,” “1917″ and “Parasite” drew me in.

And, somewhere along the way, I fell in love. Going to movies is now undeniably my favorite pastime.

I haven’t visited every movie theater in Baltimore, but there are a few that stick out to me. There are other places, too, where I’ve enjoyed watching movies — ones that have gotten creative to make a theater experience where there isn’t one.

Below are some of my favorites. Let me know if there’s a theater you love that I didn’t mention, as I always enjoy trying new venues. Or, if you just want to chat about movies or cinemas or anything else, you can email me at cadence.quaranta@thebaltimorebanner.com.

Charles Theatre

The Charles comes first on my list of favorites, as it’s the theater I’ve visited most recently. That is where I saw “Memoria,” a quiet, but subtly thrilling film that I’d recommend.

The theater, which is located on North Charles Street, has a long history — the structures that have housed it are more than 100 years old, according to the theater’s website. History lovers like me will enjoy its classic feel and touches — such as the old film equipment in its hallways.

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It’s also a great place to see independent films that might not be advertised at major chains. I’ve also loved the Charles because its theaters feel intimate, and thus, it’s my favorite place to watch movies that may be slower-paced or require more focus. I’ve always gotten the sense that moviegoers who choose the Charles have genuine respect for the art on screen — an atmosphere I love.

Tickets: $12 regular admission, special rates here.

The SNF Parkway

The exterior of Parkway Theatre.

I love the SNF Parkway for its contrasts. The building’s exterior looks quite modern, but venture inside its main cinema and there’s a sense that time has moved backward.

The large screen feels almost out of place, hung in front of a long red curtain under a high-dome ceiling like in a historic palace.

The SNF Parkway was renovated and re-opened by the Maryland Film Festival in 2017 after closing in 1978, a time when it was called the 5 West. It first opened in 1915, according to the theater’s website. It now has three screens year-round, and is open Thursday to Sunday. It also hosts the Maryland Film Festival in the spring.

Tickets: $11 regular admission, special rates here.

Bengies Drive-In Theatre

Bengies boasts “the biggest movie theatre screen in the USA” on its website, but what I love most about it is the atmosphere.

On a warm summer night, it’s bliss. Before the film begins, kids pass footballs on the field under the screen, families set up lawn chairs in front of their cars and the sun sets behind the large screen. There are radios on everywhere — tuned to music before the viewing, and to hear the movie later — and smells of pizza and popcorn from the snack bar. There’s also snowballs, popsicles, cotton candy and even caramel apples if you’re hungry.

Some tips: I’d recommend getting there early — you’ll have a choice of parking spots and will be able to experience the venue before the movie starts. Also, load your tickets on your smartphone beforehand because the cellular service is spotty inside.

Tickets: $12.50 regular admission + $4 per car. $7 for children (ages 4-10). Learn more here.

Regal Hunt Valley

The popcorn at Regal Hunt Valley always hits the spot. I can’t describe why, but it’s the first thing that always comes to mind when I think about this theatre.

I also have lots of memories here; this was my family’s preferred spot for movie outings for many years. It’s also part of an outdoor mall with restaurants and stores – so it’s perfect for dinner and a movie.

The seats are quite comfy, too.

Tickets: $13.97 adult admission, special rates here.

Baltimore parks

In the summer months, I’ve gotten into the habit of watching movies outside, too — getting crafty with my own makeshift theaters. All you need is a computer, a friend, a sunny day and a good patch of grass. Some blankets and snacks make the experience even better.

Druid Hill Park and Federal Hill Park are among my favorite spots for an outdoor movie. Druid Hill Park has lots of flat green spaces perfect for a setup of blankets and pillows. Make a rule of no distractions (no phones, no texting, no social media) — and it will feel even more like a theater experience. Federal Hill Park I like because it’s easy to pick spots overlooking the Inner Harbor — the view at sunset is especially pretty, if you pick the right time to start your movie.

Tickets: free!

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