RSVP Cinema at Violet Crown invites audiences back through private screenings.
Standing in the lobby of the Violet Crown cinema on a recent spring night, life felt bizarrely, stunningly normal. Along with close friends and family, I was attending RSVP Cinema, Violet Crown’s new take on moviegoing. In lieu of the standard, general-public style of going to the movies, RSVP Cinema allows groups of no more than fifteen to rent a theater for a private viewing. Customers can choose from new(ish) releases (most of the films currently available can be found on a streaming service), a collection of older films, or you can bring your own Blu-ray DVD.
The rental fee ranges from $50 to $100 plus $10-$15 per person based on what time the screening is and whether the film is or isn’t a new release. This means that depending on what movie you rent, when you go, and how many friends join you, the cost could be entirely comparable to seeing a film in a crowded theater full of strangers, which still sounds rather terrifying.
We arrived at 6:40 pm, twenty minutes before the show’s start time. For optimum traffic control, Violet Crown allows groups a twenty-minute window to enjoy the lobby and order food and drinks. On the snack front, Violet Crown’s general manager Peter Grendle trained with Ben Crosky of Tender Fire Kitchen during the year-long COVID closure to learn the art of sourdough pizza. While not quite like Tender Fire’s beloved pies, they’re certainly an improvement from the theater’s pre-COVID menu. Violet Crown’s vast beer offerings remain, and why not order a twenty-two ounce while you have the chance?
Once in the theater, you can sit wherever you’d like. Hell, you can do whatever you’d like. Dotted throughout the rows, we were gloriously unconstrained by the preferences of friends or partners who prefer the nauseating first row. Nor were they constrained by us. If you order food in the lobby, the team at Violet Crown will kindly bring it to your screening room and put it on the seat tables in the back. A flashlight is recommended here, for as convenient as this all seems, it’s still a pitch-black theater.
On this particular outing, we skipped the new releases for Stop Making Sense, the iconic concert film of the Talking Heads’s 1983 performance at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood. For the uninitiated, this is the best concert film of all time. In essence, we both went to the movies and to a concert. After over a year of going to neither, this was as incredible as it sounds. Yes, we danced in the aisles! Yes, we sang! Yes, I think you should go!
Being at the movies while watching David Byrne run euphoric laps around the stage, singing the lyrics of Life During Wartime, life felt so perfectly simple, if only for a moment. A sort of simplicity only fully realized against the backdrop of a year spent isolated, fearful, and devoid of the soul-feeding power of art. For an hour and forty minutes, there was no mental output required—no meetings, no news. Solely input, the kind that leaves you feeling alive, lighter, and happy in a way you forgot was possible.
According to Grendle, RSVP Cinema has been very well-received. At the time of publication, only a handful of dates remain available over the next few months. While the price might be prohibitive for those who aren’t attending in a larger group, the value of a private screening room during these times felt well worth the price. The glory of spending a night at the movies was nothing short of priceless.