The MacArthur Theater

4859 MacArthur Boulevard NW
Washington, D.C. 20007

Opened in 1946 - Closed in 1997

The MacArthur Theater was an important theater in Washington from its opening on December 25, 1946 with the Errol Flynn film “Never Say Goodbye,” until it closed in 1997. 

The MacArthur Theater served the upscale Palisades Neighborhood of Northwest Washington.  It was designed in the streamlined Art Moderne-style by noted theater architect John J. Zink. It seated 1,000 in its large single auditorium.  Among the architectural highlights were the lobby paneled in rose-colored marble and having a terrazzo floor, a large curtained screen, an upstairs lounge area where refreshments could be served,  and insulated rooms on either side of the projecton booth where parties or crying children could be contained.  

For the first seven years of its life, the MacArthur was a typical neighborhood theater showing films several weeks after they played at the downtown first-run theaters and Saturday double-features and serials. In the early 1950s, as neighborhood theaters were closing in droves, KB Theaters, that operated the MacArthur, converted it into an art house specializing in the highly popular British comedies. The British films gave the theater a new life and drew large crowds from all over the metropolitan area. Especially popular was the film of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953.  On December 7, 1979, the MacArthur Theater held the world premiere of  “Star Trek:The Motion Picture.” In 1982, the MacArthur was acquired by the Circle Theater chain that had the theater triplexed with two small auditoriums added on either side of the original auditorium. Fortunately this did not destropy the beautiful proscenium. In 1997, much to the shock and anger of the residents of the Palisades neighborhood, the theater was acquired by CVS drugstores. The exterior of the theater remains intact, but the interior has been converted into retail space.