When people think of Dallas, they may not think of it as a major movie hub. But the city has a variety of national chains and local arthouses, each of which has its own style and amenities. While it can be overwhelming deciding which theater to visit for a given screening, each venue has at least one quality that helps set it apart from the competition.
As a certifiable film obsessive and fan of the theatrical experience, I visited (and revisited) the heavy-hitters of the Dallas theater scene and scored them across eight distinct categories. The results of my work are listed below—one theater ended up taking first place for both Best Seating and Best Location, so I combined those categories, but the others stand alone.
The Best Theater in Dallas For…
A Great Viewing Experience – The Texas Theatre
The Texas Theatre, which opened in 1931, is a staple of the Dallas movie scene. While the venue has been in and out of operation since its founding, it was reborn after Aviation Cinemas, Inc. took over in 2010. Since then, they have restored the Texas to its former glory and made it one of the hottest theaters in the city and a key venue for the community.
Boasting an eclectic slate of contemporary and repertory screenings, the Texas Theatre’s top-notch projection and classic, historical design make it a one-of-a-kind experience for audiences. One of its biggest advantages is that, unlike larger multiplexes, this two-screen venue (one upstairs, one downstairs) doesn’t have sound bleeding through the walls from a screening next door—you’re able to fully immerse yourself in whatever you paid to see with minimal distractions.
The staff’s care, technical precision, and love of film make every movie screened at the Texas Theatre feel like an event—if you’re after a solid overall viewing experience, you can’t go wrong here.
The Best Seating & Location – Violet Crown Dallas
A recent addition to the movie scene in Dallas, the Violet Crown took over the West Village location of the Magnolia Theater after it closed.
Situated in one of the most walkable areas of Dallas, with plenty of shopping and dining options nearby, as well as a free parking garage next door, it’s hard to overstate the value of the Violet Crown’s convenient, trendy location.
Visitors have their choice of draft beer and snacks to accompany their screening, but the Violet Crown shines in its seating. With plush recliners you can melt into, even if you don’t love the movie you see here, you’re going to love sitting through it.
The Best Food – Cinépolis Victory Park
Located on the seventh floor of its building, catching a screening at the Cinépolis is more complicated than with other theaters on this list. Attendees need to park in the attached garage, take an elevator up to the theater, and remember to have their parking validated. But once you’re inside, you’ll be treated to a solid cinematic experience, complemented by some of the better food you’ll find at a restaurant-theater hybrid.
On a recent visit, I tried its Shaved Ribeye Sandwich, featuring caramelized onions and queso blanco, and treated myself to a churro donut for dessert (served a la mode). Usually the meals at multi-hyphenate theater chains come oversold and underwhelming, but I was pleasantly surprised. In terms of variety and flavor, the Cinépolis easily curbed its competition.
An Old-Fasioned Moviegoing Experience – Landmark’s Inwood Theatre
If you’re looking for a no-frills night out at the movies, Landmark’s Inwood Theatre is the perfect destination. The venue has three screens and primarily shows new releases. They also offer midnight screenings on Saturdays as part of their Cine Insomnia series, which trend toward the classic or the cult favorite.
The Inwood Theatre experience is relatively lo-fi, a throwback to a time before dinner-during-a-movie became commonplace. Its largest screening room boasts an eclectic seating arrangement, with “couches, loveseats, chairs, and ottomans.” There is also a bar attached to the theater, but it closes early and isn’t as adventurous as some of its competition—there’s no menu, just liquor, a willing bartender, and your imagination.
What the Inwood lacks in modern amenities it makes up for in character and simplicity. If you want to show up, grab a popcorn and a soda, and settle in for a movie without the hassle of servers and full-scale dining, this is the theater for you.
Something Different – The Angelika Film Center and Cafe
Located in Mockingbird Station, the Angelika is a premiere destination for Dallasites looking to enrich their palate with more artsy or international fare. Expect a solid rotation of trendy and obscure recent releases across its eight screens. While they also cycle in major new releases, what makes the Angelika so special is its dedication to promoting films that may otherwise fall under the radar.
A Celebration – Alamo Drafthouse
The Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse chain has locations in and around Dallas. For anyone willing to make the drive, the Richardson location provides the best screenings and overall experience for attendees, but you can’t really go wrong with any Alamo.
With an easy-to-use app to secure seating ahead of time, plenty of dining options, and a selection of contemporary and repertory screenings each week, Alamo is consistent and reliable. Because it splits the difference between its larger competitors and arthouse theaters, there’s usually something screening for everyone in at least one of its locations each week.
Ease of access, modern amenities, and the Vetted Well bar inside the theaters make these the theaters one you will want to host a party or celebration. Buying tickets is simple, everyone can meet up in the bar before and after the movie, and as long as you don’t talk, text, or arrive late you’ll have a great time at the movies.
The Best Rewards Program – AMC
One of the largest theater chains in the country, AMC has a major presence in DFW. While these theaters have all the essentials, where they really stand out is in their rewards program.
AMC provides one of the simplest, most stable rewards programs in the industry. While it’s become more common in recent years for chains to offer access to a certain number of movies per day/week for a monthly fee, they vary widely in terms of the types of screenings included, additional perks, and fees.
The AMC Stubs A-List program keeps things simple. For $19.95/month you can see three movies per week. These screenings can be in standard digital presentation, IMAX, or 3-D. When you make purchases at AMC you earn points that can be tracked through the AMC app. When you earn enough points, you can trade them in for a $5 off reward coupon.
The program is straightforward and ideal for anyone wanting to see a few movies each month without paying per ticket. And if that wasn’t enough, AMC has some of the largest multiplexes in DFW, showing a wide variety of films. All of that together adds up to a cost-effective way to scratch any cinematic itch.
See you at the movies!