As someone who’s viewed movies in Houston for most of my life, I’ve seen many theaters come and go in this town.
I remember when this city was populated with little theaters (usually attached to a mall) from all the major chains: AMC, General Cinema, Loews, Cineplex Odeon.
I remember when the 14-screen AMC Meyer Park and the three-story Cineplex Odeon Spectrum (with its THX-equipped auditoriums, ready to rattle your eardrums) were considered the prime destinations for late-‘80s moviegoing.
I even remember when the megaplexes started taking over in the late ‘90s, with their 20-plus theaters filled with stadium seating.
If COVID-19 hasn’t scared you to the point you’ve decided to stay home and watch all the streaming services you subscribe to, there are still multiplexes open and ready to screen the latest blockbusters for your viewing pleasure.
Here is a list of six multiplexes (and one museum) that get this film critic’s seal of approval for a night at the movies.
Regal Edwards Greenway Grand Palace ScreenX & RPX and Regal Edwards Houston Marq*E ScreenX, 4DX, IMAX & RPX
More than 20 years ago, these two multiplexes showed up and became prime destinations for moviegoers in and around the Loop. (Some people can’t even tell the theaters apart; I’ve told friends to meet me at Grand Palace in Upper Kirby and they instinctively head over to Marq*E near Spring Branch — and vice versa.)
While both have enhanced auditoriums like the giant-screen RPX, the seat-jumping 4DX and the all-around ScreenX theaters, the Marq*E has the city’s only legit IMAX auditorium. (Sorry, AMC Gulf Pointe 30.) Grand Palace may not have IMAX, but they do have a bar on the first floor. So, that’s something.
Serves Drinks: Only Grand Palace location has a bar.
For those of you who are still upset that AMC Studio 30 closed its doors a year or so ago, you can still head over to its Almeda-Genoa equivalent.
Opened shortly after Studio’s opening in 1997, Gulf Pointe still has its cheesy-but-cute, solar system decor, along with those four massive auditoriums out in front (including an ear-rattling Dolby Cinema auditorium).
But, the lobby now has a heavily-packed concession stand, filled with hella soft-drink dispensers and snacks you can pick up yourself, and pay at the counter.
Serves Drinks: Yes, it has a bar.
Out of all the swanky dine-in theaters in this town, this one in River Oaks is indeed the swankiest.
The tickets are pricey, but you get to watch a flick (even those Netflix and Amazon Prime ones that come out a couple weeks before they hit streaming) in one of those reclining chairs while they serve you food. They even give you a blanket!
They’ve got a luxe restaurant and bar where you can have dinner before the movie. Even the bathrooms are glorious as hell!
Serves Drinks: Yes, they don't call it "wine & dine" for nothing.
Maybe it’s because I still remember the good ol’ days when this Downtown multiplex was an art-house staple.
It first opened as the Angelika Film Center & Cafe in 1997. Then, it became Sundance Cinemas in 2011. Now, it’s another fancy spot where you can order food and drinks while watching the latest Marvel movie.
If you live in, or near, the Downtown area and don’t want to venture far to see a movie, this Bayou Place movie house is your best bet.
Serves Drinks: Yes, it has a bar.
If you do want to venture all the way out to see a movie, put a bunch of gas in your car and head over to this hipstery movie haven in Katy. Coming from the Austin-based chain of dine-in multiplexes, this cinema has a bar filled with a bevy of beers on tap. As for the movies, along with showing new releases, they also have special screenings of beloved films where you can sing along, have a special-menu brunch during it, or just have a good ol’ movie party.
Serves Drinks: You already know.
I just have to give a shout-out to Houston's fine arts museum, and its Brown Auditorium for still keeping repertory programming alive and well in this town. While the aforementioned spots hit us with the latest studio releases, the MFAH screens classic films, foreign flicks and other offbeat selections, either digitally or on good ol’ 35mm film.
And since the museum recently opened up the Lynn Wyatt Theater, there are now two auditoriums ready to unspool cinematic gold.