- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 26, 2000

Visions, the District's first combination cinema-bistro offering art, foreign and independent feature films, opened Friday.

Films featured this weekend in the two small movie houses at the site of the old Cineplex Odeon Embassy Theatre at 1927 Florida Ave. NW are representative of those the venture's partners hope will draw moviegoers once faithful to the old Circle, Key and Biograph theaters.

The opening of Visions' restaurant and lounge was uncertain at press time, but owners said they expected to be serving breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Monday. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and after-theater drinks and snacks are planned daily in a bistro and bar that will close at 1 a.m. weekends.

Three movies will run the first week, manager Will Skolochenko, says. He dubs the debut the "Catch-Up Festival, because basically we are catching up on the independent and foreign films that haven't been seen in the Washington area or else were seen only on a limited basis."

Initial offerings are "La "Ciudad" (showing today and tomorrow at 3, 7:15 and 9:45 p.m.), "West Beirut" (2:30, 5 and 7:35 p.m. both days) and "Rosetta" (5:10 and 9:30 p.m. both days). These movies will run through Thursday.

The Catch-Up Festival is scheduled through Sept. 21. The second week, the theater will screen "The War Zone," "Hands on a Hard Body" and "Late August, Early September." Scheduled the next week are "The Idiot," "Carla's Song" and "Kadosh." A gala is set for Sept. 14, with no movies. Beginning Sept. 15, "Not of This World" and "Show Me Love" will play.

Ticket prices are competitive with those at regular first-run cinemas in the area: $8 for most seats and $10 for special balcony seating in the larger of the two movie houses. The smaller room seats slightly more than 100 movie patrons; the larger seats 200. The second house eventually will show first-run art films, says Andrew Frank, the owner of Sirius Coffee Co., who is Visions' president.

A reduction of $2 is available for students and seniors. Parking in an adjacent building costs $5.

The Visions project, budgeted at $2 million, has been financed locally. Founding memberships, priced between $250 and $2,000, were sold to about 500 supporters. The box office is open one hour before show time.

The owners expect eventually to sell tickets over the Web as well at the box office. Tickets for the gala cost $20 in advance and $30 at the door.

Visions' brochure, circulated in the spring, promised a "thematic repertory calendar." It also said the cinema would offer features by local filmmakers, lectures series, film discussion groups and midnight cult classics on weekends. Silent films are to be shown regularly in the lounge.

"We want it to be a fun place," Mr. Frank told a gathering at Politics & Prose Bookstore and Coffeehouse in March. "We want you to think a little differently about how you go see a film. Which means you can actually have dinner, watch a film, then come out and have a nightcap and talk about the film.

"We want a film to be looked at as an art form, something that is about ideas. When you are done watching, you don't go home, you can sit down and deconstruct what you saw. And that is what makes it fun."

Visions' Web site is www.VisionsDC.com. Interested parties also may call 202/667-0090 for an update and more information.

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