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At Z Movies: The Suns (Cinema) Also Rises

The après screening mis-en-scène at Suns Cinema. (Photo by Kelly MacConomy).

The Suns (Cinema) Also Rises

By Kelly MacConomy

In what was once a phone store housed in a Mt. Pleasant row house, just north of Adams Morgan, you’ll find the boutique theater Suns Cinema. Featured in Washingtonian Magazine as spotlighting what’s hot for the DMV in 2018, Suns Cinema has been screening independent and classic films and video since 2016.

Suns Cinema’s owners are David Cabrera, an Alexandria native, and Ryan Hunter Mitchell who shared a vision of bringing alternative film to the eclectic arts scene at the intersection of 18th Street and Columbia Road, NW, in D.C.’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood.

The idea behind Suns Cinema came from what was previously known in the hood as “Uncle David’s Film Nights”: progressive film screenings, with sofa, armchairs and floor seating, and drinks with a nosh, hosted in different people’s digs and going long into the night. Raising funds for the theater was jumpstarted by selling Suns Cinema-design canvas tote bags and frame-worthy art posters created by graphic designer Dana Beierle.

The holiday Wookie brought cinematic cheer to movie buffs at Suns Cinema. (Photo by Kelly MacConomy).

David and Ryan then launched a Kickstarter campaign that brought in $16,149 from some 300 people in 30 days. Tempted by Saturday morning cartoons and pop-up indie screenings in a dive bar setting, fans not only pitched in but they also came in – online, IRL, waitlisted, and BSO (bar stool only) – in droves.

Suns Cinema opened in May 2016 with Moonwalk One, a long-forgotten 1970 documentary about the Apollo 11 moon mission. Moonwalk One was discovered and restored in 2009.

Each December, Suns offers holiday classics: It’s a Wonderful Life, The Thin Man, The Shop Around the Corner, A Christmas Story and more contemporary cult faves, from Elf, Home Alone, Die Hard and Lethal Weapon to the more esoteric The Star Wars Holiday Special, Alf’s Special Christmas & a Claymation Christmas Celebration, and the Yule Log Happy Hour screening of the iconic Yule Log Christmas Eve television broadcast, while serving eggnog-y and seasonal specialty drinks all night long.

The new year began with a month-long animal theme: The Crow, Best in Show (sold out), To Kill a Mockingbird (sold out), Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

The full-size “Fragile” lamp from the holiday classic “A Christmas Story” decks the hall. (Photo by Kelly MacConomy).

Suns Cinema rolls out the red carpet for you, right up the steps to the door, revealing a droll interior furnished with a hodge-podge of seating options including a repurposed church pew and velvet settees

The recent holiday’s decor centered on the iconic A Christmas Story “Fragile” leg lamp surrounded by festive wrapped boxes, which stood in for a Christmas tree. A life-sized Chewbacca in a Santa hat took up an entire wall.

Suns’ full bar serves modestly-priced libations and tongue-in-cheek TV dinner food with $3 popcorn. Vintage Scalamandre scarlet wallpaper with zebras frolicking over the barkeep’s shoulder is stunning. An Imperial Stormtrooper chandelier adds filmtique cachet for any Lucas fanmaniac.

This funky mashup cinebar is making a name as a hot après anything place to be and be seen. Lazy Omakase nights, held on select Thursdays each month, came about when celebrated DC mixologist Adam Bernbach and Eddie Kim created the pop-up cocktail event inside Suns with a Mario Go Kart gaming/boozing at-home theme. It’s an homage to “hanging and shaking chez Adam” while playing video games.

Imperial Stormtrooper chandelier is décor nirvana for the cinephile! (Photo by Kelly MacConomy)

The Suns screen plays classic video games (hence “Lazy”) while guests imbibe specialty cocktails, subject to Bernbach’s whims. “Omakase” translates as “at the chef’s whim.” In December, Adam was “crushing on Chartreuse,” and cocktails

have gone green all winter. Bernbach plans two Lazy Omikase events for February.

Suns hosts themed cocktail-film pairings throughout the year, such as “Law & Order a Cocktail” and “Cocktails From the Crypt.” You can guess the appropriate film screenings.

On January 29, in partnership with The Memory Lab at DC Public Library and a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Suns Cinema held a screening of digitized VHS and mini DVD home movies submitted by the public, combined with archival footage from the library’s film vault. It was an evening with good memories and happily-ever-after endings for all.

David Cabrera tending bar while screening Raiders. (Photo by Kelly MacConomy)

Suns Cinema is more than an “if you build it, they will come” ambition realized. With sell-out crowds, and the cool kids coming, it’s cinecommunity verité. With champagne cocktail wishes and prancing zebra dreams.

The bar is open from 7:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m. on Sunday) until 3:00 a.m. daily. Admission for films is $10.00, but you must be 21 or over. Get there early for your choice of seating. Tickets may be purchased online or at the door. Most shows sell out well in advance. For showtimes go to 

Come for the films. Stay for the cachet. You will thank us later!

Kelly MacConomy

Kelly MacConomy is the Arts Editor for The Zebra Press.

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