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9 Must-See Independent Theatres in Vancouver

9 Must-See Independent Theatres in Vancouver

If you’re looking for exciting and thought-provoking theatre experiences, check out Vancouver’s independent theatre scene. It has incredible venues that showcase raw talent, innovative productions, and passionate storytelling. 

This curated guide will help you discover nine must-see independent theatres in Vancouver. Whether you’re a theatre enthusiast or just looking for something new, read on to start a theatrical adventure in this city.

1. Rio Theatre


Address: 1660 E Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5N 1W1, Canada

Contact details: 604-879-3456

Operating hours: 5:30 PM to 11:00 PM

Opened in 1938, the Rio Theatre is a fully restored Art Deco gem with a digital projector, surround sound, a vast stage, and over 420 plush seats. It showcases arthouse, mainstream, cult-classic films, live music, comedy shows, and burlesque performances.

The theater champions independent filmmakers and artists and is crucial to Vancouver’s vibrant cultural scene. Further, the Art Deco architecture, warm ambiance, and enthusiastic staff contribute to a one-of-a-kind experience.

Pro tip:
Avail of the Groovy Movie Membership, which will give you discounts on tickets, free popcorn and soda refills, and support the theatre. Make sure to catch a cult classic or live show and enjoy something you wouldn’t find at mainstream cinemas.

2. Dunbar Theatre


Address: 4555 Dunbar St, Vancouver, BC V6S 2G7, Canada

Contact details: 604-222-2991

Operating hours: 2:00 PM to 12:00 AM, 1:00 PM to 12:00 AM

The Dunbar Theatre is one of the last remaining neighborhood theatres in Vancouver and is an important social gathering place for the community. It shows a mix of mainstream, independent, and foreign films and hosts special events and film festivals.

The Dunbar Theatre in Vancouver was built in 1935 and is easily recognizable with its vertical “DUNBAR” sign. The interior features a classic Art Deco design, comfortable seating, and a concessions stand.

Pro tip:
Arrive early for popular screenings, as the theater has limited seating. It’s a great place to catch a classic film, see a new indie release, or enjoy the nostalgic atmosphere.

3. Fifth Avenue Cineplex


Address: 2110 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC V6J 3H6

Contact details: 604-734-7469

Fifth Avenue Cineplex caters to independent and foreign films, arthouse, documentaries, and international releases. Here, you can watch screenings of older movies and cult classics in an intimate setting. 

The Cineplex has only four screens and a total capacity of around 400 seats. The theatre fosters community among cinephiles with special events, discussions, and Q&A sessions with filmmakers.

Pro tip:
New films arrive frequently, so watch their website or social media to see what’s playing and snag tickets in advance for popular screenings.

Take a chance on a film you wouldn’t usually watch, and you might discover your next favorite genre.

4. The Cinematheque


Address: 1131 Howe Street, Vancouver, BC V6Z 1N9

Contact details: 604-688-3456

The Cinematheque, established in 1972, is a non-profit film institute and media education center dedicated to preserving and showcasing the art and history of cinema. It focuses on independent, international, classic, and arthouse films.

The 153-seat theater champions Canadian cinema alongside globally acclaimed works, providing a unique perspective. They also hold workshops, lectures, and discussions to provide opportunities to delve deeper into filmmaking and film analysis.

Pro tip:
Before or after your movie, explore their Film Reference Library of film-related books, periodicals, and archival materials. You can also become a member and get discounts, priority booking, and invitations to exclusive events. 

5. Vancouver International Film Centre


Address: 1181 Seymour St, Vancouver, BC V6B 3M7, Canada

Contact details: 604-683-3456

Operating hours: 1:00 PM to 9:30 PM

The Vancouver International Film Centre boasts two theatres – the 175-seat Vancity Theatre and the more intimate 41-seat Studio Theatre. Both offer state-of-the-art sound and projection systems.

While it serves as the headquarters for the renowned Vancouver International Film Festival, the VIFF Centre also offers year-round programming of independent, foreign, classic, and documentary films, educational workshops, talks, and special events.

Pro tip:
Attend a Q&A with a filmmaker, participate in a discussion, or explore the media lab showcasing new media projects. The VIFF Centre is also a platform for learning, engagement, and celebrating the art of film.

6. Silver City Riverport Cinemas


Address: 555 Riverport Road, Richmond, BC V6X 3P2, Canada

Contact details: 604-279-3900

The Silver City Riverport Cinemas is a modern multiplex theatre offering a mix of mainstream Hollywood blockbusters and independent releases. Here, you can immerse yourself in the action with the larger-than-life IMAX screen and powerful sound system.

They also have standard theatres, D-BOX motion seats for an extra dynamic experience, and VIP auditoriums. The theatre is fully accessible, with wheelchair seating and assisted listening devices available.

Pro tip:
SilverCity often hosts special events like sing-alongs or marathons, so browse their website to see what’s happening during your visit. If you want a more luxurious night out, splurge on the VIP auditoriums for ultimate comfort and service.

7. OMNIMAX Theatre


Address: 555 Riverport Road, Richmond, BC V6X 3P2, Canada

Contact details: 604-279-3900

The OMNIMAX Theatre at Science World features an 86-foot domed screen that wraps around the audience. It also has a powerful 40-speaker sound system that creates a realistic and immersive soundscape.

The OMNIMAX Theatre shows a variety of educational films, documentaries, and Hollywood blockbusters. The theater is also located in Science World, a science center home to various exhibits and activities you can visit before or after the film. 

Pro tip:
If you are prone to motion sickness, sit in the middle of the theater, as the screen is less curved.

8. Hollywood Theatre


Address: 3123 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC V6L 1Z2

Contact details: 604-684-0222

Operating hours: 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM

The Hollywood Theatre, built in 1935, boasts stunning Art Deco architecture with neon signs. Today, the theatre has been reimagined as a multi-purpose venue that hosts movies, concerts, comedy shows, and dance events.

The Hollywood Theatre curates an eclectic selection of independent films, cult classics and themed events like “Drive Away Dolls” or vintage Barbie horror movies. It’s also known for its commitment to providing accessible arts and entertainment experiences. 

Pro tip:
Try stepping outside your comfort zone and exploring independent films, live shows, or special events. They also have a lovely bar and concession stand offering snacks and drinks, making it a complete entertainment experience. 

9. Cineplex Odeon International Village


Address: 88 West Pender Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 1R1, Canada

Contact details: 604-685-5374

The Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas is located in Vancouver’s Chinatown neighborhood within the International Village mall. It features 10 screens and offers a mix of mainstream, independent, foreign, and arthouse films.

They boast comfortable seating and a concession stand with typical movie snacks and drinks. If you’re looking for something beyond the usual Hollywood fare, this theater is a good choice, and they also host film festivals and special screenings.

Pro tip:
The International Village Mall offers free parking for moviegoers. Before or after your movie, you can immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and flavors of Vancouver’s diverse Chinatown.