Film is part of Philly’s arts culture, with film festivals, movie nights, and free film showings popping up around the city. In fact, Philadelphia is brimming with venues that offer indie films, mainstream movies, and cult classics year-round. If you’re a film lover, here are the top places to see and visit and things to do in Philadelphia.
Located in Chinatown, the Trocadero Theatre is one of the most historic theaters in the city. It was refurbished to run as an art house cinema in the 1970s. During the 1990s, it became a renowned venue for rock concerts. Today, the “Troc” still puts on events for film lovers. They run “Movie Monday,” a weekly event that screens films for only $3. While the venue typically hosts concerts, on movie nights, they set up rows of chairs where the audience usually stands. Their top balcony opens up for movie-goers, who can watch the film on the projector screen.
Trocadero Theatre, 1003 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA, USA, +1 215 922 6888
Film lovers who also like a good cup of coffee tend to love this movie-themed café. The owner was a film student at a local university and the former owner of a small chain of rental stores. Now, CineMug is run as a full-service café while renting out their large movie collection. Movie posters done by local artists adorn the walls, and the coffee and pastries are all sourced locally as well. Guests might sip their coffee on a film-reel tabletop, or catch a movie during their film nights.
CineMug, 1607 S Broad St, Philadelphia, PA, USA, +1 267 314 5936
One of a series of theaters in Philadelphia, the Ritz Five is the place to see films in Center City. Visitors will find a selection of documentaries, indie films, and foreign movies. It’s a Philly institution and is known for being one of the first places to bring art house films to this city. The entire experience here feels like a boutique establishment, with a small snack bar and screening rooms. The décor is clean-cut and minimalistic and appeals to a diverse group of movie-goers. The crowds at Ritz Five are usually those who appreciate the artistic side of film and want to see something powerful.
Ritz Five, 214 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA, USA, +1 215 440 1184
One of Philly’s most famous museums is also a destination for film enthusiasts. In the movie Rocky, the main character was filmed running up and down the art museum steps. Today, visitors from all over the world come to recreate the scene, with people lining the bottom of the steps while holding their cell phones in the air as their friends run up the flight of stairs. There’s also a Rocky statue next to the museum where tourists have their photo taken.
This popular Italian restaurant was a filming location for the Rocky movies. Most Philadelphia film tours will stop by Victor Cafe and recount its history on the big screen. It’s worth a visit for the food and the photo opportunities. The serving staff is mostly made up of singers who break out into opera-themed songs. Dining here is a theatrical experience in itself.
Victor Cafe, 1303 Dickinson St, Philadelphia, PA, USA, +1 215 468 3040
This festival shows off Israeli films with the aim of enriching the American vision of Israel. Every year, a selection of feature films and documentaries, along with comedies and dramas, are chosen for the Philadelphia audience. The festival, which hopes to both inform and educate, normally takes place in March, and films are usually screened in theaters like Ritz East, Gratz College, Kimmel Center, and Bryn Mawr Film Institute. Many Americans relate Israel to war, but through film, the festival tries to show how multifaceted the country is.
Philadelphia’s largest film festival takes place every year in October. It lasts for 11 days during which thousands of film lovers and filmmakers gather. Some of the world’s most prestigious films are screened around the city, and there are also exclusive events with industry guests, directors, and actors. Part of the mission is to feature films from directors who have been underrepresented historically.
The festival showcases local Philly films, international films, throwback movies and quizzo (trivia game), and showings at some of Philly’s most fascinating theaters. They also offer free movie screenings in neighborhoods across the city, as well as pop-up events throughout the festival.