With theaters near me officially reopened, most at full capacity, myself, along with others are flooding back to the movies. While I’ve been to a few larger movie theaters near me post-pandemic, (AMC and Regal), there’s nothing like a neighborhood cinema. I traveled back to my hometown of Doylestown, Pennsylvania to get the ultimate movie theater experience at The County Theater. It is a staple of the small town I’m from and is literally everything you’d want in a movie theater.
I was looking for films near me, and saw that my favorite theatre had reopened. I took my sister along to go see Jaws at The County Theater for some good old sibling bonding time. She hadn’t been to a movie theater since 2019, so needless to say she was excited.
So, where is The County Theater located?
The County Theater is located in the Borough of Doylestown right in the heart of beautiful Bucks County. Doylestown is known for its specialty shops, exceptional dining, exquisite castles (yes castles), museums, and of course, The County Theater. In addition to their regular programming,
The County Theater is known for showing classic Hollywood films and showcasing local filmmakers.
The County Theater is accessible by bus, train, or car with the bus stop being located 1 block away from the theater, and the train being a 10 minute walk. While The County Theater does not have a parking lot, there is street parking throughout the town with time limits ranging from 3-10 hours. All of Doylestown’s specialty shops and restaurants are within a few blocks of the theater making it a very central spot. Located about an hour outside of Philadelphia and 2 hours from NYC, Doylestown and The County Theater make for a perfect day trip.
The County Theater history
In 1938, the new “state of the art” The County Theater replaced the Strand Theatre, which had been the first-ever real movie theater in town. When it originally opened, The County Theater became an instant success. Now, for nearly 90 years, this historic landmark has made movies an integral part of Doylestown.
The 1940s through the 1960s were the golden years for The County Theater, and it became an important town center and place to gather to watch on-screen Hollywood magic. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, television, big business, and multiplexes began to take over, and The County Theater started to slowly lose customers. By 1990, the theater was struggling, and they closed their doors for 6 months. They were open again for almost 2 years before closing to the public again – this time for 9 months.
After reopening in 1992, The County Theater was leased by a local film society that had been showing art films in Doylestown since the early 1980s. They rebranded and announced that they were now going to operate as a non-profit, community-based theater. The success was immediate and support came pouring in from the Doylestown community. People backed The County Theater financially and by volunteering their time.
In June of 1996, The County Theater launched a campaign to completely revamp the space, and were successful in meeting their financial goals. These major renovations took place in 1998, with brand new seats and screens being installed in each theater. A redesigned concession stand was built for the lobby and a new HVAC system was added. After all of these renovations, The County Theater held a grand re-opening event.
In 2009, The County Theater went through yet another renovation, this time the changes being mostly cosmetic.
It is very clear that The County Theater is no stranger to closing due to renovations or other circumstances. That’s why when the pandemic hit at the beginning of 2020, they were prepared for the worst and used this as an opportunity for yet another revamp.
The County Theater during the pandemic
In early 2020, The County Theater was forced to shutter its doors once again. Instead of simply closing, The County Theater took this as an opportunity to give itself the ultimate glow-up. The theater closed from April of 2020 to June of 2021 and reopened with new screens, renovated auditoriums, more comfortable seats, new bathrooms, and a brand new lobby. All of these enhancements were implemented to make the movie-going experience more enjoyable.
The County Theater was completely transparent with their renovations, adding a livestream of the construction onto their website. The theater still has this livestream on their site, as there are still some smaller, ongoing upgrades.
The County Theater describes the renovations as ones that “maintain the historic aspects of the theater, while also incorporating the best modern amenities and technology.”
During the height of the pandemic, The County Theater hosted Virtual Theater Showing, where members of the theater could stream movies from local filmmakers. Half of all of the streaming sales went to supporting staff as well as into more building renovations.
After officially relaunching in June of 2021, The County Theater opened at 60% capacity. Masks are not required for individuals who are vaccinated, and the theater recommends those who are not vaccinated wear a mask. There are still Covid protocols in place, with touchless ticket options and enhanced cleaning complete with disinfection of common areas.
Before reopening, The County Theater’s founding director shared his excitement for the updated theater, saying “This kind of construction in a small downtown setting is disruptive, and we really appreciated all the support from neighbors, both businesses and residents.”
The County Theater posted a warm welcome back on their Instagram and announced the upcoming movie showings.
After the grand re-opening, The County Theater chose to play the Marilyn Monroe classic Some Like it Hot and gave followers a tidbit about the movie.
Why is the County Theater so special?
I grew up going to The County Theater so there is definitely a sense of nostalgia whenever I visit. However, even if it wasn’t my hometown theater, I know I would still love it just as much. The County Theater has always played such a perfect mix of new releases, classics, foreign films, and movies by local artists and filmmakers. They are 1 of the region’s best cinema destinations and they regularly host film discussion groups and lectures. As an avid film lover, I believe these types of theaters are so important, especially to small communities. Not only do they show all different types of films for movie lovers of all genres, they also foster discussions so that those interested can learn about art and filmmaking. You can watch all past film discussions from The County Theater here. The County Theater’s main goal is to educate the community about film while also being a charitable resource for arts and culture.
Many people in the Doylestown community support The County Theater by paying for a yearly membership, which comes with many perks. Members receive reduced admission, free admission to select events, family benefits, and tax-deductibility. The membership rates are extremely affordable, ranging from $50-$500 per year for an individual and $75-$1,000 for couples. The $1,000 option may seem like a lot, but that grants members free admission for 2 individuals at any showing, any time throughout the year.
While The County Theater plays most of the new movies hitting Hollywood, it’s their other events that make them so special. They typically show 3 “special movies” at a time, and this summer they decided to showcase their event “Hollywood Summer Nights” and play old movie classics like Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn, the Alfred Hitchcock classic North by NorthWest, and High Society with Fred Astaire.
Another summer movie event held by The County Theater is “Movies at the Mercer”. The Mercer Museum is a huge castle in the center of Doylestown, and once a month The County Theater hosts an outdoor screening of some of the best classics of all time. In July, they hosted Monty Python and The Holy Grail and on Thursday, August 19th they will play Jurassic Park.
There are so many events and movies to attend at The County Theater, it’s almost hard to choose which to go to. Visit their website to see all showtimes and events.
My experience at The County Theater
My sister and I decided to see the classic film Jaws on a Sunday afternoon at 4:00pm. This was our first time at the theater after the renovations. As we approached, we could spot The County Theater from a mile away because of the bright blue and yellow colors on the exterior.
The County Theater was crowded, but there was essentially no wait. We bought our tickets virtually, so we did not need to go to the ticket window. The inside was expanded and looked completely different than it did before. The lobby used to be small and dark (yet still charming), but when I walked through the doors this time, the lobby was completely opened up with huge windows, and a brand new concession stand. The food choices are typical with soda, popcorn, and candy on the menu. Though they also offer soft pretzels as an added bonus. My sister and I got popcorn and drinks and made our way to the theater.
The movie theater seats were brand new and very comfortable. My sister and I decided to sit in the middle of the theater (aka the best place to sit, IMO). It was the perfect amount of crowded, where I felt I was experiencing the movie with others, but also had ample amount of space.
Jaws was amazing to see in theaters, as always, and even though The County Theater was completely re-done, I still felt like the theater had the same heart. I left feeling refreshed and nostalgic for my childhood., and got to experience this feeling with my little sister by my side.
The County Theater is truly one of a kind and I feel honored that I grew up with it right here in my hometown.
What people are saying about The County Theater
Many people are sharing their immense love for The County Theater. It even has a 5/5 rating on Facebook.
One reviewer on Google says:
“A Doylestown icon. They show popular films- old and new. It’s a great place to support the arts by seeing a movie (and grabbing dinner before nearby). I suspect it’ll look and be even better after the renovations – I can’t wait to see the big reveal!”
Another Google reviewer praises the vintage theater:
“The County Theater is a great vintage movie theater that takes me back to when I saw my first movie on the big screen (the original Star Wars in 1977). It is well maintained and runs smaller budget movies that generally rely more on story line and less on special effects. If you want an experience of what it was like to go to a movie before the age of mega cineplexes then you should make the time to go here.”
The future of The County Theater
While The County Theater may not need any more renovations for the time being, they always rely on their members and visitors as a crucial part of their projects. Being a non-profit, members of the community are what keeps this theater-going and The County Theater appreciates each and every one of its supporters. If you’re interested in donating, visit their website, where you can also see how your donations can make an impact.
If you believe in the power of film, The County Theater is the perfect place for you. For a list of all coming attractions, visit The County Theater website.
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