Adventurous movie lovers trekking to our treasured national parks can trade big skies for big screens with trips to nearby art house gems. In National Parks, Volume 1, we focus our lens on the Northwest with three art house-national park pairings.
Yellowstone National Park, WY + Art House Cinema and Pub, Billings, MT
Driving from Billings you will be able to easily access the park’s North Entrance (90-W to 89-S) or East Entrance (90-W to 310-E to 120-E to Highway 20). Use the North Entrance to visit Mammoth Hot Springs and enjoy the Boiling River thermal soaking area. Use the East Entrance to visit Yellowstone Lake, formed by volcanic eruptions, and the Hayden and Pelican Valleys.
Art House Cinema and Pub was established as a non-profit by Billings native Matt Blakeslee, who worked with local architects to convert an old downtown bowling alley into a single-screen cinema with room for future expansion. Serving craft beers on tap and specialty sodas alongside art house new releases and select rep screenings, Art House Cinema and Pub is the perfect place to relax before or after your Yellowstone expedition.
Opened in 2015, Art House’s first house seats 80 and features at least two new release films each week plus special events. Having been quickly embraced by the Billings community, Art House is also fundraising to support plans for two additional screens, more space for food and drink, plus new programs to support education and community engagement.
In addition to their dedicated home, Art House manages The Babcock Theatre, a 750-seat historic theatre built in downtown Billings in 1907. The Babcock has had a storied history, with the latest chapter starting in 2018 when the City of Billings purchased the property and awarded stewardship to the Art House organization.
Glacier National Park, MT + The Roxy Theater, Missoula, MT
The site of over 700 trails, alpine forests, and over 130 lakes, Glacier National Park is a stunning destination for camping, hiking, and nature photography. Driving north from Missoula (93-N to US-2) will take you to West Glacier and the West Lake and Apgar Ranger Stations adjacent to Lake McDonald — a lake created by glacial carving.
The college town of Missoula will offer the perfect beginning or end to a visit to Glacier National Park, and the Roxy is located in the heart of downtown. Sitting beneath a terrific art deco marquee, The Roxy has fully embraced its natural surroundings, with a mission “to inspire, educate and engage diverse audiences about the natural and human worlds through cinematic and cultural events.” In addition to year-round programming featuring new releases and classic films, the Roxy also hosts two annual film festivals: International Wildlife Film Festival (IWFF) and the Montana Film Festival.
The Roxy originally opened in 1937 and operated until 1994 when a fire destroyed the theater. Having started in 1977 at the University of Montana, IWFF purchased the building to make the Roxy its home. The re-birthed Roxy launched year-round programming in 2013 and now features three screens with both state-of-the-art digital cinema and 35mm film projection.
Olympic National Park, WA + Rose Theatre, Port Townsend, WA
Located on the coast of Washington sits Olympic National Park, a lush, coastal wilderness. The park is just one hour west of the small city of Port Townsend, the site of Victorian Seaport architecture and the Rose Theatre.
To access Olympic National Park from Port Townsend head west (20-W to 101-W) and to gain direct access to the Olympic National Park Visitor Center and Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. Hurricane Ridge is the most accessible mountain area in the park, from there you can access campgrounds at Deer Park and in the Elwha Valley. Before your visit, check for road closures and restoration projects and to learn about the park’s other incredible ecosystems: subalpine forest and wildflower meadow, temperate forest, and the rugged Pacific coast.
The beautiful Port Townsend offers a perfect addition to the trip — visit the downtown waterfront, cafes and restaurants before heading to a screening at the Rose Theatre.
Opened as a vaudeville house in 1907, the Rose followed a similar route of many live theaters, eventually transitioning to film. The Rose has screened films from the silent era to the talkies to being Port Townsend’s treasured art house home today, with three screens, local beers on tap, and each show personally introduced by a Rose host.
Andy Brodie is a writer and film worker based in Brooklyn, New York. An Iowa native, he co-founded both FilmScene in Iowa City, and the Des Moines Film Society. He is also founder and programmer of Short Order, a short film series presented with Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.