Beer & the BIG SCREEN

Local theaters offer blockbuster brews


To movie buffs, summer means spending hours in the cool darkness of a theater watching spectacular explosions, breathtaking car chases and deeds of derring do. If said buff also happens to be a craft beer aficionado, there are several theater choices and even some national chains that cater to your craving for hops along with your popcorn.

The San Marco Theatre & Grill in quaint San Marco Square was built in 1938 from drawings by architect Roy Benjamin, who also designed The Florida Theatre and the building Sun-Ray Cinema occupies. In 1997, Dave and Sue Blue took over the aging art deco movie house and gave it a much-needed renovation. Along with new seats, screen and sound system, the Blues added amenities that were somewhat innovative at the time–most important, draft beer.

Today the theater is a popular place to escape the summer swelter and catch a flick while sipping a cold one. They offer several national brands along with local craft brews on tap. Beer, served by the glass or pitcher, is available at prices well below what you’d expect.

If the San Marco Theatre’s history was somewhat subdued, the Sun-Ray Cinema’s was, well, checkered. The theater began life as the anchor of 5 Points in 1927. At the time, the theater, known as the Riverside Theatre, showed only silent films. Later that year, it became the area’s first to feature the technological marvel of sound with the opening of The Jazz Singer.

Over the years, the theater underwent several name changes and usages. In 1949, the movie palace was remodeled and renamed 5 Points Theatre. That name stuck until it closed in 1977. From 1984 to 1991 the space housed a theater troupe and was known as the River City Playhouse. In 1991, the building was converted into Club 5, a popular nightclub that gained fame for its raunchy “Saturday Night Seduction.” After the nightclub closed in 2001, the theater remained empty until 2008 when local car dealer Mike Shad purchased the space and converted it back to a movie theater. The final name change to Sun-Ray Cinema took place in November 2011, when current owners Tim Massett and Shana David-Massett purchased the space, giving way to a hipster vibe that fits perfectly with the trendy neighborhood.

Like San Marco Theatre, Sun-Ray offers a full menu that includes pizzas, salads, sandwiches and, of course, beer. The beer selection is eclectic and gloriously hip. On draft, fan boys and girls can find reasonably-priced Bold City and Intuition brews by the glass or the pitcher. In bottles or cans, movie mavens can choose from hipster favorites like Pabst Blue Ribbon, Narragansett and Rolling Rock singles or buckets of five. And for the truly adventurous, Sun-Ray serves a beer shake made with ice cream and stout.

In recent years, Jacksonville’s mega theater chains have jumped on the bandwagon and begun serving suds and mixed drinks. AMC features bars called McGuffin’s after a word coined by Alfred Hitchcock, which feature national and craft beers. Regal and Cinemark Theaters also have extensive beer lists.

So this summer, enjoy delicious air conditioning, a great movie and some tasty crafts.

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