The United States is known around the world as a land of opportunity, of freedom, independence, and entrepreneurship. It is a land of enjoyment, abundance, and making dreams into a reality.
It is also known as the movie capital of the world. And if all that other stuff fails, hey, at least someone can make a movie about it.
But right now in the U.S., we are in a bit of a movie off-time. The summer blockbuster season has ended, the holiday flicks have yet to be released, and movie buffs all over the county are twiddling their thumbs, waiting for the next big thing (I hear “Captain Phillips” is going to be awesome.)
So while we’re waiting for that next slew of awesome movies—because, rest assured, there are movie nerds galore here at Movoto Real Estate—we’ve decided to entertain you with today’s top 10 cities for movie lovers.
So, without further ado, may we present the nominees for Best U.S. Cities for Movie Lovers:
- Portland, OR
- San Francisco, CA
- Atlanta, GA
- Las Vegas, NV
- Pittsburgh, PA
- Minneapolis, MN
- Rochester, NY
- Orlando, FL
- Seattle, WA
- Cincinnati, OH
What in the Hanks is Portland doing at No. 1? And why didn’t L.A. make it “Big” on our list? Butter your popcorn and get comfortable, folks, because in the next sections, we’ll “Splash” right into how we came up with our list.
(Did I mention I’m excited about “Captain Phillips”?)
How We Judged It
Just like our other Big Deal Lists, I didn’t just go arbitrarily nominating cities for the Best in the U.S.; I actually had eight specific criteria—seemingly, unlike last year’s Oscars committee—zing! I looked at each of the 100 most populous cities in the U.S. in terms of these criteria:
- Movie theaters per capita
- Video rental stores per capita
- Number of indie theaters per capita
- Number of annual film festivals
- Number of film/cinema museums
- Number of film societies per capita
- Number of drive-in theaters per capita
- Bonus points for specialty theaters per capita
Each city was ranked from 1 to 100 based on these criteria, with 1 being the best and 100 being the worst for our movie lovers. The results were then totaled, averaged, ranked, weighed (more weight was given to number of specialty theaters, for example), then stuck in a super-secret envelope, delivered to Movoto headquarters by a guarded car, and read aloud from behind a podium to an office with bated breath.
But for more accurate information on how we come up with our Big Deal Lists, check out this page.
Director’s Notes: Much of the data in this masterpiece ranking was sourced from the review site Yelp—movie theaters, video stores, indie theaters, and film museums, for instance. The rest I gathered from various websites such as Wikipedia, the Alamo Drafthouse site, and something called Google. But more on these details in the final cut—first, grab some popcorn and get settled in for a behind-the-scenes look at these criteria.
Movie Theaters: Kind of Important HereThis was the obvious first criteria in making the list, because, what is a movie-lover to do without a movie theater? I suppose a real movie-lover would build his or her own private viewing room—then perhaps barricade themselves in there for years, stop shaving, refuse to see family or friends. For people like you and me, though, there are theaters to see movies (like “The Aviator”!).
The No. 1 city for movie theaters per capita was San Francisco, closely followed by Atlanta and Cincinnati. In last place in this category, though, was Toledo, OH, with just two movie theaters for their entire population of over 280,000. But hey, maybe they just have two really, really big theaters?
There Are Still Video Rental Stores?
Yes, believe it or not there are still video rental stores, and more shocking still is that people still use them. Sadly, the data for which people are running off to Hollywood Video or Blockbuster at 10 p.m. was unavailable, but the number of such stores per capita was.
In first place was the home of the most magical place on earth, and apparently video stores, Orlando, FL, followed by Hialeah, FL, and then Las Vegas, NV. The cities with the least video rentals per capita were Winston-Salem, Lexington/Fayette County, KY, and St. Paul City, MN. But what about those movie lovers for whom video stores and regular theaters are old hat?
Indie TheatersFor those out there who scoff at all things big-budget and Hollywood and who find art only in the independent film as seen through their thick-framed glasses, this category is for you. I found the number of “indie” movie theaters per capita, and the results might just blow your ironic socks right off. Coming in first in this category was Anaheim, CA with 17 indie theaters for their comparatively small population of just over 340,000 people. Compare that to, say, New York City, NY, which has a lot more indie theaters (54), but also has a few more people (over eight million).
A handful of cities tied for last in this category with a variety of exactly zero independent theaters to choose from—Wichita, Baton Rouge, and Toledo, for example. But maybe they’ll make up for it in their number of film festivals per year?
Film Festivals: Few and Far Between
For this criterion, I used Wikipedia’s list of North American Film Festivals, and found… well, not a lot—which might explain why the ones that do go on are such a big deal. The majority of these 100 cities had zero to one film festivals in this category, but then there were the big players, like New York (11), Los Angeles (10), and San Francisco (8).
Because of their ridiculous large populations, though, New York and Los Angeles lost points, which bumped San Francisco to No. 1 for annual film festivals per capita. Portland, Washington, D.C., Denver, and Seattle also ranked highly here with four to five festivals per year.
Film Museums: Fewer and Further
At first I thought the number of film festivals among the most populous 100 cities in the U.S. was small—but then I started looking into film and cinema museums. Now those were the real needles in the haystack—”The Sound of Music” among musicals, the Ryan Gosling among meme-able actors, the… well, they were just rare. In fact, only 11 cities of the top 100 had any film museums at all, so I thought that those with more than one film museum, like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, with three, two, and two, respectively—would be the clear winners.
Again, New York and L.A.’s populations weighed in and bumped them down. After all, three film museums for over eight million people? That’s nothing when you look at Orlando, No. 1 here, with one film museum for just over 240,000 people, or Cleveland, No. 2, with a film museum for their population of just over 393,000 people. But what when checking out films in theaters or even museums is not quite enough?
I decided to include film societies per capita for those movie lovers who need to go above and beyond merely watching films. These are the true die-hard fans, or perhaps fans of “Die Hard”.
The top five in this category specifically were Pittsburgh, PA, Tampa, FL, Rochester, NY, Birmingham, AL, and Atlanta, GA, with one to two film societies for their relatively smaller city sizes. No surprise here, but Los Angeles has a whopping seven film societies. I guess all those actor/waiters need something to do while they’re waiting for their big break.
Drive-In TheatersRemember the days when a night out for a movie lover was to head to the drive-in, order some French fries and a milkshake, and sit back, relax, and watch the film? Well, I don’t either. But a select few cities in the U.S. still do this all the time.
Only 17 of the cities on our list even have drive-in theaters, and one, the clear winner of this category, actually has two: Riverside, CA. Some other cities that have drive-ins include Lubbock, TX, Wichita, KS, and, of course, Atlanta, GA, because apparently, they just have one of everything in Atlanta.
I know indie theaters are special, and I know drive-ins are a rarity; but there are certain theaters throughout the U.S. that are so very unique I just had to include them in the criteria. So for any cities with either an Alamo Drafthouse or otherwise equally awesome specialty theater, I awarded bonus points.
Austin, home of the Alamo Drafthouse and with four of such theaters, easily came in first in this category, with a surprising runner up: Lubbock, TX. Here’s the list of theaters I deemed as awesome enough to include in this category. Feel free to argue or applaud as you see fit.
- Multiple Cities: Alamo Drafthouse theaters
- New York: Film Forum and the Ziegfield
- Los Angeles: The Arclight, Chinese Theater, and the New Beverly
- San Francisco: The Castro
- Baltimore: The Senator
- Milwaukee: The Oriental
- Portland: Kennedy School
- Oakland: The New Parkway
- Cleveland: The Uptown
- Wichita: 21st Century Warren
And the Award Goes To…
When it was all shot, edited, spliced up, and pieced back together, the clear winner for Best City for Movie Lovers was Portland, OR. It has five film fests per year, a film museum, multiple film societies, tons of movie theaters, indie theaters, a drive-in theater, and is even home to the unique Kennedy School movie theater.
So while the Portland weather may drive you inside sometimes—okay, most of the time—at least it’s a great spot to sit back, relax, and watch a movie.
That’s a wrap.
Who is Movoto Real Estate, you might ask? Movoto is an online real estate brokerage based in San Mateo, CA. Our blog has been recognized for its unique approach to city-based research by major news organizations around the world such as Forbes and CBS News.