The AFI Silver illustrated by Matt Hood, a detail from his Silver Spring Poster, available at

AFI Silver Theatre

“Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theater.” – Director Roman Polanski

The thing about the AFI Silver Theatre, especially Auditorium No. 1, is that the theater is so beautiful, you forget you’re at the cinema (except, of course, for that huge screen at the front of the room!)

The AFI Silver is an architectural and cultural highlight of Downtown Silver Spring, and its renaissance has been a major driver of redevelopment and re-investment in downtown since the early 2000s. The original Silver Theatre opened on September 15, 1938, its Art Deco and Art Moderne architecture the work of famed theater designer John Eberson. He embraced a nautical theme, and the theater’s grand, vertical sign was meant to evoke a ship’s mast.

By the early 1980s, the theater’s owners were resisting public calls for the historical preservation of the building. Undoubtedly, such designation would require extra investment on their part. Instead, they opted to start demolition and even vandalized their own property when objections were raised. Concerned Silver Springers rushed to stop the wrecking ball, and in 1984 the county ordered demolition to cease. The owners boarded the facade, and the theater’s future was uncertain. The Art Deco Society of Washington led a 19-year effort to save the theater, and in 1998 Montgomery County government convinced the American Film Institute to relocate their national headquarters from the Kennedy Center in D.C. to a renovated Silver Theatre in Downtown Silver Spring.

Renovation and rehabilitation of the site began in 2001, and the $20 million price tag was paid entirely by Montgomery County. (Our MoCo tax dollars have certainly been spent on less worthy endeavors.) In April 2003, the AFI Silver reopened with a gala attended by Clint Eastwood. Since that time, the theater and the AFI have been dedicated to providing the best of American and foreign films with state-of-the-art technologies.

For showtimes and tickets visit: Auditorium No. 1 is the third largest screen in the entire DC Metro area. And the beautifully restored Art Deco decor puts the theater in a class all its own.

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