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How the President Watches Movies - The White House Family Theater

Posted on Thursday, October 1st, 2015 2:02 PM

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Ever wonder how the President of the United States gets to watch movies? It's not like he can just head out and walk to the Landmark E Street Cinema or drive to the Regal Gallery Place Stadium 14, grab some popcorn and drinks, and enjoy watching The Martian tonight with everyone else.

No, the President has his own home theater, and he's not relegated to waiting for whatever shows up in the Redbox nearby. The Family Theater is capable of projecting movies that haven't been released in theaters yet, as well as watching shows like The Pacific with some close friends (as we see in the photo below).

Photo of the White House Family TheaterPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks before a screening of "The Pacific" in the Family Theater
of the White House, March 11, 2010.  Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, the two executive producers of
"The Pacific", sit in the front row. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

With the construction of the East Wing in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had an East Terrace cloakroom converted into a movie theater. It contains 42 seats and can show movies, TV programs, and other events.

The White House's web site has just a single page about it, but there is a video featuring Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks done at the same time as the photo above. You don't get to see much of the theater, though.

An unofficial virtual museum site, White House Museum, has a page which documents the theater at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It contains photos showing several presidents not only enjoying movies and football games, but also rehearsing speeches, and documents the viewing preferences of some of our leaders, dating back to Dwight D. Eisenhower.

An article published in the Washingtonian in 2011 talks about the Family Theater and mentions how much Bill Clinton enjoyed it. He reportedly called it the best perk, even topping Air Force One.

In 2012, the White House Family Theater hosted a screening of To Kill a Mockingbird to celebrate the movie's 50th anniversary:

The Family Theater doesn't appear to be on the White House tour, so I'm just going to have to wait for an invite from the President and hope for the best.

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