6 Amazing Old Movie Theaters in Arizona to Escape to in the Dog Days of Summer

By Ellery Weil

August 7, 2023

With some of the most famous deserts in the United States, including the iconic Sonora Desert, it’s no secret that the Grand Canyon State is hot. Arizona is the ninth-hottest state in the US—a fact that Arizona residents won’t be surprised to hear (unless they’re arguing that it should be ranked higher). 

While swimming pools and other outdoor adventures may be summertime staples, another surefire way to beat the heat is to stay inside and enjoy the silver screen.

Now, want to take your movie experience to the next level? While going to the movies is always a fun time out, some of Arizona’s most iconic theaters go a step beyond. Whether you’re looking to enjoy a vintage classic film or see the latest summer blockbuster, here are some of Arizona’s wildest, most iconic, and just plain fun movie theaters—popcorn optional. 

Saguaro Theater

176 E. Wickenburg Way, Wickenburg

Say “Howdy” to a cinematic slice of the Old West at the Saguaro Theater. Located in Wickenburg, the town known as the “Team Roping Capital of the World,” the Saguaro opened in 1948 and has been showing first-run films as Wickenburg’s only movie theater ever since. 

Today, you can swing by the Saguaro to enjoy a new release in their updated, air-conditioned theater—which still retains its vintage look and feel—or stop by for one of the classic Westerns they regularly show.

Pollack Tempe Cinemas

1825 E. Elliot Road, Tempe

Even during a matinee, you’re likely to find a crowd in the lobby of the Pollack Tempe Cinemas. A crowd of movie characters, that is. This modern multiplex in Tempe may look like any other theater from the outside, but step inside this summer and you’ll find retro, neon decor, plus life-size figures from films like Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean. 

Pollack Tempe is a budget theater, which means they keep their prices low—sometimes as little as $3.50 for a ticket—by showing films a few weeks after their initial release date. It’s perfect for catching up on something you missed and not breaking the bank in the process.

West Wind Glendale 9 Drive-In

5650 N. 56th Ave., Glendale

Torn between a night at the movies or one under the stars? Why not both? The West Wind Glendale 9 Drive-In Movie Theater is a classic drive-in theater where you can watch first-run movies from the comfort of your car under an Arizona summer sky. Located in Glendale, just a short drive from Phoenix, this theater offers an experience you won’t get elsewhere. Consider packing a picnic for dinner with a movie by moonlight.

Roxy Theater

153 W. Hopi Drive, Holbrook

The classic musical “Guys and Dolls” may have asked “What’s playing at the Roxy?” in New York City, but Arizonans can answer that question at the Roxy Theater in Holbrook, the only operating movie theater in Arizona located on the famous, historic Route 66. This intimate theater with charming hand-painted signage inside and an old-school marquee out front opened in 1954. Following a renovation in the 1990s, the theater has been serving Holbrook locals and visitors with 290 seats and family-friendly films.

Roadhouse Cinema Scottsdale

9090 E. Talking Stick Way, Scottsdale

At Scottsdale’s Roadhouse Cinema, it’s not just the movie that immerses you, it’s the atmosphere. This modern multiplex offers a “dine-in” theater experience with its own on-site saloon. You can enjoy burgers, pizza, and classic Arizona Tex-Mex eats from the comfort of your movie seat. 

Or, to extend your evening, enjoy the Roadhouse’s in-house saloon, complete with palm trees and a water tower outside, as a place to relax with drinks and snacks before or after your feature. This theater originally opened in 1989 as the United Artists Scottsdale Pavilions 11. 

Willcox Historic Theater

134 N. Railroad Ave., Willcox

For a movie theater with more than just movies, consider the Willcox Historic Theater and arts center. Alongside a creative studio with arts and STEAM workshops for all ages, the Willcox shows first-run movies in a historic setting. The theater also offers rewards clubs for kids and adults alike, as well as classes ranging from children’s robotics to violin lessons, making this small-town historic desert theater more than just a place to enjoy a movie, but a community hub.

READ MORE: 4 Farm-to-Table Restaurants to Check Out in Tucson This Summer

Author

  • Ellery Weil

    Ellery Weil is a historian and writer who holds degrees from the University of Michigan and University College London. In her spare time, she likes cooking, theater, and petting dogs she meets on the street.

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