Ever since mankind’s learned to bang two rocks together, we’ve been on the hunt for more and better methods of entertainment. Song. Dance. Puppet shows; that's a crowd pleaser. I’d even throw stand-up comedy in the mix, on a good day.
Now here in the twenty-first century, we’re sitting on a real stockpile of entertainment. We're inundated with more motion pictures, stage plays, improv gangs, miniseries, limited series, world series, and thirty-second shorts than you can shake a stick at. What’s more, apparently all content ever made can fit in your own little old phone—thanks internet!
And yet, I reckon a lot of us out there yearn for simpler days; the day of the theater, perhaps. The big screen. The center stage. The smell of popcorn, and importantly, the shared experience of witnessing something truly extraordinary with your fellow audience. It gives you something to talk about over dinner, at the very least.
That’s all a long way of saying this week’s topic is the best theaters in Asheville and boy do we have some fierce competition. Please, read on.
Whenever I find another Ashevillean in the wild, I inevitably turn the conversation to Asheville Pizza and Brewing. Specifically, the question of whether they’ve been there, and how much they loved it. It’s something of a litmus test. Sure, you might’ve lived in Asheville, but did you have fun there?
Hot pizza, pub food, local craft beer, cult-classics and first-run blockbusters all in hand. That’s a recipe for a heck of a good time, if you ask me. And let me tell you: you’d be hard pressed to find a better deal on movie tickets out there, not in this economy.
Check out their website to buy your tickets ahead of time. If you work this great theater into your visit to Asheville, you’re getting dinner, a show, and a taste of one of my hometown’s favorite local amusements.
Hot Tip: Asheville Pizza’s got three locations; you’re looking for their north Asheville spot, on Merrimmon Avenue.
Ah yes, the fine arts. They do not call it the Paris of the South for nothing.
Tucked away right behind the Asheville Art Museum, and thus, not too far from the famous French Broad Chocolate lounge, the Wortham Center is Asheville’s premier performing arts theater, showcasing virtuosos, classic plays, dance ensembles, stand-ups, you name it. If it can happen on a stage, you can see it at the Wortham Center.
Now tickets here don’t come cheap, especially compared to our previous entry. But the way I see it, an evening at the Wortham Center is an excuse to play it up, wear a tie, get dinner at a fancy downtown restaurant where they only respond if you speak in French.
Oh-la-la. Très magnifique.
Hot Tip: Check out Curate just across the street for some of the best Spanish tapas in Asheville. Or, if you’re more in the mood for a post-theatrical coffee and cake, venture a short way north for Old Europe, one of my favorite local cafes.
This right here is a theater’s theater. Thick red carpets, real high ceilings, boosted bass that’ll make your bones rattle when the bombs go off in “Oppenheimer.” South Asheville’s Regal Biltmore Grande is, in a word: a cinema.
I feel I don’t need to explain much more. A ticket here lands you consistent quality, vast silver screens, and concession stands well-stocked with every confection under the rainbow. But I don’t want you coming away thinking there’s nothing special about this place. To their credit, the Regal does show more obscure releases at least a couple times a month, plus special anniversary screenings of classic films.
Finally, this here theater is located in Biltmore Park, south Asheville’s finest destination for shopping and dining. It’s all-inclusive; a great place for date nights and family outings alike.
Hot Tip: If you don’t mind a little wait, get in line for a table at Nine Mile after your show to experience Asheville’s some of finest in Caribbean-inspired fare.
The time has come to go a little off the beaten path. This cozy little theater’s hidden down an alley just east of downtown’s Malaprop Bookstore, marked by a circular orange sign that reads, appropriately: “Stage.”
But don’t let its humble exterior fool you. The North Carolina Stage Company is one of the very best theaters in Asheville for live performances, sitting you down just yards away from the action, propelled by local actors absolutely committed to their craft.
It’s an intimate setting for sure. You could reach out and touch the characters, if only the ushers wouldn’t throw you out afterwards. Not that this has happened to me.
Anyways, whereas the Wortham Center goes big and bold, hosting acts from around the world, the North Carolina Stage Company is a great place to get in touch with Asheville’s homebrewed arts. It’ll be a night to remember, for sure.
Hot Tip: Make a stop at the Chocolate Fetish one street to the west to pick up some delectable local sweets, preferably after the show, so that your fellow audience members don’t give you sour looks as you crunch on malted milk balls. Again, not that this has happened to me.
It wouldn’t be much of an accounting of my hometown without a visit to the River Arts District, and so, let’s conclude this tour of the best theaters in Asheville with a drive down by the French Broad, where we’ll find one of the hippest places to watch a movie in the entire Southeast.
The Grail Moviehouse screens cult-hits, art films, and even a few blockbusters, if they’re deemed sufficiently avant-garde.
Bolster your cinematic experience with an artisanal snack, sit back, and enjoy some entertainment handpicked for style and substance. It's exactly what you’d expect of a theater in an arts district, in the most artistic city in WNC.
Hot Tip: Visit 12 Bones Smokehouse to the north for killer local barbecue, or Rosabee’s to the south for upscale Polynesian, plus knockout desserts.
Asheville Pizza & Brewing Co.
675 Merrimon Ave, Asheville, NC 28804
Wortham Center for the Performing Arts
18 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Regal Biltmore Grande
292 Thetford St, Asheville, NC 28803
North Carolina Stage Company
15 Stage Ln, Asheville, NC 28801
17 Foundy St, Asheville, NC 28801