La Cineteca Nacional: A Hidden Gem in CDMX

Every year when the Oscar nominations come out I say to myself that I’ll watch the movies nominated for Best Picture. Then every year I end up not watching any. I’m not a person who goes to the movie theater very often and I don’t know how to safely (or remotely legally) download movies online. But this year has been different because of the Cineteca. It’s located in Coyoacán, the same neighborhood I live in so I’ve been going pretty frequently in the last month or so to finally fulfill my Oscars resolution. But even when I’m not trying to see Oscar nominations I love going to the Cineteca for a lot of reasons.

First is the unique architecture which stands out even as you pass by on the street. It really feels more like a park than a movie theater, with grassy areas, open air walkways connecting the buildings and a space for outdoor movies. It’s a great space to go wander around and catch up with friends, even if you’re not seeing a movie.

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Second is the movie selection which combines indy international films, high-quality mainstream movies and traditional Mexican cine. The two Oscar nominated films I’ve seen here are Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Shape of Water. This week I also saw Bosque de Niebla, a documentary about Las Cañadas, a cooperative in Veracruz who collectively manage their land in the cloud forest using permaculture principles. Next on my list is Call Me by Your Name which it seems like they brought to Cineteca after its Oscar nomination. Darkest Hour is also showing but I’m not as interested in that (the one movie I wish was playing there but isn’t is Lady Bird, I’ve heard such good things). Cineteca obviously skews towards cultural movies rather than action-packed blockbusters but it’s also not so high-brow as to inaccesible to the average movie goer.

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Third is the ridiculously low prices! Even for mexican prices it is cheap to see a movie here. As you may be able to tell from the name, la Cineteca Nacional is government sponsored so they don’t charge as much for tickets or even for popcorn (plus they combine butter with caramel popcorn to make the most delicious sweet and salty mix). For example, this week I paid 30 pesos (about $1.50 USD) to see Bosque de Niebla and spent 40 pesos (about $2 USD) for a medium popcorn. In a country where the salaries are low but the cost of entertainment is comparatively high, it’s nice to have a place where even the most broke friend can join you for a night out.

Finally, whether you’ve come to Cineteca for a movie or just to enjoy the peaceful oasis in a busy city, there are fun little shops and restaurants lining the open air area to complete your experience. This week my friend and I who went to the documentary met up with some more friends afterwards at Señorito, an informal restaurant that serves cerveza artesanal (craft beer) as well as mini pizzas, sandwiches, charcuterie, etc. The microbrew scene in Mexico is still pretty micro so I always relish going to a place that serves IPAs (I tried the Piedra Lisa from Cervecería de Colima which is probably one of my new favorite mexican IPAs). The vibe at all of these places really compliments the laid back hipster feeling at the Cineteca.

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Basically, the Cineteca is a great place to go, even if you’re just visiting Mexico City. And if you prefer to watch a movie in the comfort of your own home, there’s also a permanent setup of pirated movies right in front of the entrance because #thisismexico (also ezquites, yumm). But in all seriousness, this is one of my favorite places here that I feel really represents Mexico City in all its cultural diversity, check it out.

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