"Let's All Go to the lobby" is almost as catchy an earworm as "It's a Small World After All," but what happens during intermission when there is no lobby? When it comes to catching a flick in Houston this holiday season, the answers can be quite surprising.
Head out to one of these unconventional movie venues and experience something completely different: pet a cat at El Gato Coffee House, take a pic under the largest mistletoe in Texas at Market Square Park, warm your hands over the fire pit while drinking a tequila-infused cocktail at Axelrad, go ice skating at Discovery Green or let an elf hand you a candy cane at — you guessed it — Sugar Land Town Square's screening of Elf. Keep reading because more than a few of these films are free.
Proving that there is an afterlife for tiny restored churches, this little art house on Aurora cranks out a curated selection of off the beaten path films and documentaries. On December 7 they will screen Five Seasons: the Gardens of Piet Oudolf by award-winning filmmaker Thomas Piper. Come back on January 6 for Weed the People, a film directed by Abby Epstein that explores the value of cannabis for medical purposes and why there is so much resistance from the government.
7-9 p.m. December 9 and January 6, 14 Pews, 800 Aurora, 281-888-9677, 14pews.org, $11.
Everybody thinks of Axelrad's outdoor patio with its hammocks and chill vibe, but now they're turning weekdays into a party with free movie nights. They've got tons of heaters, fire pits and blankets for everyone, plus craft activities like ornament decorating or gift-wrapping and specialty cocktails. Tequila-infused Mexican hot chocolate anyone? On December 4 they're showing Rudolph & Prancer, December 10 is Elf, December 11 will be two different versions of The Grinch, December 17 is Home Alone, December 18 is A Christmas Story, December 23 is The Nightmare Before Christmas and December 25 is Scrooged (1988) and A Christmas Carol (1951).
6:30 and 8 p.m. December 4 and 11, 7:30 p.m. December 10, 17-18, 23, 25, Axelrad, 1517 Alabama, 713-597-8800, axelradbeergarden.com, free admission.
The Center for the Arts & Sciences
This planetarium show celebrates the customs of Christmas and explores the question, "If the star of Bethlehem was a natural phenomenon, what might it have been?" Season of Light is a full dome show and includes a tour of the winter circle of constellations.
7 p.m. December 11, 18 and 28, The Center for the Arts & Sciences, 400 College Boulevard, Clute, 979-265-7661, bcfas.org/planetarium, $3 to $5.
Czech Center Museum Houston
One of our favorite cultural venues hosts free movie nights and this December they are showing Kolya, a 1996 Czech drama film about a man whose life is reshaped in an unexpected way. Come back in January for Citizen Vaclav Havel Goes on Vacation.
7-9 p.m. December 14 and January 11, Czech Center Museum Houston, 4920 San Jacinto, 713-528-2060, czechcenter.org, free.
In the ultimate of mash-ups, watch a movie while skating on The ICE powered by Green Mountain Energy®, or just plop your blanket and lawn chair on the hill and enjoy the film against the backdrop of downtown's skyline. Insider tip: show up early for fun contests and activities. Home Alone screens on December 6, The Nightmare Before Christmas on December 13, The Polar Express on December 20 and WALL-E on December 27. The fun keeps on, keepin' on during the month of January — as does the ice skating — with Justice League on January 3, Ready Player One on January 10, Show Dogs on January 17 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom on January 24.
7 p.m. Thursdays, November 29 through January 24, Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney, 713-400-7336, discoverygreen.com, free (separate fee for The ICE).
El Gato Coffee House
Bad puns and pettable cats go paw-in-paw at El Gato Coffee House. This month's Holiday Meowvie Night sounds a lot like National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation — a family with a history of disastrous vacations who try to decorate the house with more than 20,000 Christmas lights — but you'll have to email the organizers to be sure.
6:30-8:30 p.m. December 21, El Gato Coffee House, 508 Pecore Street, Suite A, 832-968-3006, elgatocoffeehouse.com, $16 to $20.
Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center of Houston
Resilience never looked so good than at the refurbished ERJCC that's finally rebounded after Hurricane Harvey. Don't miss the thoughtful 2017 documentary, Cuba's Forgotten Jewels: A Haven in Havana, about a family that fled Nazi-occupied Europe and found safe haven in Cuba. For the 1 p.m. screening, consider upgrading your ticket ($4 to $6) for a Cuban-themed lunch or turn up the heat at 6:30 p.m. for a pre-film Cuba Libre happy hour ($8).
1 and 7:30 p.m. December 20, Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center of Houston, 5601 South Braeswood, 713-595-8163, erjcchouston.org/jewish-learning/docujews, $5 to $15.
Historic Market Square Park
Poor Clark Griswold. After too many vacations going horribly awry, he just wants to enjoy Christmas at home with the family. But trouble seems to follow no matter where he goes, and his attempts to decorate the house with a shockingly large number of lights remains funny, guaranteeing that "yule crack up" watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Fans of Cousin Eddie shouldn't worry; he not only finds his way to the Griswolds, he also seems to have found his way to Clark's boss's house. Yikes! Come to Historic Market Square Park early and snap your selfie with Texas's largest mistletoe.
7-9 p.m. December 18, Historic Market Square Park, 301 Milam, marketsquarepark.com/calendar, free.
Try to erase any recent memories you have of Macauley Culkin — the gaunt, shaggy version we saw in :DRYVRS or the more recent hunky makeover — and instead concentrate on the precocious, eight-year-old Kevin McAllister who was able to outsmart a pair of bungling thieves. This funny, feel-good movie was made even better, thanks to the classic score by composer John Williams. Don't miss Home Alone — Film with Live Orchestra, as the Houston Symphony performs live while the movie unfolds.
7:30 p.m. December 14, Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 713-224-7575, houstonsymphony.org/tickets/concerts/home-alone-film-live-orchestra, $35 to $125.
Lone Star Flight Museum
Our favorite flight museum is hosting Hangar Movie Screenings among the historic planes on the hangar floor, where you'll also be able to buy popcorn and snacks. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. They're screening WALL-E on December 28 and How to Train Your Dragon on January 4.
6 p.m. December 28 and January 4, Lone Star Flight Museum, 11551 Aerospace Avenue, 346-708-2517, lonestarflight.org/hangar-movies, free to $5.
Sugar Land Town Square
Bring your family, friends and a lawn chair to enjoy the next Movie Under the Moon. At the December 8 screening of Elf, don't be surprised if a live actor dressed as an elf hands you a candy cane.
7-9 p.m. December 8, Sugar Land Town Square, Highway 6 and U.S. 59, Sugar Land, 281-242-2000, sugarlandtownsquare.com, free.