Alan Rubin (1936-2022), Founder of the Biograph Theater


A geologist who made quite the mark on the local community died November 6 at his home in Delaplane, Virginia.

Alan Rubin quickly rose to fame after opening the landmark Biograph Theater at 2819 M St. NW, a single-screen 270-seat repertory film house in Georgetown at the site of the current CVS. With the rise of VCRs and home-viewing, many local repertory movie theaters closed, as did Rubin’s Biograph Theater in 1996. Curiously, the former MacArthur Theater — another shuttered local theater on MacArthur Boulevard — is also now a CVS.

The Biograph Theater at 2819 M Street NW was a landmark repertory theater and weekend evening destination. Courtesy Peabody Room, Georgetown Public Library.

Rubin studied geology at Brooklyn College and graduated in the mid-1950s. He worked at the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Museum of Natural History. He later received his masters at George Washington University while working for the Army Map Service and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Rubin was intrigued by the concept of opening a theater while visiting friends in San Francisco in 1963. He saw movie theaters there showing late-night arthouse films — and there were lines down the street. Later, he opened the Biograph in 1967 with several friends who were mostly lawyers.

The theater had an impressive nearly 30-year run before it closed in 1996. It was a heavenly spot for film buffs who wanted to see movies by up-and-coming filmmakers (John Waters’s movies were often shown there), films by foreign directors, and less-mainstream movies ignored by big theater companies. A key Georgetown weekend evening destination, the Biograph was also rumored to have some of the best popcorn in town.

A regular at the Biograph was Randy Roffman, who used to work at The  Georgetowner, who expressed surprise and sadness at Rubin’s passing. “I’ve known Alan for many years, since opening of the Biograph Theater,” Roffman said. “I was a regular at theater and used to stop by and visit him frequently when he lived in Georgetown. He was a great man and a kind man.”

“One thing I always remember was that [Alan] was a comfortable person to be around,” said David Berkebile, founder of Georgetown Tobacco. “He was a hands-on, affable kind of guy, a very nice man — I had a special place in my heart for him.”

Berkebile was unaware until recently about Rubin’s later-in-life passion: art. Rubin painted every day in a converted barn at his home in Delaplane. His paintings were mostly bright tributes to old films and magazines. Many are currently showing in Marshall, Virginia, at Booth & Nadler Studio & Gallery.

Rubin died of complications from Parkinson’s Disease, according to his wife Susan, with whom he was in a relationship for 59 years and married in 2011.

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One comment on “Alan Rubin (1936-2022), Founder of the Biograph Theater”

  • James Daniel Starn says:

    I used to work at the Biograph Theatre. It was truly one of the greatest of my life’s memories. Thank you, Alan Rubin, for providing a fantastic work envionment.

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