Why we love the outdoor movie theater Empire Cinema!
Empire Cinema Bonaire – an outdoor movie theater in paradise. Enjoy Thai dinner before the show and watch the very latest releases by the light of the stars and the moon.
In 2015 Empire Cinema (figuratively) opened it’s doors and Bonaire finally had a movie theater! I say figuratively because Empire is an outdoor cinema – technically I don’t think they have doors. This is SUCH an unexpectedly awesome place to see a movie and fun way to spend a quiet evening during your Bonaire vacation. It’s popular with locals and tourists alike. On breezy nights you will be cool and comfortable.
A little history:
A movie theater located next to what is now Top Supermarket in downtown Kralendijk existed in the early 2000’s – but the dilapidated building closed down due to disrepair sometime around 2007 or 2008. Islanders and tourists went without a movie theater for quite a few years. Yes – no movie theater in the days before Netflix, before streaming, before decent internet connections! The Plaza Resort held outdoor movie nights under the stars which somewhat filled the void and made for a fun evening but the sound and quality were unpredictable as were the movie choices and language of the films. Either the Plaza’s projector eventually broke or they just didn’t find it a useful part of their business so that too came to an end. Thus the opening of a reliable movie theater showing actual first release films on Bonaire marks a big occasion indeed.
Empire Cinema opened in 2015. They show first run movies in an outdoor setting under the stars. They even occasionally release films that haven’t yet premiered in the US or Europe.
Can I reserve my seat?
This is the only movie theater you may ever go to where you actually have to pick up and put away your own (plastic) beach chair! Maybe that doesn’t sound too comfortable. But go there because it doesn’t matter if the chair is plastic or that you have to stack it up after the film is over… This place is breezy, refreshing and a great way to spend a quiet evening. Get there early to claim your spot. If going on a night when you expect a crowd it can’t hurt to have chairs packed in your car and ready in case the theater runs out. If you get there early and think you are in the “front row” don’t be surprised if another front row creeps up in front of you. But if it does, just relax. Island time after all…
All that said, their website does have an area to buy your ticket in advance. We are not sure sure it accepts payment, however. If in doubt drive over and advance purchase your tickets. The box office opens after 4pm.
How to get to Empire Cinema:
It’s not super easy to find and not well marked from the road. Coming from Caribbean Court or the Plaza Resort area, head north on the main road passing through downtown Kralendijk. Continue heading north until you pass the traffic circle at Kaya Amsterdam. A few hundred meters further on your right you will see MCB Bank and then Bon Bida Spa and Gym. Empire cinema is located just past MCB Bank on the right. Turn right into the Bon Bida parking lot just past MCB and continue straight along the narrow dirt road. You will see the small movie theater entrance on your right just up the road maybe 100 meters. The exact address is Kaya Katwijk 6, in the area of the island called Hato.
Popcorn…uh I mean Thai food and a movie…
In typical island style of combining things that normally wouldn’t be associated with one another, skip the popcorn and have your movie with some authentic Thai food. Call in advance +599 7771122 to reserve your Thai meal. Dine in prior to or during the film. When dining in you’ll pick up not only your own plastic chair but your dining table as well. (If you don’t order in advance you’ll be eating popcorn and hot dogs like we usually do- so definitely make that phone call!) Here’s what’s on the menu:
Menu Odd Days:
- Thai Burger (200gram beef) $ 12,-
- Krai Jiao, nice filled Thai Omelett, steamed rice and salade $ 12,-
- Pad Lomiet, vegetarian meal, steamed rice and salade $ 13,50
- Pad Thai kai, noodles with vegetables and chicken breast $ 15,00
- Pad Thai kung, noodles with vegetables and Shrimps $ 17,00
Menu Even Days:
- Thai Burger (200gram beef) $ 12,-
- Pad a Pau, minced meat with vegetables, steamed rice and salade $ 13.50
- Pad kai, slices chicken breast slices with vegetables, steamed rice and salade $ 15.00
- kengkio-One, chicken breast slices with vegetables in curry with coconut milk, steamed rice and salade $ 17.00
- Keng-Paneng, chicken breast slices with vegetables & pineapple in curry with coconut milk, steamed rice and salade $ 18.00
Movie tickets and showtimes:
Ticket prices range from $5 when there’s a special to $12. Expect to pay $11/person for most films.
Unexpectedly for Bonaire (where many things run on island time) the movies start right on time and there’s generally one preview and a couple simple billboard style ads on the screen. A movie that starts at 7:30 actually starts at 7:30, so be on time to Empire Theater and not on island time!