Right in the heart of San José, alongside the Plaza de la Cultura, is the imposing National Theater. Designed by Belgian architects and decorated by Italian artists, the 1,000-seat stone and metal structure offers performances by the world’s most famous of artists. Don’t miss seeing its fabulous gold gilt interior and be sure to have afternoon tea in the theater’s café.
Costa Rica is a nation of avid theater lovers that support a thriving acting community. In fact, Costa Rica supposedly has more theater companies per capita than any other country in the world. The country's early dramatic productions gained impetus and inspiration from Argentinian and Chilean playwrights and actors who settled here at the turn of the century, when drama was established as part of the standard school curriculum.
The streets of San José are festooned with tiny theaters: everything from comedy to drama, avant-garde, theater-in-the-round, mime, and even puppet theater. Crowds flock every night Tuesday through Sunday. Performances are predominantly in Spanish, although some perform in English. The English-speaking Little Theater Group is Costa Rica's oldest theatrical troupe; it performs principally in the Centro Cultural's Eugene O'Neill Theater.
The Sala Garbo shows first-rate films from Europe with Spanish subtitles. About 40 percent of all current hit movies shown in the United States make their way to Costa Rica sooner or later. You shouldn't worry about understanding these movies since they are all in English with Spanish subtitles.
In the Central Valley you can experience everything from old-time Paramount-style theater palaces to ultra-modern movie complexes in suburban malls. The Cine Variedades, up the street from the Plaza de la Cultura, is one of the oldest. The Cine Magaly in Barrio California, is a great theater for that old-time big-movie experience. It has over 1,000 seats and second story balconies.
The first of Costa Rica's megatheaters is found in the San Pedro Mall. It has five-screens and is located on the second floor of the mall. The Real Cariari Shopping center boasts the six-screen Cariari Movie Theater. Cinemark is a new U.S. style movie theater with 8 screens located at the Multiplaza Mall, west of Escazú, with a top-quality digital sound system and stadium seating. It is the best place to see a movie in the country. They serve snacks and candies from the U.S. and even offer hot buttered popcorn with real butter and free refills if you purchase the large size.
The prices are really affordable: you could go once a week for a year for the same cost as a single Broadway production. You can enjoy yourself even if your Spanish is poor. The Tico Times and Costa Rica Today offer complete listings of current productions and whether a play is in Spanish or English. Also see the "Viva" section in La Nación.
There are movie theaters all over the San José area and in other large cities. Most of these theaters show first-run movies usually a month or two after they first are released in the United States.