Hip Indie Theater Review in Tijuana, Mexico – Cine Tonala

Three levels of food, brews, music, WIFI, film, and fun!

I sit here with delightful empanada pastries, and a nice menu in this three level establishment in downtown’s Cine Tonala — right on the ‘infamous’ Av. Revolucion in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. It’s a sneeze to walk across the main San Diego border, then a longish walk, cheap van-taxi, or short UBER ride from there, and feels safe as sandwiches (which you can order here). The WIFI is fast (ask for the password), and there are large laptop tables near power outlets. 

The Cinema Room also has FREE COLD AC – which on a hot, humid day like today, is a blessed relief. Eats, drinks, movies…cool air and good company — this is an unusually fine venue in old downtown TJ.  The toilets are for patrons only – so get a beer, a movie ticket, or at buy least a sweet. Bathrooms are kept clean, stocked with free toilet paper — more precious in Mexico than gold (remember not to flush it. Baja sewage systems can’t handle that). 

The downstairs is open to the street, has a hip brick interior, craft beer on tap, and vintage posters adorning the walls, including stylized versions of Mexican and USA Presidents from JFK through Obama. Cine Tonala will even let you free-sample the craft brews. The tenders also create mixed cocktails, and play a good selection of music recognizable from the states. The music is set low, so you can hear your companion talk, creating a nice intimate setting. It’s a far cry from the thumping, thudding, ear-blasting dance clubs lining the rest of the way along Avenida Revolucion. (Which many young adults like. So loud. But, heck. It’s their ears. Now get off my lawn!)

The 2nd and 3rd floor funnels the cool outside breezes, with catwalks and balconies overlooking the human zoo below. Those levels opens at 3 pm and have what they call “Magic Hours” (Fri 5-7 pm…3×1 national beers): Happy Hour, to US speakers.

It’s a great little cinema house that clearly wants your business. I’m surprised they make a living, showing such a specialized fare of international limited release favorites and cult-classic Mex faves — but they attract a devoted crowd. I’m relieved. We need funky/creative places like this in the world. Sure I can stream such things on my own, but not in a fun crowd of fellow fans, with amazing beer options. GO THERE, OKAY?

Enough employees speak enough English to make this an Ex-Pat watering hole, movies aside, although the vintage, classic oldies and Indies films draw locals as well. The theater doesn’t look like much from the outside, but that’s par for the course in Tijuana. I felt safe enough running to the Damas (ladies) room with my laptop plugged in.

The employees at Cine Tonala gave me a peek into into the cinema room and offered me a free show. They play 3-4 films a day in cold AC. Nice. The chairs are vintage and a bit creaky, but have decently soft seats = good enough for  90 minute films.

There’s lots to read. Ask for the upcoming movie list, or peruse the  magazines, including brand new issues of American Cinematographer with fun covers (I saw one about the making of Avengers: Infinity War and another about Solo)They have a Facebook page too, where you can add your review — or post one in our comments below.

[US Dollars are accepted.]

Address: Av. Revolución 1317, Zona Centro, 22000 Tijuana, B.C., Mexico
Hours: 1 pm — 2 am weekends, or til 10:30 pm weeknights
Phone: +52 664 688 0118

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Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes sci fi movies, fantasy films, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder.

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