Uptown Theater

3426 Connecticut Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20008

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bufffilmbuff on July 6, 2006 at 4:22 am

An item from today’s Washington Post:

Look! Up in the Sky, It’s … Nothing

The Uptown Theater and “Superman Returns ” battled more than Lex Luthor last week.
On opening day, the historic Cleveland Park theater blew a fuse before the show and sent disappointed matinee fans into the streets. On Saturday, the afternoon crowd was on the edge of its seats as Lois Lane , her young son and her boyfriend were trapped inside a sinking yacht … then the screen turned into a blob of yellow, and a voice in the dark said ominously, “Short delay … technical difficulties.” Turns out the film snapped in two; unhappy audience members got vouchers for another screening.

Same day, three hours later: The date-night crowd endured a 35-minute delay, an extended intermission to change reels, and an overheated auditorium.

An AMC spokeswoman says heat and humidity caused the film to warp, thus the problems. By Sunday, replacement reels had arrived to let “Superman” once again fly high.

Somehow I have to wonder if all these incidents were caused by heat and humidity or maybe the lack of professional projectionists at this theatre.

HowardBHaas on March 27, 2006 at 8:02 pm

I met Steve at the Uptown when he was showing The Aviator and the platter had arrived. I’m sorry he’s gone.

I don’t disagree that the Uptown is great for 70 mm, but those of us who love this theater do enjoy 35 mm and especially Scope films there.

Steve is correct in that there seem to be fewer movies worthy of adult patronage in movie theaters. It almost seemed that Hollywood issued better movies in 70 mm 6 track, and when a decade ago that format died when DTS arrived, Hollywood stopped trying. There arestill some worthwhile films, but fewer.

70 mm classics have often returned over the years, so I hope the current exhibitor (AMC) presents more 70 mm classic films. Hollywood doesn’t seem to be issuing any new movies in 70 mm or blowups from 35 mm, but classics look & sound great on the Uptown!

sguttag on March 26, 2006 at 3:17 pm

Well it has now been over a year since I worked the Uptown…I was one of the projectionists at the Uptown from 1988 until 2005. After college, I only worked Saturdays though. I can honestly say, we had the best show in town. What some projectionists think as a clean/sharp print woudn’t cut it at the Uptown. The screen is so big and curved, any damage just shows up more and scractches take on a curved appearance.

Focus was another issue. 35mm is too small a gauge for the Uptown’s screen. The relatively poorly made prints of today really don’t have a great focus to begin with..combine that with the small gauge and the deep curve screen, which taxes the depth of focus of the lens, and you have a very tricky arrangement. While I was there, focus was checked at least every 5-minutes to ensure it is at its best. Some films were just a demonstration of futility. CinemaScope films being the worst for the Uptown due to lenses adding the most to the image challenges.

70mm is the only format the Uptown should run. It is the only format that has the resolution, light throughput and the projection lens at the Uptown is designed for the curved screen. Yes, even 35mm blow-ups to 70mm would make (and have made) HUGE differences.

As for DLP…it is definately is not up to the task at the moment. The depth of focus is not up to the task, the resolution is not good enough either. While I know that Jodar posted above about the Crown (I was part of that installation team…at least on the original system), but you are comparing apples to oranges. Technicolor limited us to 40-foot wide screens for those installations so they WOULD look good and bright. While they are in many ways quite good, they are not really at the level that cinemas should be striving for. 35mm film has the capability to exceed even 2K DCinema. DCinema needs to try and meet/exceed 70mm capability and offer an improvement.

As for the Uptown’s sound…it suffers from lack of attention combined with being played with by the latest special show that comes to town. The equipment within the place is quite good and you won’t do much better just by replacing it (in fact you will most likely do worse). The Uptown’s sound systems is quite similar to the Senator’s in Baltimore, MD. Altec A-4 stage speakers, JBL subwoofers, Altec A-7 surrounds (12 of them), QSC amps, and the Dolby CP200 (upgraded). Probably the best the Uptown sounded was back when three of us tuned the room for a Paramount film with Al Matano…we had three analyzers going for the various zones throughout the room…one could really balance it out better than even with just a multiplexed mic system…and then critical listening was done by several people rather than taking just one person’s opinion. As some have discovered…the sound in a room that large can vary quite a bit…a bit tinny downstairs towards the screen (in the middle, particularly), and notably subdued in the balcony. Then again, many techs don’t realize there are two HF horn systems for each speaker to properly cover the Balcony and main section separately. The potential to have good sound there is indeed doable…just not every tech is up to the task nor has the time available (nor prior experience) to do it.

As to the projection at the Uptown…I left shortly after the platter went in. However, once the non-projectionists started to operate, the equipment damage as well as print damage had started. Shutters were damaged, among other things. They went through several prints of THE AVIATOR in the weeks after I departed. I still hear of continual print damage to this day (March 2006) though I do not have first hand knowledge of it anymore. Given the operating policy there…I can’t see how it could be any other way though.

The short-term answer there is not DCinema…it is 70mm with projectionists. When DCinema technology reaches the level of 70mm, then it will be time.

However, the sad thing that is also true for movies at the moment…they need to make something worth watching. Movies that have a number after the name or have the same name as a TV show just is not original thinking. Hollywood needs to start making good movies again and shooting them in 65mm as if they actually cared about the movie at the start.


Ron3853 on February 21, 2006 at 4:07 pm

I visited Washington from February 6-12, as work sent me down to spend a week in our DC office. I went to the Uptown to see “Good Night and Good Luck.” It was as if I died and went to “movie theater heaven.” The theater still looked as beautiful as ever, although there wasn’t that big a crowd for the Tuesday night late show. All I can say is, “Please Washington,don’t let AMC let this place die. Do what you can to make it a historical place so they can’t mess with it or if they do decide to sell it, make sure it’s someone who will keep it just as it is…A magnificent piece of history.

HowardBHaas on December 28, 2005 at 10:13 am

I also attended King Kong this past weekend. The Uptown is not falling apart. Some armrests need repair in the balcony, but that’s all. I was told the landlord would show movies if AMC pulls out, and had shown them before. That makes the landlord the Pedas Brothers who had the Circle chain, selling the Chain (but apparently not the Uptown building) to Cineplex Odeon, which then merged into Loews, and is now merging into AMC.

What will save the Uptown for some time is PATRONAGE. From New York City to Washington, there’s not a greater moviehouse experience than the Uptown! The exterior is a great, and the auditorium’s huge 70 to
80 feet wide movie screen fantastic!

I also saw the restored Lawrence of Arabia, My Fair Lady, and Vertigo, and agree such experiences were wonderful. In the last few years, I also enjoyed restored or reissues of Raiders of the Lost Arc, 2001, and Alien, and new movies. In 1997, I enjoyed the Warner Bros 75th Anniv. films, and the big screen epics like The Wild Bunch and Blade Runner were terrific on the huge screen. And, I’ve been fortunate to see many other classics & new films there.

AFI isn’t going to takeover the Uptown. They have the Silver. The Avalon programs arthouse & classics in a historic moviehouse. The Uptown is too big for arthouse of fulltime classic. The asset is the enormous auditorum including balcony.

As to original decoration, it looks like the ceiling was gutted. My gut feeling is American Indian decoration on the walls is also gone, but I don’t know for sure. We found lots of decoration hidden in niches in the Boyd auditorium, but you could see those niches still present. Although the Uptown’s original decoration appears neat in photos, it was relatively modest. For full Art Deco spendlor, visit the Boyd in Philadelphia when it reopens in 2007,

Again, patronize the Uptown if you like it. And, buy from the concession counter, because that’s how the operator profits, and profits keep the place open, and only profits will keep it open. Otherwise, it may end up being a giant retail store. Anybody really prefer the CVS in the (also John Zink designed) MacArthur?

carolgrau on December 28, 2005 at 6:48 am

I was a projectionist at the Wisconsin 6 and it was built by Cineplex Odeon, not Loews. It was later sold to Loews.

dave-bronx™ on December 23, 2005 at 10:57 am

The 10 AMC/Loews theatres mentioned above are not closing, they are going to be sold to other operators to prevent acusations of monopoly in certain markets. This was negotiated with the Justice Dept. and various state attorneys general in order to get approval of the merger. Don’t worry, they will still be around, just not operated by AMC or Loews anymore.

bufffilmbuff on December 23, 2005 at 6:41 am

I saw KING KONG at the Uptown last weekend and the presentation was excellent. I guess the union projectionist was in the booth. It would be sad if we lost the Uptown, there are only a handful of venues left in the world that can provide an experience like this.
Seeing the 70mm restorations of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, MY FAIR LADY, and VERTIGO here was incredible. I wish somehow AFI or a similar organization could take over here to make sure this last vestige of true wide screen cinema is maintained and used to its fullest.

JodarMovieFan on December 23, 2005 at 5:16 am

In Thursday’s (12/22/05) Washington Post, there is a news bite about 10 Loews/AMC Theaters that are closing nationwide, the Uptown isn’t listed as one of them. The two multiplexes that are closing, in downtown DC, are the AMC Union Station 9 (not a bad plex, with several auditoriums named after older DC theaters..the Grand being the best and THX certified) and the Loews Wisconsin 6 (an okay 20 y.o. plex that is decked out in Loews purple, with auditoriums 4 and 5 having had 70mm projection and were formerly THX certified.)

As far as ‘restoring’ the Uptown, why would you want to tear down the current curved Cinerama capable screen and put back the old flat one? Part of the allure and charm of the Uptown was its unique wrap around screen. The theater was refurbished back in ‘96 and isn’t in disrepair and has hosted various charity film premiers over the year. The only 'restoration’ the Uptown needs is better film programming and employees and projectionists, in particular, who can bring back a sense of showmanship and pride that this theater had in years past.

gmorrison on December 23, 2005 at 2:39 am

In the book “Motion Picture Exhibition in Washington, DC” there is a photograph of the interior of the Uptown as it appeared at the time of the opening—1936. I assume it looked like this until the big screen and draperies were installed for Cinerama—the appearance the theatre has today.
My question: Does the “old” theatre still exist behind all those drapes? Is it in a restorable condition? Does anyone out there know?
I know we’re talking a considerable amount of money, but what are the chances of a non-profit buying the theatre? I know it doesn’t have a stage because it was built after vaudeville for movies only, but what if a stage could be added? Maybe it could host plays, concerts, etc. I would love to see it remain as movies-only, but I don’t know if that’s possible.
I think one would find a huge outpouring of support for such a project—similar to the Avalon’s experience. Many more people have had contact with the Uptown over the years, and may be willing to join a “Restore and Save the Uptown” organization.
Am I just dreaming?

Glenn M.
Washington, DC

dave-bronx™ on December 3, 2005 at 1:21 am

If they close it they need to get that recently-installed chandelier from the Loew’s Capitol in NYC and donate it to the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens – don’t let it get lost….

MikeRadio on December 3, 2005 at 12:36 am

Bad news for all…

After speaking to the attendent or manager at the theatre tonight, it seems there is little doubt that AMC weill close this theatre when it takes over. She seemed pessimistic about it remaining, and said the owner of the land may want to keep it as a movie house. It appears Loews is a renter.

Although this place is falling apart… No armrests in balcony anymore, paint chipping broken handrails etc, with some fixing up this can be a GREAT place.

Unfortunately, AMC being a more corporate company, will close the single screen thearte (as it has none its ownership).

I hopwe this does not happen, but I have a BAD vibe about this…

kdb2 on November 30, 2005 at 10:32 am

I saw “Around the World in 80 Days” during its first run at the Uptown. That was an experience that I can still recall with great clarity. It was marvelous!

gstaff on November 15, 2005 at 11:59 am

Seeing the new Harry Potter premiere tonight (11.15) at the Uptown…I can’t wait.

My most memorable experience was trying to see Revenge of the Sith again before it left. Slightly under the influence, I was freaked out by the large number of Naval officers in line to see the movie. I moved past the line to the ticket booth, only to find out that a premiere for Stealth was there that night instead. With headphones on, I yelled louder than I hoped, “F@#$!”

Fearing that naval officers would take me away, I tried to move from the masses when I accidentally bumped into the very hot Jessica Biehl. She could tell from my eyes what kind of state I was in and laughed and said hello….pretty cool.

Michael21046 on August 3, 2005 at 2:59 pm

I am saddened to hear that the Uptown theatre is becoming just another Loew’s theatre. The 70mm presentation of “Rear Window” was the last time I saw a show at the Uptown. I had a bad incident at the parking lot across the way that discouraged me from coming b (Some advice – if you’re not anywhere within walking distance of the Uptown, take the Metro. Unless you’re really experienced parking is hard to find. I gave up going to the Avalon before that theatre closed because I had a problem finding somewhere to park my car. I went there because of their top notch presentation but getting to the box office to find the show was sold out was discouraging.) After reading the postings here I’ve come to the conclusion that Loew’s is giving the Uptown very low maintenance. Evidently, they’re looking at the bottom line and cutting corners. The Uptown is just another theatre among the million others. I still remember the 70mm showings of “Grease” and “Alien.” The revival showing of “Lawrence of Arabia” was undoubtedly the best in the region with the Uptown’s extra-large screen and brilliant sound. To me this was a 70mm roadshow was about. I considered going to see the last “Star War” movie at the Uptown but after reading the posts here I went to a theatre in Baltimore instead. It might have been nice as that’s where I saw the original “Star Wars”. It was in 35mm but the Uptown was the only theatre in town to hear the Dolby Stero. Going there for the last time would have brought it to a full circle. As a matter of fact I saw the original 3 SW films in DC theatres – the second one showed at the Cinema and the final one was at the Jenifer. Funny – they’re both gone.

rcdt55b on July 18, 2005 at 5:30 am

The uptown does indeed have 2 prints. One for the managers and one for the projectionists. Oh, by the way, the managers print no longer will run in Dolby digital because of the damage to it. So if you are going to see a movie there, find out when the projectionists' print is running or else you will only hear it in analog sound. What a surprise!!!

mws on July 10, 2005 at 8:42 am

I have many happy memories of the Uptown Theater. I grew up in Southeast Washington, DC during the 1960’s and 1970’s. My parents were very strict and did not allow my sisters and I to see the Blaxploitation movies that became popular during the 1970’s. While the neighborhood children were going the local Senator Theater on Minnesota Avenue NE to see Shaft, Cleopatra Jones, Super Fly and all the other Blaxploitation movies of the time, my mother took us to the Uptown Theater on Connecticut Avenue to see the Hello Dolly, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof and other wholesome family movies. We would buy our candy at the People’s Drug Store across the street to avoid buying the high priced theater candy. To this day I am a big fan of musicals and anything by ROgers and Hammerstein, thanks to my mother and the Uptown Theater.

mws on July 10, 2005 at 8:08 am

The Uptown Theater has many happy memories for me. I grew up in Southeast Washington DC during the 1960’s and 1970’s. My parents were very strict and did not allow my sisters and I to see the Blaxploitation movies that became popular during the 1970’s. While the neighborhood children were going local Senator Theater on Minnesota Avenue NE to see Shaft, Cleopatra Jones, Super Fly and all the other Blaxploitation movies of the time, my mother took us to the Uptown Theater on Connecticut Avenue to see the Hello Dolly, My Fair Lady, Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof and other wholesome family movies. We would buy our candy at the People’s Drug Store across the street to avoid purchasing the high priced theater candy. To this day I am a big fan of muscials and anything written by Rogers and Hammerstein thanks to my mother and our many trips to the Uptown Theater.

rcdt55b on July 3, 2005 at 7:46 am

I’m sure it was a misthread. Piddy, if you think the managers are not the ones scratching the prints then think again. Managers have no business in the booth.

carolgrau on July 3, 2005 at 5:04 am

I have never heard of such a thing as 2 different prints, for one thing it would cost to much and theatre companies are not going to spend more than they have to. Keith is right, one misthread, plus no one in the booth to keep an eye on the running of the print, and guess what,there goes your print. I have seen it happen more times than I can remember.
Dave Grau (Mungo)

SWATMAN on July 2, 2005 at 8:08 am

I saw the movie on Wed and the movie had no scratches. So the person that said it had scratches must had seen it when a projectionist was running it. I heard that the projectionist have there print and the manager’s have there print. I saw the manager’s print and no scratches.

carolgrau on June 30, 2005 at 5:48 pm

Way to go Keith, you still got it pal.

dave-bronx™ on June 30, 2005 at 12:05 am

Forget about the theatre – who cares about “King Kong”?? – a re-make of a re-make [yawn].