Uptown Theater

3426 Connecticut Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20008

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Falkenberg2001
Falkenberg2001 on April 24, 2004 at 10:58 am

I saw How The West Was Won & It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad World when they came out originally in this theatre. I used to spend a lot of time at the zoo nearby and remember poor Smokey The Bear in his concrete cage looking forlorn and bored.

George Senda
Concord, Ca

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on March 30, 2004 at 12:19 pm

That’s great news, Ron. I will certainly look forward to your future posts with the results of all your hard work. It’s very enjoyable to read through these lists of movies and their release dates – so many memories come flooding back. And I know what you mean about working with microfilm – in my college years, I think I spent more time looking at pages from old movie sections in the New York Times than I did going to class!

Ron3853
Ron3853 on March 30, 2004 at 11:48 am

Actually Bill, believe or not…I’ve never lived in DC, although I have lived in NYC, Chicago, but mostly Pittsburgh. I’ve made it a hobby to research first-run theaters in various cities to see what movies they played each week. I always liked the DC movie theaters ever since I visited the city wih my family on a vacation when I was 11. That’s why I chose to put DC on this website first. Check out other cities and theaters in Washington for more lists as I can add them.

I still have more researching to do, as so far I’ve been trying to get 34 cities from the period 1960-1975. Trying to borrow microfilms of other cities' old newspapers is a process that is slower than molasses in January and they will only lend you 6 reels at a time.

I hope to eventually get all research on this website for posterity from 1957-1981 for all 34 cities that I have been researching…and NYC will be my biggest challenge.

I know that “Star Wars” in its first release at the Uptown did play over a year. Watch for another posting at some time and I’ll take the theater up to December 31, 1981.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on March 30, 2004 at 10:31 am

Thanks, Ron, for that fantastic list. I appreciate all the work you must have done to put it together. I only wish I’d lived in DC during all those years so I’d be able to see “Around the World in 80 Days”, “West Side Story” and all the Cinerama features on the Uptown screen.

Do you know how long “Star Wars” played there? It played 65 weeks at the Loew’s Astor Plaza in New York, which is where I saw it for the first time.

Six separate engagements for “2001”, huh? May there be many more.

Ron3853
Ron3853 on March 27, 2004 at 12:03 pm

As you can see there were occasional spells where no appropriate new first-run films were available to be released, such as 1960, 1961, and the mid-70s, so the Uptown occasionally resorted to second-run rilms or rereleases played there to fill in until the next big box-office spectacular worthy of the theater was ready for release. This accounts for the double features as well as the foreign films.

In the first half of the 1970s, MGM trotted out “Gone With the Wind,” “2001,” and “Doctor Zhivago” every year as a part of what it called “MGM’s Big 3.” In some cities it was “MGM’s Big 4” with “Ryan’s Daughter” added. Usually this package played at one of the theaters in each city which had formerly shown “roadshow” films.

For excellent reading regarding motion picture theaters in Washington, D.C., try MOTION PICTURE EXHIBITION IN WASHINGTON, D.C.: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF PARLORS, PALACES AND MULTIPLEXES IN THE METROPOLITAN AREA, 1894-1997, by Robert K. Headley, published by McFarland & Company, Publishers in 1999.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 27, 2004 at 4:34 am

It’s interesting to see that foreign films played there from time to time as well, i.e.: WILD STRAWBERRIES, BELLE DE JOUR, A MAN AND A WOMAN, SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE, MALIZIA, ALL SCREWED UP, LAST TANGO IN PARIS. Not what you normally associate with the Uptown.

edward
edward on March 27, 2004 at 12:43 am

Seeing the title Car Wash almost made me fall out of my chair. Earthquake in Sensurround…now that was a crazy experience. The Odeon in my hometown even had nurses and ambulances on stanby for the premiere screening. When the theater started to shake (with the help of huge speakers installed in the auditorium), my best friend promptly threw up in the seat next to her. She was immediately ‘treated’ in the lobby by the medical staff. That beautiful theater is now closed and abandoned.
2001: A Space Odyssey was released three times at the Washington Uptown?

JodarMovieFan
JodarMovieFan on December 31, 2003 at 11:10 am

The hired help at this theater does leave much to be desired. I saw Star Wars: The Attack of the Clones (‘02) there with a friend, who is physically challenged. After making a phone call to the theater to assure that we would be allowed first into the theater to make sure we had seats together and a spot where my friend could park his wheelchair, the ticket taker demanded that both of us go back to the end of the line (around the block) and wait our turn.

The film does have decent film presentation but the sound isn’t what it could be. I’m not sure if its the acoustics in the theater or just the speaker set up, itself. The Senator, in Baltimore, while having a smaller screen, does have superior sound to the Uptown, IMHO, boasting Dolby Digital Surround EX. It would be nice if the theater could be THX certified but I’ve heard that because of the curved screen, THX isn’t possible.

It is sad that this is one of the last of the single screen theaters in DC.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on December 8, 2003 at 11:15 am

I thought 2001 had its world premiere in the Loew’s Cinerama in NY.
And why does Washington still have a great classic theater like this and NY nothing? And now they’re destroying the Henry Miller. If Penn Station were around today I’m sure they’d be chomping at the bit to tear it down as well. Does anybody have the money to convert Toys R Us back into the great Criterion?

William
William on November 20, 2003 at 4:59 pm

During the mid-50’s the Uptown Theatre seated 1364 people.

edone
edone on March 27, 2003 at 10:15 am

I remember the Uptown first as a Todd-AO theater in the 1950s when it had beautiful projection and sound. Unfortunately, the conversion to 3-strip Cinerama was a giant leap backward in sound as they used early solid-state amplifiers that produced sound that just sat there behind the screen and rattled, a far cry from the realistic Cinerama sound that the Warner had previously had. They seemed to keep these amps for the 70-mm Cinerama which followed, and it was quite a few years before the sound was any good. Now, of course, they have the best.

LauraLeigh
LauraLeigh on October 16, 2002 at 6:18 pm

I would LOVE to know when tix for Matrix 2 are going on sale. i really wanna see it and uptown is the only place. i wanna get them asap! thanx for anyone who can tell me!!

unknown
unknown on November 29, 2001 at 9:34 am

The Uptown is certainly one of the premier movie theatres in the metro DC area. It suffers from two serious shortcomings, unfortunately: lack of parking (for late shows, the Metro does not run late enough to make it home) and some of the most unpleasant staff I’ve ever seen at a theatre. Whereas most cinema staff are just plain incompetent, the staff at the Uptown border on hostile. They won’t stop me from coming, but I do hope Loew’s boots the lot and trains the next set in customer service!

LowellKoger
LowellKoger on November 16, 2001 at 1:04 pm

The Uptown is still the theater of choice in the Washington area. They can install all the “stadium"seating they want in the multiplexes, seeing a film at the Uptown is still an "event”. The Cinerama screen is massive, the Dolby Digital sound system is second to none, and its one of the few theaters that still has a “curtain” presentation. Now if Lowe’s would just get rid of those tacky slide advertisements between showings!! Even bad movies look great at the Uptown.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on November 16, 2001 at 12:02 pm

I saw “2001” from the front row of the Uptown on November 12, 2001. The greatest movie-watching experience I’ve ever had. If only there were a way for the Uptown to show this movie once a year – I’d never miss it. Thanks, Uptown Theater!

JamesShertzer
JamesShertzer on November 3, 2001 at 12:17 pm

I’m not sure when the Uptown first opened, probably in the 20’s or 30’s. It was a standard neighborhood theater back then. In the mid 1950s, it was transformed into a Todd-AO 70mm house, for the roadshow presentation of “Oklahoma!” The long-run hit from those days, though, was “Around the World in 80 Days,” which must have played there for 18 months or two years. The last Cinerama installation in DC at the Warner Theater in heart of downtown Washington was dismantled following the last three-projection travelogue, “South Seas Adventure,” about 1959 or 1960. When MGM teamed up to make a new series of Cinerama films, the Uptown was revamped as a three-projector Cinerama house, running the two MGM titles — “Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm” and “How the West Was Won” — for several years. When the three-projector Cinerama system was abandoned, the orchestra-level Cinerama projector booths at the Uptown were removed and the theater converted to a single-projector (balcony level) Panavision 70 Cinerama installation for the first of those films — “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” and the subsequent releases, the most successful of which was, of course, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which had its world premiere at the Uptown (in the 2 hour and 40 minute version) on April 1, 1968. Kubrick’s trimmed version (to 2 hours and 19 minutes plus the overture, entr'acte and intermission) was soon substituted (as it was elsewhere) and played there for 18 months or so. It would have stayed longer but MGM was eager to get its final Cinerama project, “Ice Station Zebra,” into release and “2001” was given the boot. After the demise of Cinerama, the 70mm projection equipment remained in the theater, though. Occasionally, blowups from 35mm prints were shown in 70mm there over the years, along with the prestige restoration, in 70mm, of films like “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Spartacus” and “Vertigo.” The theater was renovated in the ‘90s, but I think they left the old, deeply curved screen intact. At least that’s my impression from seeing the restored “Rear Window” there two years ago. “2001” was shown again at the Uptown for one-night only in 1993 as an American Film Institute benefit event to mark the film’s 25th anniversary, and the film returned in new 70mm prints for a brief run in late 2001. It remains a beautiful theater, one to treasure.

Jeannie
Jeannie on October 26, 2001 at 8:58 am

I grew up in AU Park and saw one of my first movies there- Empire Strikes Back. I was sure to see Jurassic Park there, as well, for the added effect, and I wasn’t disappointed!

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on October 9, 2001 at 11:37 am

2001 begins a 2-week run at the Uptown on November 2nd. I’ve gotta get down there somehow!

Ross Melnick
Ross Melnick on September 30, 2001 at 7:55 pm

Bill & Joe, You’ll need to contact the theater directly at (202) 966-8805. Thanks!

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on September 30, 2001 at 7:28 pm

I’d also like to know when 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY will be coming to the Uptown. I live in NJ, but since it looks like it isn’t being shown in New York, and the Uptown has a real Cinerama screen, it will be more than worth it to make the trip to DC.

JoeKiel
JoeKiel on September 27, 2001 at 9:30 am

Please let me know when “2001 A Space Odyssey” is playing, and when and how can I buy tickets.

Thank you for keeping “Theater” alive.

marcawessels
marcawessels on September 21, 2001 at 9:49 am

Any idea how to get tickets for the premier of the re-release of 2001 at the Uptown Appreciated. This is a great theatre!

Bob007
Bob007 on August 28, 2001 at 10:10 am

I occasionally worked at the Uptown has a projectionist from 1982 until 1985. It was the only job where I would have worked for free! The Uptown is easily one of the five best movies theatres in America. I make it a point to see everything they show. It’s important to support places like this with your patronage.

mansorama
mansorama on July 28, 2001 at 5:55 am

3-strip Cinerama installed from 7 No 1962 until 14 Jan 1964.70mm Cinerama from 19 Feb 1964. 146 degree curved screen.76 ft x 28 ft.

PhilBerardelli
PhilBerardelli on June 29, 2001 at 12:28 pm

I’ve seen some of my favorite movies at the Uptown and have been going there for more than 30 years. I saw “2001” in 1968, “Star Wars” (on opening day) in 1977, “The Right Stuff” in 1983, and the restored “Lawrence of Arabia” in 1987 (with David Lean, selected cast and crew in person). Somehow, the cinematic experience is always more intense and memorable in a grand theater. If I ever struck it rich, I’d buy the place and secure its place as a moviegoing treasure!