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Tonight the Uptown hosted the world premier of the Kevin Costner-Ashton Kutcher film “The Guardian.” The local news here reports that Disney spent $1 million on the premier event this evening. I suppose the Uptown still has some meaning to some even though AMC seems to be neglecting this theater.
I remember when this particular theater and the Mt Vernon Multiplex opened, they touted 70mm projection in the larger auditoriums and THX certification back in 1986. The two largest auditoriums had 70mm, but rather small screens. I believe the last time they booked a 70mm movie was “Dick Tracy” back in 1990. The movie was quite colorful with its bright and bright costumes and makeup (paying obvious homage to its comic strip roots) and the soundtrack that had Madonna singing catchy older tunes.
In 1993, they had one of the first digital sound system installs in NoVA, and I made the trip to see “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” The movie was riveting to watch with great performances by Angela Basset and Lawrence Fishburne. They were robbed of their Academy Awards! I can vividly remember the Dolby Digital train sound trailer they played before the movie began and the crystal clarity of the sound system as it engulfed you in sound that truly enriched the theater experience.
That was then. Now, they have the same interiors that have fallen into a state of disrepair. No longer THX certified, but having the only other DLP (for now) auditorium in northern Virginia. They have curtains but don’t bother to open or close them for shows. I saw X2 in DLP, back in ‘02 and was disappointed with the bad sound quality. The Uptown’s regular 35mm presentation was superior mostly due to the fact that its wrap around screen and louder sound levels drew you into the action on screen. The DLP system is installed in one of the smaller theaters off to the end of the plex. I am curious as to why they were unable or unwilling to install it in one of the largest two auditoriums that previously had 70mm capability, THX certification and currently, Dolby EX. The latter sound system, though installed and advertised for Star Wars: Episode 1 back in '99, could not be experienced when I visited there. When I saw that movie there, there was virtually no surround sound at all, in comparison to Baltimore’s Senator and the area’s Regal chain’s largest auditorium’s EX set up.
The last time I’ve visited this plex was three weeks ago to see M. Night Shymalyan’s “The Lady in Water.” The presentation was quite good with decent sound levels. It was worth the trip to experience it in this format and at this theater. I enjoyed this film better than Night’s last film, “The Village,” which was rather boring save for Adrian Brody’s Rainman-ish performance.
The DLP auditorium’s ceiling showed signs of leakage as there were water/rust stains. The seats are still the same as they were when they opened 20 years ago, but they are of the comfortable rocker type variety. Given the investment to install their system, I am astonished they don’t do more to advertise the digital bookings they do get. The Washington Post has consistently labeled their digital projected movies as “DPL.” The marquee gets no distinctive signage probably due to management disinterest. In years past, they did advertise “70mm”, the Dolby Digital icon and DTS icon for those movies that had those distinctions.
Of all the discussion threads, this is the liveliest by far! I have a question, for the projectionists, that is off topic for the Ziegfeld but is pertinent I think to the movie going experience.
What determines the sound levels set for the audience in a theater? Is it based on the number of tickets sold? Or does management/projectionist/attendant set the level for a show? I have noticed that if a movie is sold out and the house is packed, the sound levels are almost always up loud as opposed to when there are maybe a handful where the sound level is sometimes minimal. It seems that way. In the THX certified theaters I go to, they seem to be consistent with the sound level whether its packed or a much smaller group. I have also noticed that if the sound level isn’t high enough, you lose some of the subtleties in the soundtrack that could be drowned out by audience noise and bad theater acoustics.
I doubt how effective this program will be especially if implemented in one of the more urban plexes. It’s hard to imagine one of the ushers (who is usually a teen ager or very young employee) asking a patron, who is loud and boisterous and who could very well be an individual with, criminal tendencies, to be quiet or leave!
At the grand opening of downtown DC’s Regal plex in Chinatown, there was a ruckus between an older mid30s white professionally dressed female and a 20something black man, over his talking during the movie. She went to get a manager or usher, at least twice, but it seemed no one ever came back to do anything. She eventually sat at the far end of the row, next to my friend and I.
As stated above, the system is destined to be abused as you’re going to have hyperactive kids constantly push that button as if it were a toy. And when you push the button, does the employee come right to your seat, wherever it is in the theater, to deal with your issue? Or, do they stop the movie and make an announcement? Now, if they had computer screens where you could text message someone…or multiple buttons for say, “sound,” “picture,” “disruptive patron” then that would make more sense.
That was done already, it was a little film called “Fahrenheit 9/11.”
Other than the Mobster marathon, I don’t see any listing of upcoming ones.
Hey, bring it here to DC, I’d be glad to see it. Landmark Theatres would be great to see it, plus I’m sure they have digital projectors to show it.
How could they downgrade the sound system? If a system is already in place, why take the time and expense to install inferior equipment? Englighten us, please.
Its depressing to read all of this, but I already knew this place was going down hill for awhile. The interesting thing about all of this is that this movie theater still hosts world premieres and benefit screenings. They must hire a projectionist for that.
Why the digital v film debate here? If drive-in owners feel there is a economic/exhibition benefit to going digital, and it seems that they do, than more power to them. It would be better to have a drive-in showing a digital movie than to have a souless building or parking lot in its space.
From what I understand, the AFI will shift movies from one auditorium to another based on ticket sales. So, to advertise say one movie to play in the main auditorium where ticket sales are less than in one of the ‘broom closets’ would be foolish. Of course, the exception would be the event film or 70mm showing of a classic movie.
I just saw “The Davinci Code” here having not been to the Avalon in probably over 14 years or so. The presentation of the film, itself, was quite good, the sound separation and clarity is very good. The only detraction to the complete enjoyment of the sound was the loudness of the air conditioning system, which seemed to be coming from above the screen and sounded like a constant hiss, which I thought was the movie’s sound. Probably for this reason, this place could never be THX certified.
The purple carpet and theme of the previous Cineplex company is gone as are the seats. The current seats are very comfortable and firm, though there are less of them to make accomodations for patrons with special needs. The surround speakers are visible, whereas, if memory serves me correctly, they were blended in the walls of the theater. The screen doesn’t use the curtain anymore, which is a shame but the old, slightly curved screen has been restored though there is a slight tear at the bottom of it. The mens room is need of repair as the waste water pipe, underneath the sink, is missing, with only a bucket to capture waste water. Lastly, there was no individual to introduce the film or encourage people to become members to support the theater. At least they could’ve filmed an announcement to show prior to the movie. AFI and The Senator do, perhaps they should take some cues from those two about growing awareness about the Avalon and independently owned theaters.
I have written twice to the individual responsible for programming, with the suggestion of having a classic film festival, ala the Ziegfeld, and showcase films in 70mm. No response has been received. I guess they don’t care much for your suggestions if you’re not a member of their non-profit group.
To my recollection, they have yet to screen any film in 70mm since they have reopened.
I vaguely remember this theater having seen Lost Boys here a loooong time ago. If memory serves me correctly, they had only one theater, out of the four, that had Dolby stereo. This venue was already doomed after Roth opened up the then seven-plex that is now part of the AMC/Loews chain back in ‘87 or '88.
Was this four plex originally a single screen theater? If so, they really did some job chopping it up into four auditoriums. Perhaps this was done by the same folks who chopped up the old Flower Theater, from a single, to a twin and eventually a four screen disaster.
Howard, at least in the DC/Baltimore metro area, AMC has not named their auditoriums (in multiplexes) after former palaces.
As far as Phoenix Theatres improving on this multiplex, it would be nice if they installed sliding curtains, improved projection and sound. The Grand is probably the best, largest and the only THX-certified auditorium in this plex.
Thanks, William. The interior doesn’t look as nice or ornate as my memory of the Westwood, but more like a studio screening room.
How about some interior shots? I’ve been to the Westwood, across the street, in ‘01 and saw Planet of the Apes there. They have a killer sound system (THX certified) but the screen is a bit small. It can’t be much larger/smaller than Baltimore’s Senator.
Gaudy? Its different and not too drab looking. Its too bad I can’t go, I misplaced my, um, passes… ;)
The Uptown still has the huge curved screen and has the potential of offering patrons a great cinematic experience and have done so with previous 70mm shows, but they don’t have regular projectionists. I was there this past summer and had a horrible experience watching the last Star Wars movie that was slightly off the screen with sound that was turned down, with little to no noticeable surround sound. The manager acknowledged that they did not have a FT projectionist and didn’t seem to care about it or know what to do to fix it. If I could speak Hindi, maybe I could’ve conveyed my sentiments a bit better ;)
The Ziegfeld’s digital projection and sound system was the best place to see it as far as I am concerned, but their screen is rather small. The ideal set up would be the Uptown’s wide screen and the Ziegfeld’s sound system. Just my 2c.
The AFI Silver Spring (in MD) theater near me recently showed “My Fair Lady” in glorious 70mm just last week. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend it. With the high quality projection standards that they have there, I’m sure the showing was a decent one, so perhaps Clearview could secure that print for their classic movies festival.
This movie theater’s exterior reminds me of the opening scenes of Janet Jackon “Lets Wait Awhile” video, did they shoot those here?
I am curious as to why this venue couldn’t show regular films on the curved screen. We have a curved 70' screen at DC’s Uptown where they show regular films all the time. They don’t look distorted or unviewable at all.
The website doesn’t pictures of the interior. Any links to what it looks like now with all the improvements?