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For some reason, I had envisioned this theater to be an art deco-type moviehouse like the Senator. I saw “Osama” (2003) here (in Feb ‘04) and, unfortunately, didn’t get to experience the Dolby Digital Surround EX sound system. Its not the film’s fault, as the movie is a low-budget ($40K) foreign language film. I’m wondering if this moviehouse was one auditorium at one time. The staff didn’t know.
1980 was the year, in which I made a long bus ride from the MD suburbs, with a few of my school chums, to stand in a line that went around the block, to watch “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.” This theater had a 70mm print of this eagerly awaited sequel to “Star Wars.” This particular theater is not as opulent or otherwise memorable as say DC’s MacArthur or Uptown, but it had a killer Dolby 6-track sound system and 70mm capability. I still have vivid memories of watching Empire, especially the asteroid belt sequence and just being blown away by the sound and moving, in synch, with Millenium Falcon, as it bobbed and weaved avoiding asteroids and the pursuit of firing Imperial ships!
E.T. played here, also in 70mm, but the lines were too long and I ended up seeing it at the now closed Landover 6 theaters, one of the worst places to have seen a movie in the DC area. The last film I saw here, in 70mm, was Spielbeg’s “Empire of the Sun,” in 1987. I don’t think this theater booked any 70mm films after that time as I’m sure I would’ve gone there. Then again, 70mm presentations became far and fewer into the 90s.
In 1991, this theater had a Star Trek movie marathon where they showed the first five films and the trailer, for the eagerly anticipated sixth and final Classic Trek cast film. Yes, I sat and watched all five films, with a friend from work, whom I cajoled into playing hooky from his job. Unfortunately, it was a non-70mm event but it was some experience to revisit those movies again all in one day, on the big screen with an enthusiastic audience. How else would one want to experience movies, eh?
The last film I saw there was Shrek, in ‘01’, playing in digital stereo and the theater seemed pretty much the way I remembered it but seemed to be in need of some touch ups here and there. They don’t seem to book the mainstream films that they used to anymore, as the recent films shown were more of the art house variety or festivals.
I have fond memories of this theater as Theater #2, the small one upstairs, was where I saw my first Rated R film, Altered States back in 1980! So, the statement that it was twinned in 1985 isn’t correct. After the 1985 remodel, the theater, at that time, boasted one of the first digital sound systems in the country. That same year I saw “The Goonies” (70mm?), with my little cousins, and the re-release of “Fantasia” (which put me to sleep). The print had excellent sound, or updated Fantasound <G>, but wasn’t enough to sustain my interests.
The theater, at that time, boasted one of the first digital sound systems in the region, if not the country. I don’t think this film booked any other 70mm films, as the larger moviehouses usually got those special prints, but I also remember seeing Steven Spielberg’s “Always” (non-70mm) and a few other films. The screen, if I remember correctly, had a slight curvature to it.
The AFI has done a terrific job with the Silver Theatre. There are now three auditoriums now as opposed to the single one that was there. I have to admit that I’ve never been to the old Silver theater even though I’ve lived in the area for all of my life. This is probably because this theater didn’t have 70mm projection capabilities and I always made the effort to see films in the best format, in any part, in and around the area.
What is nice about the largest auditorium is how wide the seating areas are where I caught a screening of a 70mm print of “Lawrence of Arabia.” You don’t feel claustrophobic as you might feel in other theaters. There is an organ, in this theater, that I’m sure is used to accompany the silent films when they are shown there. All three of the auditoriums are THX certified, but they don’t play the THX trailer before each show.
Its nice to see that a movie palace is being restored to its former glory. What kind of sound system will this theater have? Are there plans for any movies being shown here soon and when? :)
I think this is a good thing. Neither chain manages many of their theaters very well in the DC/MD/VA market. The sound systems and projection standards aren’t what they should be. I think the larger the chain is, the less care for showmanship.
This theater is quite a place and a nice departure from the awful AMC Academy 8 and 6 theaters, which are just a few miles away. The first movies I saw here were the Star Trek movie marathon (from the Motion Picture-Final Frontier) back in 1991. This is probably the only theater I can recall that played a Dolby stereo format trailer before the feature would start at the time. It would be nice if this theater became another ‘Senator’ (Baltimore, MD) and be a premier showcase of first run films!
I used to live a few blocks down the street from this theater. If memory serves me correctly, it was twinned sometime in the late 70s. The movies I saw there were: the 1980 Star Wars reissue, 2001: A Space Odyssey (for the first time) and Clash of the Titans. I don’t think the twinned theaters had stereo as there wasn’t any noticeable surround sound from those films. I will never forget the comment that one patron said after seeing 2001 when he said “I will neer see this movie again!” I guess it was too cerebral for him. Even though the presentation was non-70mm and mono, it still had quite an impact on me. The theaters were then cut up into four theaters sometime in the mid 80s. The twinned theaters were already small to begin with but to have them halved again, seemed too much, but I suppose the economics of the time dictated such drastic measures.
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.
I remember seeing Star Trek II:The Wrath of Khan in 70mm and being awestruck by the presentation as it was the only theater in DC that had it there in that format. It was during this time, I began to enjoy seeing movies in the largest and best venues, travelling almost any distance (from MD where I lived) to the best around town. The theater was remodeled that year, becoming a triplex and adding small balconies and reopened with The Dark Crystal (also in 70mm). When I saw Brainstorm there (in ‘83), I noticed that some of the speakers were blown as when some scenes went from 35mm mono to 70mm 6-track, there was a definite crackling sound in the middle part of the theater. The Return of the Jedi (70mm) was an event as the film was sold out and Auditorium 2 (the biggest one) was filled to capacity as people oohed, ahhed, cheered and booed to what was happening on screen. Even the smaller auditoriums had decent Dolby surround sound and balconies. I saw Flashdance in '83 (for the third time) and was impressed with the surround sound and even the curtains opening for the show!
During the 90s, the theater didn’t book any 70mm event films and I stopped going there. The last film I remember seeing there was Total Recall back in ‘90. I was sad to hear that it was closing back in '97. Its too bad there wasn’t enough support to keep CVS from taking it over. I’m surprised that given the rather affluent neighborhood, there wasn’t enough financial support to keep it a local theater much like the Avalon, also in DC.