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Yes, the first Star Trek movie premiered at the MacArthur, but it also opened at other theaters in the DC Metro area. I saw it, on opening weekend, at the now closed KB Langley and later at the Jenifer, which I believe had the movie longer than other theaters in the area. The Jenifer played the movie on both screens starting at 8 or 9 am, on opening weekend, too, if I remember correctly.
I remember the Jenifer. Maybe it should be listed on Cinema Treasure, too. I saw the first Star Trek movie there several times as well as a few other movies. It had a killer dolby sound system that was turned up nice and load..the way I like it :) And, yes, the second theater didn’t have Dolby, if I remember correctly.
I think Superman played at the Uptown in 70mm. I was too young to go downtown when it came out and saw that film at a shoebox multiplex theater called the Landover 6, now thankfully closed.
For those of you who are close enough to one of these screens, just how big are they? When I hear IMAX, I think of the huge multi story screens that our Smithsonian Museum has.
It would be nice to have a more commercial IMAX screen in our area. We have several; Baltimore, two at the Smithsonian in DC and in Virginia, but they rarely, if ever, show commercial, first-run releases in this format.
I’m not sure if this theater was part of the General Cinema chain, during the 60s, but I’m sure it was part of the KB chain during the latter part of the 70s and most of the 80s.
If memory serves me correctly, the GCC chain had just a few theaters in the DC area; namely the Springfield Mall (VA) multiplex (now AMC), Mazza Gallery (now AMC), Columbia 9, in MD, and I think the Fair Oaks Mall 10.
The Elks Theatre looks like quite a treasure. The semi-circular theater arrangement reminds me a bit of the old Showscan theater we used to have in Virginia. Are there still any of those around?What I can’t believe is the $3 admission price! We don’t have anything priced that low in my area, not even matinees!
Gene, can you post some pictures of your theater? Inside and out? I’m curious to see what your theater looks like.
The information hasn’t been updated for a loooong time. The info posted is still the same. No new news.
Interesting article. I’m looking forward to the book’s release. Are you going to promote it on the AM shows or radio programs? Or, how about posting a preview of the cover and some of its contents? :)
I believe the street name is spelled V-a-r-n-u-m. I know because when I was a teenager, I used to work at the store across the street from this former theater! On the other side of the street there was a Buddhist temple and on Sundays, the store would be packed with hundreds of church goers going in to get hot dogs, sodas, nachos and chips. I have always been curious as to what the interior of this theater looked like. If someone has posted pictures of the interior on the internet, or the venue’s website, please advise. Thanks.
I’m sure the sci-fi festival will be a success! I’m hoping we will also have one in the DC/Balto metro area soon. I didn’t see mention of this theater having 70mm projection capabilities. Does anyone know if it does? Their website doesn’t indicate that it can.
I now remember the name of the sound system. It was HPS-4000!
The project seems rather daunting. I hope that it succeeds, too. It would be nice to have yet another gem of a theater in Baltimore restored to its former glory. If the refurbished Ambassador and new six-plex are THX certified and, at least one theater has DLP, you can bet I’ll be seeing movies there on a regular basis.
A few questions:
Are there any known pictures of the interior (then and now) that someone could post?
If this theater is the Senator’s sister, is it safe to assume that the interiors are the same?
Does anyone know if there are any posted artist renderings on this new entertainment complex? Is there a timetable as to when the project will start and be finished?
I had the privilege of revisiting the Uptown to see the midnight opening of Spiderman 2. It has been a year since I’ve been to this theater and was looking forward to being enveloped by the big screen that this gem has to offer.
The single most irritating item about watching a movie at this theater is the constant stream of commercials. While I have not been to another Loews/Cineplex theater to confirm whether it is an isolated incident, the commercials just keep coming and were in bad quality and were not even in stereo.
While the picture was good, the sound was not. As mentioned, the commercials and previews were not played in stereo. The sound, for the most part was very tinny and muddled. It was centered but some of the dialog was almost intelligible. The only time that the sound came alive was during the fusion reaction scenes with Doc Ock. You could feel the theater come alive at that time. It was like the picture played in mono and was only turned on towards the middle and end of it.
I did contact customer service at Loews/Cineplex and received an Email response from an intern, who stated that they apologized for the commercials and that the chain has to show them to compensate for the “$20M salaries that stars are demanding…” There was no response as to the rather disappointing sound presentation.
Will this second bad experience hinder me from going back to the Uptown? I don’t know. But I will think twice before travelling downtown again. I think our suburban theaters have better sound presentation and picture, albeit in a smaller and less grand setting.
St Louis isn’t that small of a city is it? Besides, if the two multiplexes aren’t that close to each other, I’d think the respective companies have done enough of an economic survey to determine if there is enough demand, without hurting each other’s business.
Its nice to have choices really. I prefer the moviehouses that have the best picture (DLP, 70mm, or largest screen) and sound (Digital THX) even if it means I have to travel a bit (less than 50 miles).
The 70mm revivals aren’t as frequent as they used to be. Actually, I don’t think they’ve had a 70mm series since the 90s? I imagine, if the Uptown does host a 70mm series, it will be after the summer movie season, since attendance will drop and there won’t be any event films coming out until Thanksgiving.
If I had a wish, I would hope for a science fiction/fantasy series starting with the Star Wars films, Star Trek, Superman, Alien, all in 70mm. I read that 20th Century Fox was going to re-release a director’s cut of Aliens in theaters like they did the recent Alien one. Perhaps, they could show it here. Even older films would be nice to revisit. I remember watching Vertigo, in a restored 70mm print with a remastered soundtrack. The movie looked like it had just been shot yesterday. The print was so sharp and scratch free!
What would be really cool is if this theater had digital projection capabilities.
This was quite a nice theater when it was a single screen venue. My first movie seen at this theater was “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” It was my first film event experience as it was opening weekend. The temperature was in the frigid teens and the line went all around the block and onto University Boulevard, as it usually does when this moviehouse is sold out. At the time, this theater showed great showmanship in the way they made sure the curtains opened and closed when they were supposed to and the sound was appropriately adjusted and the movie was projected to fit the screen and not outside it.
This was my first experience watching a movie that had an overture (Ilia’s Theme) at the beginning of the show. I had read that some of the older movies had them and I think this was probably one of the last films (that I have seen in its original release) to have it. I don’t understand why movies don’t them anymore. They set the mood for the movie and add to its enjoyment.
The late show that I saw, on the Saturday evening, of its opening weekend, started even later as we were told that there were film problems and that the show would be delayed another 2 hours! I think the movie started around 1 or 2AM! The only movie preview shown was for “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” and, at the time, the brief shot of the AT-ATs brought much oohing and ahhing from the audience.
From red hues of Vulcan to Stephen Collins' deep blue eyes, the film was something special as the presentation was so clear and the colors quite sharp. I remember reading about how this film was rushed to print for its Dec 7 opening but this didn’t detract from my enjoyment one bit. The film was advertised, on the marquee, as being in Spectrum Stereo. The font resembled that of the Dolby Spectrum stereo logo of later years. Come to think of it, I do recall seeing Kintek Stereo somewhere, if it was on the ticket booth window, or maybe on one of the speakers in the theater. I believe the KB Theater chain did use Kintek sound systems in a lot of their theaters. The last one this chain built, the one at Wheaton Plaza, now Loews Wheaton, had Kintek, which is a pretty decent sound system.
I always thought that this theater was almost identical to the MacArthur theater in DC. I don’t think this theater was ever 70mm capable as I don’t recall ever seeing it advertised on the marquee or in the Post.
The second film I saw here was Superman II. The presentation was quite decent but it seemed that audience attendance at this theater was on the decline. Also, the neighborhood saw increasing crime and gang related activities.
The last film I saw at this theater was Gremlins. The theater had been twinned and you could see that they put up a dividing wall right smack, in the middle, of the center aisle. It wasn’t what it used to be even though there was stereo sound. It was a shame to lose this theater to yet another retail store.
So there was a balcony! ;) My recollection of my only time inside the main auditorium was that there were these seats that were on an upper level, but were obscured by a ceiling to floor plastic drape of some kind. Judging by the looks of it, at the time, it seemed like one to me. Whatever the case, it is a nice theater.
I’ve visited this theater on the trips I’ve made to LA and saw “Star Trek: Generations”, in 1994, in the smaller auditorium, which was quite impressive soundwise (it was THX). It wasn’t until 2001, I went and experienced a movie, in the main auditorium, and saw Angelina Jolie’s “Original Sin”. The theater was going through a renovation and the balcony was closed :( . The movie, itself, was quite a bore as it put me to sleep, not too bad if you need a sleeping aid. The sound seemed a bit muddled and quiet, not the fault of the theater’s sound system but the film’s soundtrack. Perhaps, the next time I visit there, there will be an event film booked there so I can experience the theater’s full sound potential.
The whole theater design is quite impressive and is unlike any other I’ve been in. And, yes, like the proverbial tourist, I tried to match my foot and handprints to the some of the stars on the sidewalk. The help staff, in their Asian costumes, are a nice touch. In the Washington DC area, you don’t see the help staff in uniform much anymore at any place, much less costumed, even for event films.
I saw “The Lion King” here back in 1993 and was amazed at how ornate this theater is. The screen, itself, isn’t that large but what was different about this theater was the preshow live entertainment presentation. It would be fun to revisit the theater to see what other preshow bits are done for the other films booked at this theater.
I was in the neighborhood last week and had to stop by and see how CVS redid the interior of the old theater. The marquee, box office and foyer are left intact but after that everything is what you’d expect from what CVS drugstore would look like.
The actual selling floor space does not make use of the entire theater. What was the balcony area seems to have been made into management offices. Beyond the store, there must be a large storage area going back towards where the screen(s) were.
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? :)