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Its not a great venue. I still remember going there some 23 years ago and never returned.
The calendar shows they are booking 1984’s ‘Starman’ in 70mm in March. Of many of that year’s films, this wasn’t really a favorite. I saw it in 35mm at the now closed College Park theater and fell asleep during it. My sleeping during part of the movie had more to do with the fact I worked the night before and my friend kept begging me to drive him to catch a matinee. I remember the reviews of the movie being similar to ET but for grown ups. Let’s hope the presentation yields something more memorable than the other 70mm films shown here of late.
More plexes in DC? Another Landmark? I think the CEO is right about possible saturation. As much as I like the E Street venue, I seldom go there with the lack of free parking or unless there’s a free screening then paying for parking is like buying a ticket. I hope the new venues have larger screens…more like AMC’s wall-to-wall ones maybe?
Today, I saw the Hobbit sequel in IMAX 3D HFR since the new Jack Ryan movie will be taking over the IMAX screens on Fri. This time the experience was much better than the first movie. Maybe the day shots had to do with it because the water looked so crisp and Smaug’s fire breath was so vibrant and not artificially so. The 3D shots were the usual arrow coming at you and severed head landing on your lap. Still cool. :) The HFR helps but not markedly better than when I saw Friday the 13th Part 3 in 3D (I only saw it BECAUSE it was in 3D..not a gore fan in the least).
Unfortunately, I got there and missed a few moments of the movie. Not sure if they had some new IMAX HFR trailers or something. I forgot about the assigned seating until the ticket taker told me my assigned was 200 something. Knowing the matinee would be low in attendance, I was going to sit where I wanted to sit.
I’m hoping to catch up on the holiday movies now that I have more free time..hopefully before the Oscar nominations come out.
An unfortunate incident for sure. From first hand experience, I know how irritating it is to sit in a theater and below you, in the darkness of the theater, see the bright white display screen of someone texting or even talking on the phone. On the other hand, to have it escalate to the point of using a gun?
I was in the area on Fri and there is, indeed, a CLOSED notation on the marquee. On the other hand, the website indicates upcoming films not released, such as Anchorman 2 and other December releases.
With the recent opening of an outlet mall just nearby and probably a casino, its too bad this place couldn’t hold on. With the increased traffic from those businesses, the area could use a movie theater, but I would think a more modern facility within the casino/outlet mall confines would do better much better.
Having glanced at the October calendar, it appears they have booked a 70mm print of ‘Ghostbusters.’ As often as I have complained about proper surrounds..I remember seeing this at the Uptown in ‘84 when it opened and there is a really cool..scary scene when the Ghostbusters come upon a 'librarian’ who does not ‘know’ she is dead and tries to shush our heroes into silence. They cut to the jabbering heroes and in the next cut we see the librarian turn from an old marm to a skeletal ghost. The accompanying sound effect is part subwoofer and growl for like 2 seconds that is surround..and out our heroes go scrambling away in fright!
I’m going to make plans to see the movie and if they play the sound all up front like they have and this scene is ruined, I’m going to complain.
I forgot to mention that one has to marvel at the humongous multi story sized movie posters they have all over the place. Unfortunately, most of the movies have long gone..‘World War Z,’ for example.
I saw ‘The Butler’ in #11 during an afternoon matinee. I used my $10 AMC rebate voucher, which paid for all but $1 of my ticket. For a matinee, $11 is quite pricey. 11 was a decently sized house with the usual AMC wall to wall screens. Nothing to rave about technically. I think the praise heaved on Oprah is way overrated. It seems her character is given the diva treatment in that she changes costume in just about every scene she is in. Forest Whitaker plays his role as one would expect. Nothing really profound here other than to see actors play the different Presidents and revisit parts of history over the last 40 years.
I saw ‘Riddick’ in #1, which is one of the ‘smaller’ houses with a cap of 116 seats that was advertised as in being in DBOX. I had always wanted to experience a movie in DBOX but the closest one to me is a the Cobb Village venue way out in Leesburg VA. For a smaller house, the screen was quite large..it had to be about 50' wide. They had the faux leather recliner seats, too, but as I later found out, no DBOX set up. After receiving a customer service rep response, it turns out it was a posting error. :P
Sound and picture were digital clear with decent surrounds. Not bad to see a movie here. Judging by the cars parked, it seems the AMC at the Charles Town mall has larger crowds. Perhaps when the shopping center here adds more business, traffic will pick up some. Though the venue could use better advertising that could be visible to the main traffic on 301. A huge message/marquee-type board with titles and formats maybe. A video screen showing movie snippets may be too distracting for drivers.
This venue had an original posting years ago, with comments since. I know because I had several postings on it!
Grand reopening on Oct 10! Hooray!
An okay choice. Though they do have a few other screens.. and the 70mm projector is still there.
After reading much buzz about Cate Blanchett’s performance in the new Woody Allen film ‘Blue Jasmine’ and already tired with the traditional summer fare, I saw this movie at the remodeled Bethesda Row. Expecting to be bedazzled by the $5M remodel, I was disappointed. Aside from the new bar, leather seating in the lounge and auditoriums and, of course, the technical upgrades in projection, it does not look all that different. The paint scheme is different and the counters look Ikea-grade, which isn’t bad.
The new self service ticketing kiosks have huge screen displays, but most of it is not put to use by making the menu selection and fonts BIGGER. All that real estate on the screen seems to have gone to waste. Once you select your movie, you select your reserved seat. Unless its a special event with a large crowd, I do not like select seating at all.
On a table, by the doors, is a notebook with a schematic of the seating for the auditoriums. I later found out that the one for Auditorium 2 is wrong.
There was the usual ticket taker/greeter at the bottom of the escalator. I had arrived early enough to want to sample some of the new menu items touted on the website. Unfortunately, there was NOTHING on the menu board to suggest the wraps and other new things. Fortunately, I was approached by the attendant, who was friendly and showed me a notebook-type menu that had the wraps and other food items. While the pictures and descriptions were lovely, there was no mention of prices at all! The attendant had to look up my queries on the register. Suppose there were lines? What is the purpose of keeping the menu offerings AND prices hidden from view?
Bad, bad, bad, bad.
I ordered the jalapeno cheese stuffed pretzel, which I loved from when they were offered at the AFI (then were forgotten to be ordered in the years after their remodel). For $4, its not bad, but smaller then the ones the AFI used to have. It was served hot from the convection/microwave they used to heat it up.
About 20 minutes before showtime, they were still cleaning up the prior show. When I was informed it was okay to go in, I had expected to be ushered to my seat, but no one bothered. In fact, none of the other patrons were escorted to their seats either. The older folks who came in were trying to find the tags on the seats to make sure they were in the right place. Auditorium 2 seems like the largest movie theater and I had hoped I would have some space to myself. Wrong. There were a group of loud French speaking patrons who sat behind me. Kept yakking until one of them probably got waft of my pretzel and decided to move. Thank you. Then two old ladies happened to choose the next two seats after mine. I call them Laverne & Shirley since they reminded me of the two tv characters; one of them with a distinctive NY accent..like Penny Marshall’s. One of them started chatting about the ticket for 5 minutes and how it seemed to read one way or another.
I had chosen row G as it was close enough to the screen but had leg room as it was situated by the walkway to get to the other side of the theater. In reality, they put a row of seats that blocks the path to the other side. I am probably spoiled by the enormous leg room and recliner seats at the Brandywine Xtreme Multiplex, but there is little leg room in front of the new seating area. I found myself having to get up, move to the aisle, so that patrons could access seats on my row. Only children or anorexic adults would be able to squeeze past a seated patron to move through to their seats.
Finally, the movie began after the usual pre show ads and previews. Volume was terrific as were the picture and sound. The Landmark trailer was decently loud and played to create that immersion experience with surrounds. I’d like to think there are curtains or draperies of some kind. In the Regals and Bow Tie’s..they move them to mask films according to their presentation format. One major detraction is the lack of sound insulation. You’d think with the millions spent they’d do something about sound bleed from the adjoining theater being heard into this one. Yeah, there was some big explosion boom I could hear and feel.
The movie was very good. I had expected the characters and their situations to be heavily cliched and, surprisingly, were not so. The writing avoided the usual soap opera-type dialog that accompanies movies with similar themes. It took me a few minutes to get into Cate Blanchett’s character, as I had expected to see/hear either Queen Elizabeth or the Elf Galadrel. Her character portrayal of the ex-wife of a Bernie Madoff-type character is very good. Yeah, she’ll be on that Oscar list of nominees for sure.
In summary, I think the remodel is a mixed bag. No menu visible on the menu board with prices. Decent sound and projection. Sound bleed from other auditoriums. Reserved seating should be for evening shows or special events. At least offer discounted parking for those who drive in. For the $25 or so I paid with parking, I probably could do better watching something formatted for IMAX-lite.
One more thing. Be warned about the Haagen Daaz ice cream store adjacent to the theater. I had an ice cream de leche caramel concoction that gave me bad cramping not too long after eating the $8.22 item. No, it wasn’t the pretzel because that food item was hot enough to have killed any food borne pathogen that may have been hatched. And yes, I did wash my hands before eating. :)
Okay, Steve. I hear you. Its just that my memories of 70mm from the 80s is so entrenched because of the sound more so than the picture. ‘2001,’ ‘Lifeforce’ and maybe a few others aside, what they’ve shown at AFI should have exceeded my experiences from way back then given the fact this venue is state of the art and is THX-certified.
Maybe the projectionist having come across a movie with no projection instructions should just err on the side of caution and hit the surround button. :) Dialog from LC/RC can’t be so bad as long as the character is on the right of the screen or left. Just my 2c.
Aww Howard, you’re so kind. I’ll periodically check the AFI website… :-D I make that statement cheekily as a veiled threat. In a good way.
The Powerball is up again this week. If I win, maybe I’ll buy the AFI Silver, myself. :)
You know this site is full of cinephiles (is there such a word?), like most of us on the site, who are passionate about movies and the experience, who know which venues have curtains and who doesn’t use them and are aware of what makes a good presentation, its just that when things are not right, you just want to go fix/run the operation yourself.
For example, when they run these special event movies, at least have some kind of introduction. How difficult is it to have a staffer google or IMDB some info about say, Cleopatra. I can remember off the top of my head that that movie was, at the time, one of the most expensive movies ever and probably still is accounting for inflation. Trivia like that that most people don’t know that would gain some appreciation from a film.
I’ll surrender my soapbox, for now, to check out whats showing at Landmark.. :)
I forgot to mention..the next time they do an 80’s retrospective with 70mm or without, they could book ‘2010.’ Not as memorable or the classic like ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ the visual effects were filmed by the Richard Edlund’s now defunct Boss Film FX, in 65mm. And I am 100% certain that film had surround sound fx as blogged about on the Jenifer and Springfield Mall cinema pages (assuming they haven’t been lost like other posts).
Hey..an old fashioned double feature with those two films in 70mm..the odyssey continues..
As nice as 70mm and DP is, unless the audio is heard with surrounds when they are supposed to be there, then I’m not so enthused. I could care less if its 4K and up front sound :P
I suppose I should have said something when ‘Lifeforce’ was played but I assumed it was just the print and maybe hoped it would get better, but it didn’t. And if the projector hit the wrong sound format, as Steve points out, then shame on him.
Don’t these films come with instructions on what format it is so that the film is properly set up and played the right away? This irks me. Maybe I should apply to be a projectionist..do they train on the job? Heck, I’d do it for free..almost ;–) . I would make sure the curtain would be used and make my own entrance music before the show and write my own introductions. Also, every film would have the THX sound trailer blasting before, right before the main film is played whether there are 500 people in the audience or just 1.
Maybe I’m assuming wrong, but do all the auditoriums share the same projection booth? If so, is it possible to wheel the 70mm projector to #2? Plug in the necessary sound jacks or whatever. Just curious. To be honest, I think the sight lines in 2 are better than #1. Yeah..I know..the Historic Auditorium is what it is and the architecture is nice to look at but if you sit way in the back and watch a movie its almost like tunnel vision with the way the walls close in to the screen.
Its funny but the old KB Fine Arts reminds me a little of the Silver, although the descending seats to the screen was different. Perhaps they were the same size.. 40' but heck, when they had 70mm..i.e. ‘Aliens,’ ‘Star Trek III’ ..those were decent films to experience.
Of the upcoming classic films, only ‘Cleopatra’ looks interesting even though its in DP. Since I wasn’t even alive when it first came out, the ‘roadshow’ version supposedly being shown should be good despite its long running time with intermission.
I saw ‘Hello Dolly’ the last time around.
Steve..what you said may explain why all the sound was on the front screen. In the ‘Lifeforce’ movie synopsis on the AFI website, it specifically mentions magnetic sountrack, so I’m assuming the print shown was probably an older, seldom shown original print? The movie came out in ‘85, as there was no DTS then. I only saw the movie once at AFI so maybe whomever ran the projection booth, maybe hit the wrong button on the sound processor? I would doubt whomever owns the movie would’ve spent the $50K or so to strike a new 70mm print with DTS encoding for a film like that. Maybe I’m wrong.
I gather by everyone’s comments about 70mm sound that the DTS encoding of older soundtracks inhibit surround sound playback provided it wasn’t in the original sound mix? If so, that sucks for those movies that are to be heard with surround. It shouldn’t be that way. I vividly remember my DTS/THX experience of ‘Jurassic Park’ at Universal Studios in ‘93, when DTS was intro’d..that was surround, crisp, pop-free, immersive AND loud! If I’m missing something, the transfer of the sound should improve by eliminating any scratching, pops and other imperfections while at least maintaining, if not improving on the sound integrity by digitizing the sound for playback perfection.
Part of the enjoyment of the 70mm/6 track mag format was the soundtrack. Not only loud, but it drew you in and helped immerse you into the moviegoing experience we all hope for after paying our admission ticket…even if the movie wasn’t so great.
One thing I forgot to mention in my previous post, but do you all notice that in the Historic Theater, there is an odd echo chamber? When a character speaks in an accent, like British, its sometimes hard to hear that they are saying because of it. The Senator in Balto, has this same echo-y sound. To describe it more succinctly, its like a gargling sound when someone talks. Maybe this is something inherent in the older theaters.
I wanted to see ‘Star’ but missed it due to work :P
I am glad AFI put together a short video on 70mm movies to educate those who don’t know or were alive when these releases were the BIG events and weren’t the IMAX-lite, XD, Xtreme..etc presentation we have today. Come to think of it, they should have shot it in 65mm with some kind of six track sound mix to show off what the EXPERIENCE could be. They could even employ the older THX sound trailer..the GRAND one with the light show. I think James Horner scored that one. I remember seeing the Grand THX sound trailer, as it was ‘new’ when they released the first ‘Die Hard’ movie in ‘88 and seeing it at the now closed Cineplex Oden Wisconsin Ave 6 (either theater 5 or 6).
I did see ‘Lifeforce’ again, in 70mm, after 28 years, on the big screen. Its amazing that this print looked as good as it does. Hardly any fading or washouts and the soundtrack, itself, was intact..BUT, as with my previous experiences with 70mm presentations at the Silver, where is the surround sound?? I can understand with the older movies that perhaps there weren’t rear/side channel sounds. Just about every sound effect was in front.
For example, the scene where Carlton and the British Colonel fly in the helicopter to the base..there should have been the helicopter flying sound from the rear of the theater to the front. Nothing.
Also, the various visual effects of the ‘lifeforce’ swirling about should have had theater surround effects as it went off screen. sigh
Not to be entirely negative, Henry Mancinci’s score, with the London Symphony was effective, loud and calming, again heard all from the front screen. Observing some of the people in front jump and react to some of the shocking parts was fun given the age and overall campiness of the movie.
I was thinking about seeing ‘The Sound of Music’ but the end of the caption says 35mm. I wonder whose holding up the 70mm print of that movie :P It seems they are giving ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ a rest this time around.
I guess ‘Lifeforce’ was the sci-fi choice this time..but next time..maybe the fall, guys, please book ‘Brainstorm.’ That was shot in 65mm and would be great to see again. If they play it right, you’ll experience regular 35mm mono and 70mm surround, during the point of view scenes, and decent 65mm filmed visual effects. And great performances by Louise Fletcher (she deserved a Oscar nom imho), Chris Walken and Natalie Wood’s last movie.
I saw ‘The Heat’ with Sandra Bullock..no, not WITH Sandra..she was IN the movie. #6 was practically sold out on this matinee Friday. Surrounds were good especially with me sitting all the way in the back. The ticket person, after swiping my BowTie frequent moviegoer card, didn’t even tell me how many points I had..bad bad bad.
My niece and I saw ‘White House Down’ in #7, a few weeks back…not my choice, ok? Jamie Foxx as President? HAHAHAHA.
As with my previous visits to this auditorium, the sound up front is underwhelming. Its as if someone put some kind of sound filter over the speaker to reduce what was coming out. Also, I could hear the air conditioning running..not a good thing. I figured it would be a matter of time before the very nice plush faux leather seats and their power recline feature would break. There is a sign in the front that does not guarantee operable reclining seats. Already 3 months into operation and the place is running down.
The customer service is horrible. We had to wait almost ten minutes before we could buy our tickets. The only reason I waited was so they could swipe the theater’s own movie card, otherwise I would’ve used the kiosk. There was a guy who came out to ‘help’ but instead of opening up another register to help, he just disappeared.
I have yet to see movies in the other auditoriums. Perhaps they aren’t as bad, but since these are the ‘extreme’ theaters with 10.2 sound and 70' wide screens, you’d think it would be the best of them.
I just read that, Tinsel. A possible August opening? If you read further back on the facebook page, they had hoped for a late May opening. I’m optimistic the place will at least look good if it is at least 2/3 as good as the AFI Silver. Now those little itty bitty screening room-sized auditoriums make me wonder how much sound bleed there is going to be either going in or out from the other rooms.
It reminds me of when DC’s MacArthur was triplexed. They made two smaller theaters out of the bowed out parts of the original and even had little balconies! What was decent about that remodel, too, was the dropping and rising curtains between the shows.
Rechecking the AFI site, today, they have the rest of summer’s calendar and from the looks of it they must be having a 70mm series. I see the usual ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ booked. Tobe Hooper’s ‘Lifeforce’ returns, ‘The Master.’ Curiously, they’ve got ‘Star Wars: Return of the Jedi’ but I sincerely doubt its 70mm, especially with the recent tweaking by George Lucas, its probably either Blu-Ray or DP. ‘Sound of Music’ and ‘Hello Dolly!’ could also be in 70mm but there are no hyperlinks or announcements to indicate presentation formats as of this posting. Jedi would be great to see in 70mm especially for the speeder bike sequence on Endor and, of course, the space battles at the end.
I missed ‘Lifeforce’ the last time around. Based on prior AFI Silver experience, I wonder if it will surpass my memory of watching it the first time at the old Ontario in DC. That was an unforgettable experience…I can still smell the ‘paint’ from that theater’s remodel and the skylights beaming against the skies. The last few AFI 70mm showings were subdued soundwise.
It looks like fun!
Howard, this is true about the 70mm series. I was just hoping we’d have some counter programming to the traditional summer movie fare. Even if its a blown up print, I am nostalgic for the multi track sound that makes that experience of immersion . After seeing the latest Superman movie and paying for the IMAX-lite premiums for the other films, it would be nice to see something different. I believe there’s an anniversary up with Gettysburg (the battle). The bookstore near me has lots of commemorative books and magazines.
I frequently check out the west coast theater websites such as Arclight, Aero and Cinematheque just to see whats going on with their programming. Occasionally, I come across a 70mm booking that would be great if they could get here. Of course, those theaters are close to the studios where it would probably be easier to get bookings .
‘Gettysburg’ is supposedly booked here on 7/5 and 7/7 in 70mm. I vaguely remember this film coming out to not so great reviews and that it runs too long. Something along the lines of a bloated Ted Turner film. I didn’t see it in its first run, not for the aforementioned reasons. So far, this is the only 70mm film booked this summer. July’s calendar isn’t even posted, yet…