Uptown Theater

3426 Connecticut Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20008

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moviegoer on May 7, 2008 at 9:50 pm

I lived in DC during most of the 1990s and as far as I know, it was a Cineplex Odeon theater during that whole time.

To address your question from a couple of weeks ago, Giles, the only film festival I can remember there during the 90s was the Warner Brothers 75th Anniversary Film Festival which ran for about a week in 1998. It included all the WB classis, with each day devoted to a different decade (more or less). Obviously 2001 wasn’t a part of it, nor Lawrence of Arabia nor the Wizard of Oz, but I don’t remember any other film festivals, per se.

I believe the Wizard of Oz did play there for it’s 50th anniversary though. That is, it definitely played there because I saw it, and I think the occasion was the 50th anniversary of the film. At one point it closed for 6 months or so for renovations and it repoened with a showing of Vertigo. I think it was a restored version of the film and the whole evening was run by AFI. I was there for that also, and Kim Novak was there to introduce the film.

sguttag on May 6, 2008 at 9:42 pm

Giles…For the Uptown specifically, it needs 70mm, blow up or origination in 65mm to properly fill the screen. The 70mm print, even if a blow up, will allow more light through the aperture and also improve the image steadiness (less magnification) and overall focus (the Uptown uses deep curve corrected lenses for 70mm and effectively also has curved field lenses for 35mm 1.85. Scope is its weakest format)

65mm origination is absolutely where Hollywood should be by now…it has only been over 50-years since the current format came into being! It is significantly better than 35mm (or digital) and will allow a higher resoultion image to start from for any future generations that may surpass what we currently have. I’m quite disappointed that Steven Spielberg has not ventured into 65mm origination. Remember, 65 or 70mm won’t make a bad film good but will make a good film better. I give a lot of credit to Ronny Howard and Kenneth Branagh for shooting in 65mm. Some say that Far and Away killed 65mm photography because it wasn’t one of Ron Howard’s best films…but what does a origination format have to do with the story or people’s acceptance of that story? If it was shot in 35mm would people have liked it better? One thing is for sure…Far and Away has a better source image for any future releases than any move shot in 35mm or present day digital. In fact, George Lucas has done himself a HUGE disservice by shooting the last two Star Wars digitally because he has locked the image in turn of the Century technology that was inferior to what was available. Then again, some people may think it is better to have lesser quality versions of those movies.

As to Sony 4K…it has less light available than the current 2K DLPs. They also lack any ability to deal with the deep-curve screen without throwing away pixels. I’m sure Sony is evolving their product but the last time I did any critical evaluation of it…the color wasn’t right and while static images looked pretty darn impressive…motion images seemed to smear up quite a bit. Most that look at the same source file projected on a DLP 2K and the Sony 4K seem to favor the DLP image. Resolution wise, Sony clearly has an edge. I know in a non-cinema application the Sony image outshown a DLP image but with art images rather than a movie.

Does AMC have the clout to force a 70mm print for a theatre like the Uptown? Probably…they control a sizable number of theatres and probably have more than the Uptown that could benefit from 70mm. Striking one print is a HUGE overhead…once the IN is created…subseqent prints become progressively cheaper as the cost of making the IN is absorbed over the various positives. However, would AMC make that sort of pressure or even the simple request? That is the question and it is likely a “no.” They are a big chain…they tend to do things that are detrimental to projection, not improve it. Think about it…if they required high quality projection from their theatres…why would many people prefer digital cinemas over film when film has a very clear advantage over digital in just about every respect (resolution, color space, contrast)?


Giles on May 5, 2008 at 8:27 pm

those scenes shot for ‘The Dark Knight’ were shot with IMAX (70mm horizontal) cameras/film stock.

yes, Ron Fricke’s next film ‘Samsara’ is/has been shot in 70mm, and according to imdb, will get released in 70mm (2.20 aspect ratio), 35mm and digital projection (2.35).

I saw the PDF up on the Cannes website and they make no mention of the rumoured 70mm premier there [insert sad face]

In regards to the Castro Theatre 70mm film festival depending on the film’s you might see me there as well :) Any excuse to go to San Francisco is a good excuse.

JodarMovieFan on May 5, 2008 at 7:25 pm

Thanks, Steve. What of the 4K DP installs that Landmark and AMC are reportedly using? Are they appreciably “brighter” than the 2K units?

I remember watching the restored Vertigo in 70mm DTS. It was so perfect that it looked like it was shot yesterday.

Re: 70mm. Reportedly, the new Batman had some sequences filmed in 65mm and the director who brought us Baraka is working on a sequel, again in to be released in 70mm. In70mm reports a possible 70mm print of the latest Indiana Jones, but there has been no word on that being a reality.

San Francisco’s Castro Theater is having a 70mm retrospective the first week of July. They had one last fall, too. Its a shame the Uptown can’t have at least one of these during the slow periods. I’m contemplating a visit there as long as I can still use my NWA miles. :)

Giles on May 5, 2008 at 7:13 pm

do you believe AMC would have enough pull to make studios restart the trend? Are we talking about true 65mm shot productions or would 70mm blowups also work?

HowardBHaas on May 5, 2008 at 7:12 pm

Strip screen removed during renovations which resulted in “Vertigo” opening the theater when they were done? For contrast, why does it matter if strip screen or the current screen?

sguttag on May 5, 2008 at 7:05 pm

DLP on the Uptown screen is going to be a bit challenging. Not that one can’t fill it or even possibly get the brightness. The resolution really isn’t there and there are no lenses available to compensate for the screen’s depth. They would just throw away pixels.

While it is true that the Uptown has rarely hit SMPTE specs for light output (the 70mm run of Vertigo being a notable exception), it normally can put out a passable picture if the equipment is kept in alignment. A DP will have the same problems.

Unlike in many large screen applications, at the Uptown, the screen is not only large but rather close…any imperfections…like the lack of pixel density in a 2K system is going to show itself much more unless you are in the balconey.

The problem you saw was a matter of getting more light on the screen, which need not come from a digital projector but an alignment of the existing equipment. What makes you think that a company that will put out a haphazard film presentation will give a digital presentation any more care?

I don’t recall anyone other than the studios…which normally relented, complaining too much about the light levels when I was at the Uptown. The Uptown’s image starts to look pretty good when you hit 12fL but starts to degrade a bit once you go above 14fL as things will wash out. Remember too, Cineplex chose to remove the strip screen which absolutely killed the contrast in that theatre.

No, what the Uptown needs is 70mm film…it is the best technology available in 2008 for lighting up that screen. Shame on AMC and others for not insisting on 70mm for these sorts of venues.


Giles on May 5, 2008 at 3:52 pm

don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen stellar 35mm prints at the Uptown, DREAMGIRLS and V FOR VENDETTA near the end of their runs and they were very impressive, here though, the print looked like it was run through with coffee. I can’t believe Disney would go through the whole process of installing a DP system only for the premier of ‘The Guardian’ and then just UN-install it, if it can be done, why do it for a one off premier, NEC systems tout they can install DLP systems on large screens (up to 100 feet) well…. come on AMC. I think I was jaded by the recent 70mm run of ‘2001’ at the Silver which while not perfect still WAS an event.

JodarMovieFan on May 5, 2008 at 1:29 pm

Giles, thanks for saving me a trip. I was about to see the film there but opted for DP at my local Regal, which was SUPERB. Maybe its time for the Uptown to get an DC Cinema install. It should get the newest and best to make the most of its screen.

If AMC were to see the light and have 2001 here to celebrate its 40th anniversary, I’d be happy to revisit this venue.

Giles on May 5, 2008 at 8:40 am

I have to admit, I wasn’t pleased with the print the Uptown got for IRON MAN, it seemed washed out. The sound was fantastic, but for a first swipe of it’s run (Friday: 1pm showing) it seemed devoid of color and brightness and the cigarette burns were really apparent and distracting – why are they so large? For the studios opting to go digital thus elimanating imperfections like these: cigarette bursn, the white lines that randomly pop up, theatre ‘red dot’ indicators, all seem just to be added, to mar the perfect ‘film’ experience. It’s sad when three screenings at the Avalon as part of Filmfest DC, trump the projection at the Uptown.

rlvjr on April 24, 2008 at 2:37 pm

“2001” returned to the Uptown MANY times. It sometimes rotated with 3 other MGM big hits: “Gone with the Wind” “Dr Zhivago” and “Ryan’s Daughter” — all in 70 MM.

We returned again for “10,000 BC” despite AMC lackluster operation and somewhat underpar projection. I think we’ll keep coming back, but it makes me burn the way AMC is trying hard undermine the Uptown legacy of excellence — so long treasured by Warner, Circle, and Loew’s management.

Myrna38717 on April 22, 2008 at 4:30 pm

I remember, too — also Lawrence of Arabia, Casablanca, and Wizard of Oz. I think that was during the period it wasn’t being leased by a conglomerate.

Giles on April 22, 2008 at 1:13 pm

someone refresh my memory: I remember seeing a reissue of ‘2001’ at the Uptown that was part of a showcase of other classic films

the other two I remember seeing then were:

'West Side Story’

does this ring a bell, were their other films. I assume there were (?) I think this was in the 90’s (I think).

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on April 2, 2008 at 8:07 pm

Richard L. Coe’s review of “2001” in the Washington Post, 40 years ago tomorrow:

View link

Kathleen Carroll’s review in the New York Daily News. I bet she liked it better the second time:

View link

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on April 2, 2008 at 11:50 am

40 years ago tonight: the World Premiere of “2001: A Space Odyssey” at this theater, April 2, 1968. It opened in New York on the 3rd, and the mostly bad reviews were printed in the daily papers on the 4th. I remember this date especially well because while I was looking for the review in the NY Daily News, I heard that Martin Luther King had just been assassinated in Memphis.

View link

Most of the NY papers panned “2001”, but Richard Coe in the Washington Post was able to see outside the box and gave it a rave. I have his review at home and I’ll post it tonight.

Giles on April 1, 2008 at 6:27 am

I have to admit I haven’t been to the Arclight or Seattle Cinerama but I would assume their screens are similiar in curve – right, and they’ve done DLP – right? Since there are home theatre DP systems than can replicate curved screen presentations without distortion, I would assume similiar commercial lenses exist for theatres this size – right? To reiterize what I said in my Sept. 10 2007 post, NEC’s system is the most ideal and CAN playback 4K content – 2K this side might diplay flaws.

re: 10,0000 BC – I saw it just to see it in DLP (at Gallery Place) and which highly benefitted from crystal clear digital picture.

JodarMovieFan on March 31, 2008 at 7:37 pm

I saw 10000 BC in DP and thoroughly enjoyed the story and presentation, even though it was at a Regal multiplex. It wasn’t the 50' squared off presentation that the Uptown could present in DP, but a decent movie, nonetheless.

To clarify my previous post, I don’t think DP projects on the curve like the way Uptown’s screen is set up. If I’m wrong, I’m sure one of projectionist experts will clarify for us.

And, again correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think AMC has booked 70mm anything since it took over this venue.

bufffilmbuff on March 31, 2008 at 6:55 pm

I agree Howard. I doubt any DLP system currently in existence can hope to match the quality of the 70mm presentations I have seen there over the years. But…. DLP may be the best we can hope for. Apparently are no plans for a 70mm run of 2001 for the 40th anniversary…. people must prefer 10000 BC. Guess that about says it all about the drop in quality of presentation as well as content and audience tastes in the last four decades.

HowardBHaas on March 31, 2008 at 6:17 pm

The enormous Uptown screen is the top draw to this theater. Let’s not settle for a 50ft squared off presentation.

JodarMovieFan on March 31, 2008 at 6:10 pm

Thanks, Howard. An interesting read. I think its fair to say that most of the multiplexes run their films dark. The independents do a better job. Maybe thats why I gravitate to movies digitally exhibited. Its doubtful the movie chains will be able to ensure quality film presentations given the hands that get involved that could ruin it. So, DP is a safer, albeit a compromise for a presentation quality that is consistent given its tech roots.

Back to the Uptown. Even if they can’t project on the curve, I’d settle for a 50ft squared off presentation. Its more than a lot of other venues and with DP can still draw the viewer in to experiencing movies better than most can do now.

HowardBHaas on March 31, 2008 at 5:59 pm

JodarMovieFan, for Muvico, see Rosemont in ILL (near Chicago’s O'Hare)/theaters/21297/

JodarMovieFan on March 31, 2008 at 5:51 pm

If they do DLP the Uptown, they’d better go with something a little ahead of the game. Supposedly Muvico was to install Sony 4K systems in their venues, but nothing has happened that I’m aware of, yet. They don’t even advertise that they have DP movies when they have them.

If and when AMC does a DP install here, they’ll have opportunity to tout this venue as DC’s premier state-of-the-art motion picture venue. I wouldn’t mind frequenting this place again for DP movies rather than either the smallish AMC Georgetown or Regal Gallery DP auditoriums, if its done well. When they premiered “The Guardian” here a year or so ago, they supposedly temp installed some kind of DP system.

Judging by the looks of the “Speed Racer” trailer, that would be an excellent candidate for a large screen DP presentation. The exaggerated color schemes brings back the memory of how when color tv was new in the 70s.

Giles on March 31, 2008 at 12:18 pm

Given the news that AMC would begin the slow rollout of DLP'ing all it’s screens – I would assume the Uptown can and might be upgraded (if AMC doesn’t go with it’s rumoured plan on not keeping the theatre after it’s lease expires) – can a screen this large and degree of screen curvature prove problematic – the only incentive of DLP is that the projector darkness that some films have had in the past might be corrected, likewise color contrast and brightness will be more consistent.

HowardBHaas on February 5, 2008 at 3:43 pm

Pedas owns the Uptown & did a GREAT job as Circle Uptown in operating it. They know the value of having excellent standards in the theater, and could bring 35 mm blockbusters & 70 mm classics to the huge screen.

JodarMovieFan on February 5, 2008 at 3:39 pm

If that’s the case, let Pedas re-open the MacArthur since the CVS conversion was minimal as I surmise the lobby area is the store front today. :)