Fine Arts Theatre

1919 M Street NW,
Washington, DC 20036

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Opened December 22, 1967, in downtown Washington, DC, this well designed basement theater was then described in the Washington Post as "blazier blue" William Riseman was architect and Tony Childs was decorator. By the mid-1980’s, it had apparently been reseated to 524 seats. It closed in 1994.

Contributed by HowardBHaas

Recent comments (view all 20 comments)

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on July 28, 2007 at 9:47 pm

Yes, I remember it was a downstairs theater. I read the “procenium-less screen” comment and realize its possible ramification. I remember how handsomely blue the auditorium was. I just don’t recall it not having a curtain. You must be right.

If only you, Steve, had photographed theaters you worked in. You could’ve posted some photos on the film tech website like the others do.

Several years, I was looking in D.C. for what it became, and I think a nightclub or something, if I found the right spot. Maybe somebody can verify that?

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on July 28, 2007 at 9:55 pm

Just so we set a proper example, it is spelled Proscenium, which framed the screen. In historic theaters, behind it was the stage and stagehouse. The KB Fine Arts evidently didn’t have a stagehouse. What it did have was great projection and sound.

Steve, so what I was looking at was a blue light lit screen? That’s what you mean by “screen wash”? then blue house lights went off the screen, blue lights went off, and presentation began?

sguttag
sguttag on July 28, 2007 at 10:09 pm

Yes, it was just lights with blue glass covers. In fact, I remember them using one as a coin dish in the boxoffice to return change. As for spelling…mine has always been unique! You will no doubt find many spelling errors. I used to have a really nifty program for my old Mac SE/30 called Thunder 7…it always was working in the background and helped me a lot.

What was behind the screen at the Fine Arts was a Cement shelf that went up about 13-feet or so, as I recall. The speakers sat in front of that on three foot tall stands (Altec A-4s are 10-feet tall with a horn on top of that). The subwoofers sat on that shelf. You got to the speaker room by going out of the theatre by the right front door and up the steps one flight…there was a door that lead to the room. If you kept going up you could leave the building.

As to photographs…I don’t have many of the old theatres. I have them of most of the current ones I’m associated with. I’m real bad about posting them on Film-Tech (except the South Branch Cinema 6 in Moorefield, WV). I always get permission before posting those though.

If I could go back in time…yes I would want to have snapped a lot of pictures of the theatres I worked in. I’ve normally been accorded access to most every place in the theatres and could have documented them well. As much of a shutter-bug I was back then, I never shot the theatres…for shame.

rlvjr
rlvjr on February 24, 2008 at 4:36 pm

02/24/08 The Fine Arts, located in the high rent district, still exists. It was closed decades ago, but the building is still there, empty and useless.

JodarMovieFan
JodarMovieFan on April 1, 2008 at 5:25 pm

If the theater closed in ‘94…14 years ago, that’s hardly “decades ago” and plus, that would age me beyond reason! The last time I drove by the spot, it had already been built over and assimilated by a new building. Its gone. As fond as my memories of movie experiences go, I’d prefer the old MacArthur to come back. The building and space is still there even though CVS occupies a small part of it.

sconnell1
sconnell1 on August 1, 2009 at 9:40 pm

IF originally opened on January 23, 1970 at the Playhouse and played there for one week. LORD OF THE FLIES opened at the Playhouse of December 25, 1963 and played there for a little over 7 weeks. They played on a double bill for one week in September of 1970.

sconnell1
sconnell1 on August 1, 2009 at 9:44 pm

CACTUS FLOWER had already enjoyed a 9 week run, starting on Christmas Day in 1969, prior to its run at the Fine Arts.

sconnell1
sconnell1 on August 1, 2009 at 9:56 pm

The longest running films at the Fine Arts between 1967 and the time I left D.C. in mid-January of 1972 were:

GOODBYE COLUMBUS (28 weeks), ELVIRA MADIGAN (18 weeks), THE STERILE CUKOO (12 weeks), PETULIA (11 weeks), THE GO-BETWEEN (11 weeks), I LOVE YOU ALICE B. TOKLAS, (10 weeks), and THE 12 CHAIRS (10 weeks). THE SUMMER OF ‘42 almost ran for almost 10 weeks.

WilliamSpainhour
WilliamSpainhour on January 15, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Steve is right. There was no curtain at the Fine Arts. I was an assistant manager there in the early Seventies. The screen was shadow-boxed. During my time we had a problem with distortion at each end of the projected image. This was caused by an incorrect lens that KB wouldn’t bother to replace. I recall the director of “Sounder” going crazy during the opening and demanding to be taken to the booth. Sure enough, you had to exit the theater and go next door to get there. A strange arrangement. But it was still a fun place to work.

Giles
Giles on February 8, 2011 at 6:44 pm

so aside from HOOK, STAR TREK III and ALIENS, what other 70mm presentations were shown here as such (I’m kicking myself for not trekking down to see ALIENS there instead of subjecting myself to the small Mazza Galleria screen)

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