AFI Silver Theatre

8633 Colesville Road,
Silver Spring, MD 20910

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HowardBHaas on August 22, 2014 at 5:07 am

I had intended on going this past Sunday to see silent 35mm The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and 70 mm The Agony and the Ecstasy. I had read that prints shown in prior years elsewhere in the world of the 70mm print were excellent. Did anybody see it this past weekend? How was the print?

JodarMovieFan on July 13, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Howard, looking at in70mm’s website, NY and Chicago had/have 70mm festivals with titles that AFI can’t seem to get at all. One would think with AFI’s hook into the film community, they’d be able to get them. On the other hand, the local AFI has had some interesting premiers and directors for film discussions recently.

The site seems to be getting better, the email notifications are workinf for me, for the first time in years.

On the other hand, I believe they’ve been pruning site comments as I have seen mine disappear. This majorly sucks. Now, some of my memories of certain films are gone forever.

HowardBHaas on July 12, 2014 at 7:21 pm

I should have written that Ryans Daughter and Cheyenne Autumn were shown in English but with Swedish subtitles. Googling, I don’t see any other prints reveal themselves as being shown anywhere so I’m going to guess the AFI Silver simply didn’t bother to list it that way?

HowardBHaas on July 12, 2014 at 4:21 pm

3rd annual 70mm festival now online. Hamlet. The Agony and the Ecstasy. Ryan’s Daughter. Cheyenne Autumn. Last year, Lincoln Center showed 70mm Ryan’s Daughter & Cheyenne Autumn in Swedish with subtitles, but no word of that format here. Oklahoma in DCP. Around the World in 80 Days, shown in Bradford England in a pink version. Anyone know if there’s a good version of Around the World Days in 80 Days?

JodarMovieFan on June 29, 2014 at 9:04 pm

AFI’s 80’s film retrospective line up looks good. They’ve got “Batman”, “Star Trek IV”, “Willow” and “Temple of Doom”, but not one in 70mm. I remember seeing/experiencing all of those in 70mm. The surround track during Doom’s Thuggee sacrifice sequence..the time warp surround in Trek IV..the siamese dragon fire coming at, through and behind you from Willow and James Horner’s playful, heroic score. Batman, I don’t remember anything grand, except for the loudness of the Batmobile in motion and the Prince track.

They’ve got “Lawrence of Arabia” in 70mm, once again. One would think they’d book 2001 again, too, but maybe the 4K version coming later may be worth waiting for.

If they can get them.. ‘The Untouchables’ in 70mm would be great, “Gandhi” is epic with its real crowd scenes of thousands. ‘Top Gun’ would be great, too, but they’ve got it in digital. Hopefully, the transfer is good and they play it up loud. The beginning sequence with the jets taking off, Giorgio Moroder’s score transitioning to Kenny Loggins' ‘Danger Zone’ was sooooo awesome.

thebrat on May 17, 2014 at 7:55 pm

I initially came here today for ‘City Lights’, but due to unpredictable traffic I missed the show. So I decided to stay in Silver Spring for a while to exchange my ticket and got one for ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, which I had already seen. It was a DCP showing in #3. There seemed to be some slight keystoning from left to right rather than bottom to top, the scope moments of the film really showed off the odd effect. This being a THX cinema, I thought that was a peculiar oversight.

On a side note, the THX trailer ‘Cavalcade’ preceded the film. I was disappointed by the Deep Note in this. I thought the rain effects, thunder and crashing were much more “wow” for me. But then the DLP trailer that preceded the previews had a much more assertive and immersing mix.

A thought: what if AFI Silver installed Dolby Atmos in the historic theater? Considering the echo chamber issues the auditorium is having recently, it will be completely hilarious but sad.

JodarMovieFan on February 3, 2014 at 8:02 am

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.

Giles on October 29, 2013 at 8:55 pm

saw the 1953 ‘3D’ movie “Inferno” tonight on the new 3D system in auditorium #1 – and it looked fantastic. The Dolby 3D system’s glasses fit perfectly over my own glasses, unlike the REAL-D glasses that don’t. The 3D was very impressive and there was enough light to convey the dimensionality – whoever created the DCP made it look like the movie was shot last week. On the downside the audio was very strident and even sitting close to the screen, some of it bordered on intelligable, for a THX screen – the audio is all over the place; movie to movie.

JodarMovieFan on September 29, 2013 at 9:44 pm

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.

thebrat on September 2, 2013 at 4:56 am

What better way to examine the Silver’s new DCP system than a screening of the 4K restoration of Lawrence of Arabia? I caught yesterday afternoon’s screening in screen #1. First of all the picture was rock steady. Steadier than the 70mm presentations of 2001 and The Master. The DCP is identical to the Blu-ray in that it used the same amazing master, but the DCP gained that resolution to create a grid-less picture. There certainly was less resolution than 70mm, but the digital restoration was just too marvelous.

A few complaints. The new DCP system is sketchy at the moment. There is slight keystoning towards the upper part of the image. The masking was first set to 2.35, but the picture was pillarboxed to 2.20 so the unused junk on the left and right sides was illuminated. Finally 90 minutes in, the side masking set to 2.20, and although if you look closely you can still see some of the black junk but it was reduced. Thank heavens. The douser was also open during the overture and entr'acte which contain a black screen while the douser should be closed during those moments. At least the curtains were used.

The sound was on the reverberating, wet side. Dialogue had an echo and was almost unintelligible. Thanks to the Art Deco stylized room that is screen #1, the modern screens 2 and 3 are acoustically superior to the technically superior screen 1.

Once the DCP system is at full speed, then the Silver will be totally versatile and even more amazing.

Cumulo on August 29, 2013 at 5:16 am

My brother and I watched “Closed Circuit” yesterday afternoon in #3. Although advertised on the website as a DCP (and the trailers were digital), we were pleasantly surprised when the feature itself turned out to be a 35mm print.

HowardBHaas on August 19, 2013 at 4:33 am

Anybody see this weekend DCP version of “Cleopatra” 1963 in aud 2? A few months ago, I saw it, was glorious. 4 hour version as after a week or two in NYC & LA, in 1963, it got chopped down by 40 minutes or more. To me, it looked beautiful, a hugely impressive film to look at & enjoy. No surround sound in the version projected that I saw.

Giles on August 13, 2013 at 8:54 am

what a surprise yesterday afternoon to see ‘The Last Unicorn’ not only in DCP (on screen 2) but to get to meet author/screenwriter Peter S. Beagle in person. The presentation while advertised as a 35mm print turned out to be an actual DCP – the Park Circus logo was the immediate indication the literal second it displayed on screen. The colors looked fantastic, slight cel imperfections were retained and not scrubbed, DNR’d to death in typical Disney Home Video fashion (i.e, the current ‘The Sword and the Stone’ bluray is a primer on how the DNR transfer can destroy the original film look and create a flawed ‘video’ presentation). The 5.1 mix was equally impressive, notably in it’s wide dynamic range. It also came in great play when ever Schmendrick used his magical power, sound would swirl into the surrounds.

PeterApruzzese on August 10, 2013 at 8:11 pm

It should be 2.20. If I had to guess, the DCP was probably created with the 2.20 image windowboxed within a 2.39 frame to keep the same height, but not as much width, as a 2.39 show.

HowardBHaas on August 10, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Enjoyed today a beautiful print (4k DCP) of restored Hello Dolly! at AFI Silver in auditorium 2 since aud 1 not yet DCP equipped. Curtain opened, slides shown, then movie began. Halfway thru intermission slide, music, I went to buy popcorn, returned in 2 minutes, and movie had begun already! That was not the right period of time for an intermission! After movie ended, curtain closed, and more music (as appropriate). The sound seemed to be behind screen, but was excellent. I asked beforehand, and was told it would be a 2.39 aspect ratio, which it seemed to approximate. Blu Ray online says 2.35. Since other 70mm films (Lawrence of Arabia, Cleopatra) were put into 2.20 ratio (same as 70mm) for DCP and Blu Ray & these films would’ve been shot with 2.20 lens (right?) why would Fox have cropped Hello Dolly! at top & bottom to place it on a 2.4 aspect ratio for DCP & Blu Ray? Regardless, it was a very enjoyable screening. The movie looked gorgeous on the big screen & sounded great. I had never seen it in a movie theater before today.

HowardBHaas on August 8, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I figured Hyde Park probably wouldn’t have exciting surround, but Anna Karenina sound was so exciting from behind the screen that I just knew I was missing out on a wonderful surround sound experience that I am sure was in the 35mm print but somehow messed up by projectionist.

Giles on August 8, 2013 at 12:18 pm

well in terms of the mixes of Hyde Park this is what’s review says about the mix:

“Hyde Park on Hudson features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that is fairly modest in its sonic ambitions and therefore doesn’t offer much “wow” factor in terms of tremendous immersion or surround activity. Dialogue is almost uniformly anchored in the front channels, leaving the surrounds to capture some well done ambient environmental effects and the charming minimalist score. There are occasional moments of sonic activity, notably when Roosevelt marauds through the countryside in his specially equipped roadster, and, late in the film, when the King and Queen attend a picnic that has Native American performers as well as a gaggle of guests. Those moments are really nicely alive and utilize the surrounds quite smartly. Fidelity is excellent though dynamic range is relatively limited.”

and ‘Anna Karenina’

“Anna Karenina’s stirring DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track throws open the theater doors and embraces every nuance of the film’s sound design, from its windswept fields to its spacious ballrooms, crowded train stations, hushed drawing rooms and beyond. Rear speaker activity is all at once subtle and engaging, using directional magic and cross-channel seamlessness to great effect. The resulting soundfield is satisfying and expansive, drawing the listener onto Wright’s very literal stage and giving them the freedom to stroll from scene to scene. LFE output, meanwhile, grants gravitas and presence as needed, lending its weight to chugging trains, thundering horses and other low-end elements. All the while, dialogue is clear, intelligible and perfectly prioritized, dynamics are rewarding and Dario Marianelli’s Oscar-nominated score surges and relents with poise and power. All told, Anna Karenina sounds as magnificent as it looks, and arguably even better.”


it’d be strange that the 35mm prints of these films would be inferior and have less sound elements. I noticed that the 35mm prints of ‘Les Miserables’ had really subdued surround sound, but the 7.1 mixed DCP was dramatically different and better.

HowardBHaas on August 8, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Steve, that’s puzzling as ALL the sound in those 2 movies was from behind the screen. No speakers were outputting any sound from anywhere else. I assure you that I would’ve noticed surround.

sguttag on August 8, 2013 at 11:58 am

In SILVER 2. It would be near impossible to turn off the surrounds. They played at whatever level they were recorded. Perhaps with the even coverage, you just don’t pick them out as well.

HowardBHaas on August 8, 2013 at 11:48 am

Didn’t turn on the surround sound? That answers why when in Dec 2012, over a 2 period, I saw in aud 2 “Anna Karenina” & “Hyde Park on the Hudson” they each looked gorgeous in 35mm & had vital behind the screen sound but no surround. Someone wasn’t doing their job well!

Giles on August 8, 2013 at 11:41 am

I know that in the heyday of 35mm Dolby Digital sound, you could tell when the surrounds weren’t turned on, if the trailer wasn’t in surround you could bet the feature wouldn’t be either. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’d go out to an employee during the trailers and say – the surrounds aren’t on – ugh, how frustrating. Secondly, you could also tell when you were listening not to the digital track when the reel change would occur, if there was an audible tick, it was the analogue track. Digital LPCM audio is less faulty. Although over at the Angelika I’ve noticed twice two flaws, one where one trailer was encoded with so high, I had to cover my ears. Last week during the trailers before ‘Blue Jasmine’ the audio was distorted and sounded like the front left channel was frizzing out, thankfully someone got up and told someone and the audio got fixed.

sguttag on August 8, 2013 at 4:57 am

Unfortunately…there isn’t a “Surround button.” It is a format selection. The Silver’s sound processor is the mighty Dolby CP200. You can see it here:

The possible formats for it can be seen here:

As I said about the AFI/Silver…its levels and balance are spot-on and the surround coverage is very uniform. If you aren’t hearing the surrounds it is because it wasn’t recorded or possibly the system was in the wrong format.

JodarMovieFan on August 7, 2013 at 8:10 am

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.. :)

HowardBHaas on August 6, 2013 at 9:20 pm

I’d be real pleased to have Jodar as projectionist at the AFI, paid or not. The Silver doesn’t remind me of the KB Fine Arts. Jodar, as I’ve written, I saw the DCP Cleopatra, and it was awesome. I love the historic charm of auditorium 1, but if you see Cleopatra it will likely be in auditorium 2 since Aud 1 doesn’t have the DCP yet so you will be happy.

sguttag on August 6, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Jodar…I can assure you, the surrounds are calibrated to the proper level in all three theatres. They only play what is recorded on the film/video. Most home systems have the surrounds goosed up because people love to hear them but that doesn’t make it right.

As to the films coming with instructions…sadly no. One has to do a bit of investigation in order to decide what NR and format to use. A possible mistake is to play a mono-surround movie in stereo surround. For 70mm magnetic, this would have the surrounds seem like they are off or very muffled as only the frequencies below 500Hz play. For a DTS-70 movie, it is up to the soundtrack supplied and matching the format. Typically they have done a standard 5.1 mix and/or a traditional “Todd-Ao” mix with 5-screen channels and mono surrounds. If a DTS-70 had the wrong format selected…you’d hear dialog out of the surrounds or the reverse, surrounds out of LC/RC.

The inspection sheet they fill out when a print is checked in should really reduce that chance though. They really do try to get the format correct and don’t just guess.