Uptown Theater

3426 Connecticut Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20008

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Uptown Theater ... Washington DC

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Opened by Warner Brothers on October 29, 1936, the Uptown Theater is the last movie palace in Washington, DC still showing first-run films. The Uptown is located near the Cleveland Park subway stop on the Red Line of the Metro. Many restaurants are on both sides of the street.

The theater opened with a seating capacity of 1,364 (914 seats in the orchestra and 450 in the stadium seated balcony). The Uptown Theater was designed by theater architect John Zink, a top designer of Art Deco and Art Moderne style movie houses. In 1939, Zink designed Baltimore’s historic Senator Theatre.

In the early 1940’s, the auditorium’s side walls were covered with fabric. In 1956, the auditorium was remodeled to allow films in wide screen Todd-AO. “South Pacific” ran for seven months in 1958 and “West Side Story” ran for nine months in 1961. In 1962, the auditorium was remodeled to show 3-strip Cinerama films. The original projection booth remains at the top of the balcony, but new booths were added at the front of the balcony. Since Cinerama ended, the center front booth continues to be used.

The World Premiere of “2001-A Space Odyssey” was at the Uptown Theater on April 2, 1968, in its original two-hour and 40 minute version. Kubrick trimmed 20 minutes, and the movie was then shown for 51 weeks. Local theater operators Circle tookover, and that company’s founders continue to own the building, though succeeding movie operators lease it. In 1987, Cineplex Odeon tookover, and that company later merged into Loews, which in time merged with into AMC.

Many films were shown in their original 70mm runs, and later, in reissues, to sold out crowds. The restored “Lawrence of Arabia” was shown in 1989, with director David Lean attending the premiere. The restored “Spartacus” was shown in 1991 and the restored “My Fair Lady” in 1994. Cineplex Odeon refurbished this palatial movie house in 1996, reducing the seating capacity to 840 and reopened it with the restored “Vertigo”. In 1997, the Uptown was host to the re-release of the Star Wars saga (aka “Star Wars: The Special Edition”). On opening day, the ticket lines wrapped around the block, turned the corner, and continued several blocks away from Connecticut Street. New prints of 36 classic films, starting with “The Jazz Singer” were shown in 1998 to celebrate 75 years of Warner Brothers movies. The other restored classics included “Rear Window” in 2000, and in 2001, a 20th anniversary run of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”. In 2003, the Director’s Cut of “Alien” was shown, and in 2007, “Blade Runner, the Final Cut”.

Hollywood studios frequently have glittering red carpet film premieres at the Uptown Theater.

First run, blockbuster mainstream movies are the mainstay. Known for having the largest screen in DC (its curved screen measures 32 feet tall by 70 feet wide for ‘scope films), the Uptown Theater has been the best place to see event movies for several decades.

Contributed by Karim Alim, Justin Zagri, Howard B. Haas

Recent comments (view all 422 comments)

Coate on September 26, 2014 at 2:28 pm


At long last, here are a few words from me regarding your (multiple) requests for comment pertaining to “Circus World” and its short run at the Uptown. I’ve rounded up all of my data on the roadshow/Cinerama engagements of “Circus World” and am presenting it here. There are a few dates that require a double-check and a missing engagement or two, but I believe it to be mostly complete. Scrolling through the list you’ll be able to compare how long the film played in each city and can draw your own conclusion as to whether or not the film’s roadshow release ought to be considered a success.

As to my take on the matter of the Uptown’s brief engagement. Washington, DC opened the movie several months into release, by which time it proved to be a commercial and critical disappointment, and so I suspect the studio lost any leverage they may have had in demanding a lengthy booking. Just a guess, though. Still, three weeks for a reserved-seat engagement is ridiculously short for a city of any size, especially a large one (and it kinda makes me wonder if I erred when I originally researched the matter).

Anyway, while there’s some risk in irking some readers that this may be somewhat off-topic, here is the roadshow booking list for the United States and Canada for “Circus World”:

1964-06-24 … Dallas, TX – Capri (11 weeks)
1964-06-25 … Boston, MA – Boston (18)
1964-06-25 … Cleveland, OH – Palace (7)
1964-06-25 … New York, NY – Loew’s Cinerama (19)
1964-06-25 … Philadelphia, PA – Boyd (9)
1964-06-26 … Atlanta, GA – Martin Cinerama (13)

1964-07-01 … Cincinnati, OH – Capitol (8)
1964-07-01 … Honolulu, HI – Cinerama (14)
1964-07-01 … Kansas City, MO – Capri (15)
1964-07-01 … New Orleans, LA – Martin Cinerama (13)
1964-07-01 … Pittsburgh, PA – Warner (8)
1964-07-03 … Milwaukee, WI – Southgate (7)
1964-07-08 … Chicago, IL – McVickers (15)
1964-07-08 … Virginia Beach (Norfolk), VA – Rosna (?)
1964-07-22 … Miami (Miami Beach), FL – Sheridan (7)
1964-07-23 … Houston, TX – Windsor (12)
1964-07-29 … Toronto, ON – Carlton (5)

1964-08-05 … Buffalo, NY – Teck (5)
1964-08-12 … Columbus, OH – Grand (9)
1964-08-12 … Louisville, KY – Rialto (8)
1964-08-20 … Charlotte, NC – Carolina (6)
1964-08-21 … Tampa, FL – Palace (8)
1964-09-23 … Albuquerque, NM – Fox Winrock (4)
1964-09-30 … Fresno, CA – Warner (10)
1964-09-30 … Rochester, NY – Monroe (4)
1964-09-30 … Syracuse, NY – Eckel (4)

1964-10-14 … Wichita, KS – Uptown (13)
1964-10-21 … Denver, CO – Cooper (8)
1964-10-22 … Portland, OR – Hollywood (11)
1964-10-28 … Salt Lake City, UT – Villa (21)
1964-10-28 … Washington, DC – Uptown (3)
1964-10-29 … Hartford, CT – Cinerama (23)

1964-11-05 … St. Louis, MO – Martin Cinerama (19)
1964-11-06 … Baltimore, MD – Town (4)

1964-12-09 … Omaha, NE – Indian Hills (15)
1964-12-14 … Newark (Montclair), NJ – Clairidge (16)
1964-12-17 … Indianapolis, IN – Indiana (12)
1964-12-18 … Los Angeles, CA – Warner Hollywood (16)
1964-12-21 … San Francisco, CA – Orpheum (13)
1964-12-24 … Providence, RI – Cinerama (?)

1965-01-13 … Las Vegas, NV – Cinerama (6)
1965-01-22 … Orlando, FL – Beacham (4)
1965-01-27 … Montreal, QC – Imperial (22)

1965-02-10 … Toledo, OH – Valentine (11)
1965-02-17 … Akron (Cuyahoga Falls), OH – Falls (?)
1965-02-17 … Dayton, OH – Dabel (7)
1965-02-17 … San Diego, CA – Center (8)
1965-02-18 … Phoenix (Scottsdale), AZ – Kachina (6)

1965-03-16 … Detroit, MI – Summit (7)
1965-03-23 … Sacramento, CA – Esquire (6)

1965-04-29 … Birmingham, AL – Eastwood Mall (?)

1965-10-27 … Minneapolis (St. Louis Park), MN – Cooper (8)

bigjoe59 on September 26, 2014 at 4:13 pm

to Coate-

many many thanks for your reply. I figure if anyone could answer the question you could. I didn’t see Circus World in its “in Cinerama” roadshow run at the Warner Cinerama on 47th St. I owned the soundtrack album plus I go the vhs when it came out. admittedly its a corny hokey film and while not Oscar material I still found it an enjoyable corny hokey film.

a good film is a good film. an uneven film is an uneven film and a bad film is a bad film no matter what city its playing in. I am sure NYC, San Francisco and Los Angeles have discriminating moviegoers so if they kept their city’s roadshow engagements running for respectively 19,13 and 16 weeks what gives with D.C.’s 3 weeks? the advance sale being that it was a John Wayne film , that is was “in Cinerama” and Samuel Bronston’s talent at over the top spectacle should have been enough sustain a run of longer than 3 weeks. so the only guess I can make is the same as yours- they waited to long to open its D.C. roadshow run.

telliott on September 26, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Circus World was probably the shortest roadshow and Cinerama engagement in Toronto as well, with only 5 weeks at the Odeon Carlton. But it opened midsummer and the Carlton was huge, didn’t seem to work out as a Cinerama house, even It’s a Mad…World didn’t do well there at only 18 weeks even though it played over a year in some places. Probably why after the Greatest Story Ever Told, all Cinerama films were moved to the much smaller and very suburban Glendale theatre way up in North Toronto.

Coate on September 27, 2014 at 12:54 pm

I guess I may as well post the rest of the 1970s era bookings for the Uptown from the point my list from the August 4th posting left off.

Again, this is a work-in-progress which includes some details that probably should be double-checked. I hadn’t planned to post any of it given its incomplete status, but the recent roadshow and “Circus World” questions have prompted me to reconsider. Anyway, regardless of its current state of completion, I believe enough of it to be complete and accurate so as to justify posting it here for all fans of the Uptown to enjoy. If you think any detail is incorrect, simply send me an email or make it a part of the conversation. Otherwise, enjoy the flashback if you resided or visited the area and attended any of these shows at the Uptown.

1973-11-14 … THE SERPENT (5)
1973-12-19 … MARCO (2)

1974-01-02 … PAPER MOON / ROMEO & JULIET (1)
1974-02-06 … FANTASIA (1)
1974-02-13 … A TOUCH OF CLASS (2)
1974-03-06 … KLUTE / MAN IN THE WILDERNESS (1)
1974-03-20 … A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1)
1974-03-27 … CONRACK (1)
1974-06-26 … THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT! (20) 70mm 6-Track Stereo
1974-11-15 … EARTHQUAKE (27) Sensurround

1975-05-23 … 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (2) 70mm 6-Track Stereo
1975-06-04 … GONE WITH THE WIND (4) 70mm 6-Track Stereo
1975-07-02 … ROLLERBALL (9) 70mm 6-Track Stereo
1975-09-03 … LAST TANGO IN PARIS (2)
1975-09-17 … A DELICATE BALANCE (1)
1975-09-24 … THE HOMECOMING (1)
1975-10-01 … RHINOCEROS (1)
1975-10-08 … DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (2) 70mm 6-Track Stereo
1975-10-29 … AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1)
1975-11-05 … 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1) 70mm 6-Track Stereo
1975-11-12 … SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE (1)
1975-11-19 … YESSONGS (2) 4-Track Stereo
1975-12-03 … WHOSE CHILD AM I? (1)
1975-12-10 … HARRY & TONTO (1)
1975-12-17 … MALIZIA (1)
1975-12-24 … LUCKY LADY (5) 70mm 6-Track Stereo

1976-01-28 … THE SHELTER OF YOUR ARMS (1)
1976-02-04 … HARD TIMES (1)
1976-02-11 … ALL SCREWED UP (2)
1976-02-25 … GIVE ‘EM HELL, HARRY! (1)
1976-03-10 … GONE WITH THE WIND (2) 70mm 6-Track Stereo
1976-03-24 … MOSES (1) Super SpectraSound
1976-03-31 … GONE WITH THE WIND (1) 70mm 6-Track Stereo
1976-04-07 … FAMILY PLOT (7)
1976-05-26 … JAWS (3)
1976-06-16 … THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT, PART II (8) 70mm 6-Track Stereo
1976-08-11 … GATOR (1)
1976-08-18 … SURVIVE (1)
1976-09-01 … CAR WASH (9)
1976-11-03 … THE PASSOVER PLOT (2)
1976-11-17 … LED ZEPPELIN: THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME (2) 4-Track Stereo
1976-12-01 … 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (2) 70mm 6-Track Stereo
1976-12-15 … NETWORK (9)

1977-02-16 … SCOTT JOPLIN (5)
1977-03-23 … AIRPORT ‘77 (7)
1977-05-11 … CINDERELLA 2000 (2)
1977-05-25 … STAR WARS (55) 70mm 6-Track Dolby Stereo

1978-06-16 … GREASE (16) 70mm 6-Track Dolby Stereo
1978-10-05 … THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL (11)
1978-12-22 … FANTASIA (7) 4-Track Stereo

1979-03-30 … HAIR (8) Dolby Stereo
1979-05-25 … ALIEN (19) 70mm 6-Track Dolby Stereo
1979-10-03 … APOCALYPSE NOW (11) 70mm 6-Track Dolby Stereo
1979-12-21 … THE BLACK HOLE (8) 70mm 6-Track Dolby Stereo

NOTE: The 70mm notations on STAR WARS (1977) and GREASE (1978) represent a mid-run upgrade; both began their engagement in 35mm.

patryan6019 on December 10, 2014 at 1:15 am

Coate (and bigjoe59)…The 9/26 Circus World booking list does need a double-check. Listed for 2/17 is a run in Akron at the Falls that conflicts with your 8/27 Mary Poppins list on The Digital Bits which lists a 1/27 opening for that picture. From my research that date is correct and MP is playing there on 3/1 and 4/1 until My Fair Lady opens later that month. I also know CW opened 5/26 at the Cinema (formerly Loew’s) and two drive-ins. Where did you get the February date?( It wouldn’t be the first time a run was hidden when the search isn’t week to week). Additionally your list is missing 3 cities — Jacksonville opening 7/22 for 5 weeks and Chattanooga and Nashville both 11/12 and 8 weeks. Also missing run lengths are Providence for 23 weeks, Norfolk for 8 (the Rosna is downtown, 18 miles and 24 minutes from Virginia Beach) and Birmingham for 2 weeks. CW should have played 66 engagements, but at 54 it still was the largest (in 70 mm) until Grand Prix. This all started with big joe’s 9/5 question (which none of this will ever answer) about why the short DC run — there was at least one shorter (unless a Disney picture was interrupted in Akron). More than half —31— of the CW runs were single digit (2 months or less) so perhaps it is more significant to ponder why Providence and Hartford hold the record for this picture at 23 weeks.

bigjoe59 on December 11, 2014 at 6:11 pm


I thank my fellow posters for any info about Circus World’s Cinerama reserved seat engagement at the Uptown. granted its not Oscar material but I found it even on vhs to be a corny hokey enjoyable popcorn
movie. so I should think on a giant curved screen with stereophonic sound it would have been that much more enjoyable. to which its roadshow run of only 3 weeks at the Uptown is just utterly bizarre when you consider its roadshow runs in other cities lasted from 15 to 23 weeks.

telliott on December 11, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Here in Toronto, Circus World lasted only 5 weeks. The shortest Cinerama engagement in the city.

Giles on December 12, 2014 at 11:31 pm

why DID ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Grease’ start their runs in 35mm – when 70mm had already been in place to begin with?

rivest266 on June 21, 2015 at 11:04 am

October 28th, 1936 grand opening ad in photo section

bigjoe59 on June 21, 2015 at 8:23 pm

Hello From NYC-

i thank Coate for posting a while back a list of Circus World’s roadshow runs across the U.S. i questioned the D.C listing for the Uptown of only 3 weeks. Coate figured it might be because word had gotten out that the film while enjoyable wasn’t another El Cid. but the film opened in other big city runs after D.C yet had decent runs cancelling out Coate’s theory about word of mouth. my point being the Uptown run of 3 weeks the shortest on the list has got to be a mistake.

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