Uptown Theater

3426 Connecticut Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20008

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Dec 22, 2007

Viewing: Photo | Street View

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 398 comments)

Giles on September 14, 2012 at 12:11 pm

or let Cinemark run it and let them do their great Thursday ‘Classic Series’ film showcase.

JodarMovieFan on September 15, 2012 at 9:47 am

Classic films, including 70mm always looks better on bigger screen venues like here, unless its a true 70mm film..filmed in 65mm and NOT a blow up. I remember seeing many 70mm films here, almost all blow ups and wondering why there was so much grain. Grain is one of those detractions that hinder the best theatrical experiences. On the other hand, the saving grace was the six-track stereo sound track that envelopes and draws you into the movie. Even some of the worst movies I’ve ever seen were decent theatrical ‘experiences’ because of the immersive sound and picture.

Raiders would’ve been nice to see again on the Uptown’s bigger screen. Unfortunately, I had to miss it this time around. A one week run is too short.

terrystephen on December 9, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Hello, fans of The Uptown! Some years ago I took a snapshot of The Uptown, and I’ve turned that snapshot into a painting. To view, go to Facebook.com/ArtByTerryStephen

DC on May 21, 2013 at 8:17 pm

This theater holds so many memories for me. The premiere’s of many great films including 2001:A Space Odyssey, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, and Fiddler On the Roof, all in the 1960’s. The mother of my school mate at the time was a child herself during WWII in Japan, and some of the scenes in Fiddler reminded her of wartime in Japan bringing tears to her eyes as the lights came up at intermission.

In the 1980’s and 90’s I also saw the restored re-release of Rear Window here and Vertigo. Spartacus was also shown here with Jean Simmons in attendance.

Mikeoaklandpark on May 23, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Does AMC still use the curtains at this theater? LAst i looked they only had one show a day.Not a good sign.

HowardBHaas on May 23, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Uptown is currently showing new Star Trek Into the Darkness movies, in 2D & 3D showings. Last I asked, late 2011, the curtain motor had broke & the company wasn’t repairing it.

Mikeoaklandpark on January 6, 2014 at 9:36 am

Are films still being shown here?

HowardBHaas on January 6, 2014 at 9:42 am

Mike, a week ago, I enjoyed American Hustle here. Of course, you can google for the film listings. There are often 3 D films showcased here.

Giles on April 10, 2014 at 10:02 pm

I can’t tell if it was a shoddy 3D presentation or what, but the non-3D presentation of ‘Monuments Men’ looked fantastic here at the Uptown. ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ though, today, was another matter entirely. The image seemed too dark at times, like not enough light was being thrown on the screen. Secondly, for a 2.35 film, the image on the sides were somehow slightly cropped, as well as the top looking a tad too cramped in a couple of scenes. This wasn’t the case for the 2.35 AR of ‘Monuments Men’ so I’m sure why this was happening at today’s screening – for the most part I was underwhelmed (thankfully the movie itself was a blast and negated the negative technical flaws). AMC I seriously doubt would do this, but the Uptown could be a top notch theater if they upgraded to feature Dolby Atmos sound – if the Dolby theater and the El Capitan (which has balconies) can be outfitted as such, the Uptown could also be upgraded. Since the screen is on the tall side – the extra height channels and the reinstallation of the left/center, right/center channels of sound could provide better pinpointing of sound on such a large screen … anyhow that’s just a pipe dream in my mind.

bigjoe59 on April 11, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Hello From NYC-

I was under the assumption that the Uptown was a 1st run venue from the get go. but I read it was actually built as a grand neighborhood theater and
only became a 1st run venue with the advent of the modern roadshow era in the fall of 1955. so is there a way of finding a list of all the roadshow films that played the Uptown?

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