Uptown Theater

3426 Connecticut Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20008

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Dec 22, 2007

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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 404 comments)

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on January 6, 2014 at 6:36 am

Are films still being shown here?

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on January 6, 2014 at 6:42 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
Giles on April 10, 2014 at 7:02 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
bigjoe59 on April 11, 2014 at 1:16 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?

Coate
Coate on August 4, 2014 at 10:13 am

bigjoe59… Here’s my work-in-progress listing of the time period you’re asking about. The roadshow bookings are in bold.

1956-11-01 … OKLAHOMA! <23 weeks> 70mm

1957-04-08 … AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS <51> 70mm

1958-04-01 … SOUTH PACIFIC <32> 70mm
1958-11-12 … THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA <6>
1958-12-23 … SOUTH PACIFIC <8> 70mm

1959-02-18 … SLEEPING BEAUTY <11> 70mm
1959-05-06 … SAYONARA <2>
1959-05-19 … THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK <5> stereo
1959-06-24 … AUNTIE MAME <1>
1959-07-02 … THE BIG CIRCUS <5>
1959-08-07 … THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK <1> stereo
1959-08-14 … INDISCREET <9>
1959-10-14 … PORGY AND BESS <12> 70mm

1960-01-06 … PILLOW TALK <1>
1960-01-14 … BELOVED INFIDEL <1>
1960-01-21 … A SUMMER PLACE <1>
1960-01-28 … THE LAST ANGRY MAN <1>
1960-02-04 … LIBEL <1>
1960-02-11 … ANATOMY OF A MURDER <1>
1960-02-19 … NEVER SO FEW <1>
1960-02-26 … LI’L ABNER <1>
1960-03-03 … ROOM AT THE TOP <1>
1960-03-10 … SOME LIKE IT HOT <1>
1960-03-17 … ON THE BEACH <1>
1960-03-24 … THE MOUSE THAT ROARED <1>
1960-03-31 … OPERATION PETTICOAT <2>
1960-04-13 … THE SHAGGY DOG <4 days>
1960-04-17 … DAMN YANKEES <3 days>
1960-04-20 … BELL BOOK AND CANDLE <2 days>
1960-04-22 … THE BRAMBLE BUSH <1>
1960-04-28 … WHO WAS THAT LADY? <1>
1960-05-06 … THE SWORD AND THE CROSS <1>
1960-05-13 … WILD STRAWBERRIES <2>
1960-05-25 … CAN-CAN <19> 70mm
1960-10-06 … SUNRISE AT CAMPOBELLO <8>
1960-12-01 … EMBEZZLED HEAVEN <3>
1960-12-23 … THE ALAMO <8> 70mm

1961-02-20 … EXODUS <18> 70mm
1961-06-28 … SPARTACUS moveover from Warner <11 (35)> 70mm
1961-09-15 … FANNY <6>
1961-10-25 … UPSTAIRS AND DOWNSTAIRS <1>
1961-11-03 … CAROUSEL <2> stereo
1961-11-14 … WEST SIDE STORY <42> 70mm

1962-09-04 … theater closed <9>
1962-11-07 … THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM <18> Cinerama

1963-03-14 … HOW THE WEST WAS WON <44> Cinerama

1964-02-19 … IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD <36> “Cinerama”
1964-10-28 … CIRCUS WORLD <3> “Cinerama”
1964-11-20 … LILI <5>
1964-12-25 … FATHER GOOSE <10>

1965-03-10 … THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD <19> “Cinerama”
1965-07-20 … THE HALLELUJAH TRAIL <9> “Cinerama”
1965-09-22 … MEDITERRANEAN HOLIDAY <6> “Cinerama”
1965-11-03 … THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY <18> 70mm

1966-03-09 … BATTLE OF THE BULGE <15> “Cinerama”
1966-06-23 … KHARTOUM <13> “Cinerama”
1966-09-21 … JOHN F. KENNEDY: YEARS OF LIGHTNING, DAY OF DRUMS <5>
1966-10-26 … THE BIBLE: IN THE BEGINNING… <29> 70mm

1967-05-24 … GRAND PRIX <21> “Cinerama”
1967-10-19 … FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD <14> 70mm

1968-01-26 … LOVE MATES <3>
1968-02-16 … GRAND SLAM <2>
1968-03-01 … DOCTOR ZHIVAGO <5>
1968-04-02 … 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY <52> “Cinerama”

1969-04-02 … ICE STATION ZEBRA <12> “Cinerama”
1969-06-25 … SWEET CHARITY <13> 70mm
1969-09-24 … A MAN AND A WOMAN / BELLE DE JOUR <1>
1969-10-01 … JOURNEY TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE SUN <1>
1969-10-10 … CAN HEIRONYMUS MERKIN EVER FORGET… <1>
1969-10-17 … DOCTOR ZHIVAGO <1>
1969-10-22 … THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT <4>
1969-11-19 … DON’T DRINK THE WATER <5>
1969-12-24 … MARRY ME! MARRY ME! <2>

1970-01-07 … TRILOGY <?>
1970-??–?? … GONE WITH THE WIND <?> 70mm
1970-02-08 … MAROONED <10> 70mm
1970-04-22 … 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY <5> 70mm
1970-05-27 … HELLO, DOLLY! moveover from Warner <17 (40)> 70mm
1970-09-24 … TORA! TORA! TORA! <20> 70mm

1971-02-10 … THE LAST VALLEY <2> 70mm
1971-02-24 … MY FAIR LADY <6> 70mm
1971-04-07 … WATERLOO <7> 70mm
1971-05-26 … RED SKY AT MORNING <2>
1971-06-09 … DR. NO / FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE <3>
1971-06-30 … MURPHY’S WAR <3>
1971-07-21 … EVEL KNIEVEL <5>
1971-08-25 … GONE WITH THE WIND <4> 70mm
1971-09-22 … WINDJAMMER <2>
1971-10-06 … AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS / WEST SIDE STORY <5> 70mm
1971-11-10 … FIDDLER ON THE ROOF <57> 70mm

1972-12-13 … MAN OF LA MANCHA <18> 70mm

1973-04-18 … 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY <8> 70mm
1973-06-13 … FIDDLER ON THE ROOF <2> 70mm
1973-06-27 … JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR <14> stereo
1973-10-03 … THIS IS CINERAMA <6> 70mm

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on August 5, 2014 at 2:16 pm

to Coate-

many many thanks for your detailed list. it was quite kind of you. since you appear to be quite well versed on the subject a two part question.

*during the prime roadshow era(Oct. 1955-Dec.1972) Manhattan had 7 large 1st run venues that the studios used for roadshow engagements-Criterion, Loew’s State, RKO Palace, Demille ,Warner, Rivoli and the Loew’s Captiol. while it would be nice to have as detailed a list per the Uptown for all of D.C.’s roadshow houses that’s asking a bit much so could you at least name what other D.C. houses were used by the studios for roadshow runs.thanks.

*I’m not saying it was Oscar material or one of the best large scale action epics but Circus World’s 3 week roadshow rum seems inordinately short. I don’t know how long its roadshow run at the Warner Cinerama was but it was way longer than 3 weeks. you would figure with all the pre-lease hype for CW and whatever advance sales were in place before opening night what’s up. again I’m not saying it was Oscar material or one of the great large scale action epics but there were a number of roadshow epics in New York that got a mixed critical response but still ran for 15-20 weeks.
so what’s with CW’s 3 week D.C. roadshow run?

Coate
Coate on August 6, 2014 at 12:55 am

bigjoe59….

WARNER
THIS IS CINERAMA
CINERAMA HOLIDAY
SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD
SEARCH FOR PARADISE
WINDJAMMER
SOUTH SEAS ADVENTURE
THE BIG FISHERMAN
BEN-HUR
SPARTACUS
KING OF KINGS
JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG
EL CID
MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY
CLEOPATRA
THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE
MY FAIR LADY
DOCTOR ZHIVAGO
HAWAII
CAMELOT
DOCTOR DOLITTLE
STAR!
HELLO, DOLLY!

APEX
LORD JIM
THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES
IS PARIS BURNING?
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW
GONE WITH THE WIND (1967 re-issue)
FINIAN’S RAINBOW
THE LION IN WINTER
GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS
PAINT YOUR WAGON
PATTON
NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA

ONTARIO
RAINTREE COUNTY
THE LONGEST DAY
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
BECKET
THE SOUND OF MUSIC
THE SAND PEBBLES
THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE
THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE
HALF A SIXPENCE
WAR AND PEACE
FUNNY GIRL

MACARTHUR
A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS
OLIVER!
SONG OF NORWAY
YOUNG WINSTON

L’ENFANT
THE SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN
BEN-HUR (1969 re-issue)

TRANS-LUX
THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI
THE CARDINAL

AVALON
LAST TANGO IN PARIS

CINEMA
FUNNY GIRL (moveover from Ontario)

COLUMBIA
GIGI

KEITH’S
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

PALACE
IN HARM’S WAY

PLAYHOUSE
THE BLUE MAX

TOWN
CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on August 6, 2014 at 9:45 am

to Coate-

again many many thanks for the list of the other D.C. houses the studios used for roadshow engagements. it was rather kind of you to do so. added to the Uptown list you kindly provided for me I guess this covers all the prime Oct.1955-Dec.1972 roadshow engagements. also when you have a spare moment I would greatly appreciate your take on why Circus World’s roadshow run at the Uptown lasted only 3 weeks whereas other hyped roadshow epics which likewise received critically mixed reviews sometimes lasted 15-20 weeks.thanks in advance.

raysson
raysson on August 6, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Impressive information. Michael Coate has done it again!

mike8105
mike8105 on August 23, 2014 at 3:47 pm

I recall that Earnest Borgnine attended an invitational premiere of “Ice Station Zebra” in 1969 at the Uptown. It benefited the Navy Relief Fund I believe — a charity of which Mr. Borgnine was fond. Senator Edward Kennedy attended along with many other dignitaries.

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