Uptown Theater

3426 Connecticut Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20008

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Uptown Theater ... Washington DC

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 448 comments)

veyoung52 on January 13, 2016 at 11:26 am

And, I might add that the “Variety” review out of Chicago stated positively that the initial American engagement at the McVickers (a Cinerama house since 1962) was the only one in the States to utilize a 3-projector Cinerama protocol for this release; the following dates would all be via 70mm. It never played the Philadelphia market in any format, however.

patryan6019 on January 14, 2016 at 1:36 am

Not on the Russian Adventure list is an engagement totally unique in that this never happened in any other city or theatre. The picture ran for 5 weeks. The theatre then closed for 46 days so that it could be upgraded from a temporary installation into permanent Super Cinerama (You all know the difference,don’t you). RA then resumed for an additional 17 days. Anyone know the city and theatre?

Coate on January 14, 2016 at 10:58 am

My unaccounted for engagements of “Russian Adventure” are Akron (Falls), Birmingham (Eastwood Mall), Chattanooga (Brainerd), Jacksonville (5 Points), Louisville (Showcase), Norfolk (Rosna), and Providence (Cinerama). Is the “unique” engagement you’re referring to, patryan6019, one of these?

patryan6019 on January 14, 2016 at 9:13 pm

Java only played one reserved seat engagement — in Hollywood. All others, including NY, played as many as 4 performances a day at reduced prices. This was both the first and last time this occurred, as there were no more pictures released in the process. And why wouldn’t they sell the program in any theatre to make money, since the first credit is “Cinerama Presents”. There were no “truth in souvenir program” laws that I know of.

veyoung52 on January 15, 2016 at 2:27 pm

What does “Krakatoa…” have to do with this discussion of “Cinerama’s Russian Adventure”? And what is the city/theatre mentioned in the January 14 post?

HowardBHaas on January 27, 2016 at 4:58 am

AMC website still asserts Uptown closed due to the snow storm. Why still closed?

Chris1982 on January 27, 2016 at 11:37 am

Howard, I have relatives outside of Washington DC and not all of the streets are cleared yet. They got 18 inches of snow and the area was not all been cleared yet. They were not prepared for that much snows. They even moved electric repair trucks from as far away as Missouri. Even the Federal Government was closed today. 91/27/16

HowardBHaas on January 27, 2016 at 11:38 am

Thanks, if the federal government closed today, I understand better. Yesterday, at least, AMC Mazza Gallerie was open, but that’s in a mall.

HowardBHaas on January 28, 2016 at 11:23 am

Back open today, with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Coate on April 24, 2016 at 1:32 pm

The 70mm Festival that ran here during 1991 included….

1991-07-19 … 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1 week)
1991-07-26 … 2010 (1)
1991-08-02 … BLADE RUNNER (1) (test-screening version)
1991-08-09 … BEN-HUR (1)
1991-08-16 … THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1)
1991-08-30 … ALIEN (1)
1991-09-06 … DAYS OF HEAVEN (1)
1991-09-13 … CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1) (”The Special Edition”)
1991-09-20 … FANTASIA (1)
1991-09-27 … DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1)

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