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 465 comments)

Coate
Coate on August 31, 2016 at 5:23 pm

Thanks, Howard. Your comment suggests my notes are incomplete on the matter of the 70mm festival (and the 1990s-era Uptown bookings). Those details were jotted down many years ago while researching for evidence of a screening of a 70mm print of “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” I came across them while pulling some notes recently for another project and thought readers might find them of interest. Anyway, I doubt “For the Boys” was a part of the fest, since it was a new movie getting its initial release that November (unless there was a pre-release screening that concluded the fest).

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on August 31, 2016 at 6:24 pm

Ah, right, then For the Boys would’ve been the next release. Kwai was a faded print.

patryan6019
patryan6019 on September 1, 2016 at 7:56 am

Fiddler played between DZ (not 70mm) and WSS. The others ran as you listed, but were also not in 70. Prior to Boys in 70 was 1st run Black Robe for 3 weeks.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on September 1, 2016 at 1:21 pm

Patryan, I had known re Fiddler on the Roof but neglected to mention it above. Are you saying that Amadeus, GWTW, and Lawrence of Arabia were all shown then in 35mm? And, that Dr Zhivago was shown 35mm? Was Fiddler on the Roof in 35mm? Was Ben Hur shown in 35mm or 70mm? I don’t think the ads or whatever were clear to me as to Ben Hur & Dr Zhivago format.

Coate
Coate on September 2, 2016 at 4:04 am

Recently published: “Khartoum”: The Roadshow Engagements, which, of course, includes a mention of its run at the Uptown.

patryan6019
patryan6019 on September 2, 2016 at 7:21 am

Howard…Of those 6 films, only Fiddler and Ben-Hur were in 70mm, the latter using the 69 reissue that did not have the original extra wide image.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on September 2, 2016 at 11:12 am

Thank you, patryan. Were you are projectionist there?

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on September 2, 2016 at 11:30 am

As to Ben Hur, would it have projected 2.2 aspect ratio? Would’ve lost a bit of the 2.76 aspect at left and at right?

patryan6019
patryan6019 on September 3, 2016 at 9:16 am

Howard…No I am not a projectionist, AR would be 2.2 and at 2.76 the image on a screen with a height of 30 feet would need to be 7.5 feet wider on each side.

JonT
JonT on September 19, 2016 at 2:24 am

Made my last visit to the Uptown to see “Prometheus” and left before it was half-way through; couldn’t believe that this theater was showing a projected image that did not fit the screen, most distracting — unbelievable!

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