AMC Uptown 1

3426 Connecticut Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20008

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12-28-13 From balcony's top row

Opened by Warner Brothers on October 29, 1936, the Uptown Theater is the last movie palace in Washington, DC. The Uptown Theater 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 proscenium was 44ft wide x 26ft high. 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 and the ceiling was altered. In the fall of 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 basically gutted with the proscenium removed as it 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 Theater 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.

With the Disney film “Onward” AMC ceased operating the Uptown Theatre on March 12, 2020. It remains to be seenid another movie theatre operator will take ove this much storied, much beloved movie theater

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

Recent comments (view all 575 comments)

Giles on March 14, 2020 at 10:57 pm

This does not need an IMAX laser install – a top of the line 4K laser projector is the least it would need to be state of the art – pop in a Dolby Atmos system, the theater could and should feature the modern amenities of most chain theater ‘premier’ screens. Folk literally have no problem dropping $20 on average at Tyson’s for Dolby Cinema, and other luxury theaters in the area, there’s no reason why if another film exhibitor were to resume operation HAS to include laser projection and immersive audio when it’s become the norm. Reading the Post article was just depressing, sure running a one screen theater is a challenge, but it needs the community to back it and give some voice to the neighborhood if it truly wants it back, and it comes at a terrible time, when theaters nationwide and internationally are having a significant drop in attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic. Booking Pixar’s ‘Onward’ there, which was Pixar’s second lowest grossing movie, and then having it’s next movie, the new James Bond, bumped to November, and then the sudden audience no-shows, just gave AMC the more excuses to just throw in the towel, just sad and unfortunate.

moviebuff82 on March 15, 2020 at 11:31 am

SethLewis, actually it was the 1996 blizzard since 12 monkeys came out during christmas of 1995. How many single screens AMC’s are left? Barely none, as AMC introduced the megaplex idea to the US with the Grand Theatre in Texas and has been in business in many forms for the past 100 years. I hope someone who takes over this venue doesn’t demolish it and turn it into a performing arts center. RIP Uptown.

JodarMovieFan on March 16, 2020 at 7:13 pm

As the closure of the theater is sinking in, I’ve become more disappointed in the Post’s article. They are too lazy to go and get a current picture of the place and use one from years ago. How crazy is that? I’m just curious as to how badly the theater was doing for it to close. You’d think if there was a marginal loss, the others in the chain would help offset it.

If they want to twin it, make the upstairs an auditorium to itself. Actually, you could do two. Split the balcony into two screens. Keep the big one downstairs intact. :)

Mark Boszko
Mark Boszko on May 31, 2020 at 9:35 pm

Oh no. I just heard the news — Not only is my treasured Seattle Cinerama closing, but my beloved Uptown? I went there often, when I lived in the DC suburbs, for almost twenty years, 1994–2013. It was the theatre that really kindled my love for grand cinematic experiences. Rest in peace, friend.

Mark Boszko
Mark Boszko on May 31, 2020 at 9:50 pm

Aside, to SethLewis: Yenching Palace! That Chinese place was great. I was so sad when that closed and became a Walgreens. They had the best neon sign.

JodarMovieFan on June 1, 2020 at 1:08 am

With the Seattle Cinerama’s closure, Netflix buying the Egyptian in Hollywood, it would make sense for Amazon (Jeff Bezos) to either buy the Cinerama..maybe the Uptown, too. Both great classic movie houses. They could dismantle the 3-strip cinerama projection and bring it back here, too. :) How cool is that?

moviebuff82 on June 1, 2020 at 9:06 am

What if Disney buys the uptown? It could be their flagship theater on the east coast much like the El Capitan is on the west coast, then renovate it with recliners and reserved seating and upgrade the audio to Dolby Atmos and dolby vision projection.

hdtv267 on June 2, 2020 at 5:51 am

I didn’t think you liked recliners….

markp on June 2, 2020 at 8:41 am

I agree. Just like the Paris in NYC, leave the seats alone. Its an old theatre and should be left as such.

jeffpiatt on October 12, 2020 at 7:05 pm

Sounds like they let the lease expire and opted to not renew rather than downgrade it to AMC classic. The only single screen theater they have left is a IMAX in Chicago, IL at the navy peir

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