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 426 comments)

patryan6019 on December 9, 2014 at 10:15 pm

Coate (and bigjoe59)…The 9/26 Circus World booking list does need a double-check. Listed for 2/17 is a run in Akron at the Falls that conflicts with your 8/27 Mary Poppins list on The Digital Bits which lists a 1/27 opening for that picture. From my research that date is correct and MP is playing there on 3/1 and 4/1 until My Fair Lady opens later that month. I also know CW opened 5/26 at the Cinema (formerly Loew’s) and two drive-ins. Where did you get the February date?( It wouldn’t be the first time a run was hidden when the search isn’t week to week). Additionally your list is missing 3 cities — Jacksonville opening 7/22 for 5 weeks and Chattanooga and Nashville both 11/12 and 8 weeks. Also missing run lengths are Providence for 23 weeks, Norfolk for 8 (the Rosna is downtown, 18 miles and 24 minutes from Virginia Beach) and Birmingham for 2 weeks. CW should have played 66 engagements, but at 54 it still was the largest (in 70 mm) until Grand Prix. This all started with big joe’s 9/5 question (which none of this will ever answer) about why the short DC run — there was at least one shorter (unless a Disney picture was interrupted in Akron). More than half —31— of the CW runs were single digit (2 months or less) so perhaps it is more significant to ponder why Providence and Hartford hold the record for this picture at 23 weeks.

bigjoe59 on December 11, 2014 at 3:11 pm


I thank my fellow posters for any info about Circus World’s Cinerama reserved seat engagement at the Uptown. granted its not Oscar material but I found it even on vhs to be a corny hokey enjoyable popcorn
movie. so I should think on a giant curved screen with stereophonic sound it would have been that much more enjoyable. to which its roadshow run of only 3 weeks at the Uptown is just utterly bizarre when you consider its roadshow runs in other cities lasted from 15 to 23 weeks.

telliott on December 11, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Here in Toronto, Circus World lasted only 5 weeks. The shortest Cinerama engagement in the city.

Giles on December 12, 2014 at 8:31 pm

why DID ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Grease’ start their runs in 35mm – when 70mm had already been in place to begin with?

rivest266 on June 21, 2015 at 8:04 am

October 28th, 1936 grand opening ad in photo section

bigjoe59 on June 21, 2015 at 5:23 pm

Hello From NYC-

i thank Coate for posting a while back a list of Circus World’s roadshow runs across the U.S. i questioned the D.C listing for the Uptown of only 3 weeks. Coate figured it might be because word had gotten out that the film while enjoyable wasn’t another El Cid. but the film opened in other big city runs after D.C yet had decent runs cancelling out Coate’s theory about word of mouth. my point being the Uptown run of 3 weeks the shortest on the list has got to be a mistake.

richmurphy on August 28, 2015 at 11:41 am

Sorry, bigjoe59, but Coate’s listing of the Uptown’s CIRCUS WORLD engagement is NOT a mistake. Having some time to kill today, I perused back issues of The Washington Post. (Remember that 1964 was the era of daily showtime listings and display ads, so researching facts like this is relatively easy). The dates he listed are correct.

But since you and I are both fans of the movie, may I recommend the Anchor Bay Blu-Ray from Britain that came out a year ago. You’ll need a multi-region player to view it, but the restoration work by Pinewood is quite impressive.

bigjoe59 on August 28, 2015 at 2:54 pm

Hello Again from NYC-

I thank richmurphy for his reply. as stated though Circus World isn’t Oscar material I found it a corny, hokey colorful entertaining film. i just can’t see any roadshow film presented “in Cinerama” starring John Wayne lasting only 3 weeks. a question for you. as i said in my original post i suppose CW suffered from the fact it wasn’t another El Cid. but if that’s the case than why did the film last as long as 13, 15 or 20 weeks in its roadshow run in other cities.

Giles on August 29, 2015 at 7:39 am

when are you going to do the 1980’s list Coates – I’m very curious to resee what played there since those were the years I most went to the Uptown (a lot).

Well now I’m curious to find my bluray copy of ‘Circus World’ it’s somewhere here in the mess er, video collection (organizational skills aren’t my strong suits)

DavidWallick on September 3, 2015 at 12:14 pm

I accidentally found this theater during a recent trip to Washington. I was so glad to see that it still existed. Single screen theaters are so rare these days. It looks to be relatively well cared for and in good shape. I love the fact that the newspaper advertisements refer to this as “AMC Uptown 1” as if every theater has to have a number like 10 or 14 or 16 these days!

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