MacArthur Theater

4859 MacArthur Boulevard NW,
Washington, DC 20007

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MacArthur Theater

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Opened as a single screen movie theater on December 25, 1946. On December 7, 1979, the MacArthur Theater held the world premiere of “Star Trek:The Motion Picture”. It was triplexed in 1982 (architects Goenner & Woodhouse), and closed in 1997.

Drugstore chain CVS took over the lease of the building that the same year and the once proud interior of the MacArthur became a place to buy discount band-aids. Sadly, many of DC’s classic movie theaters have also been acquired by CVS.

Contributed by Ross Melnick

Recent comments (view all 90 comments)

sguttag on October 14, 2014 at 4:00 pm

That number does not sound unreasonable.

Jay Harvey
Jay Harvey on October 14, 2014 at 4:20 pm

On a cold, rainy day in December of 1979 this theatre held the world premiere of “Star Trek-The Motion Picture”. Robert Wise actually brought the film cans here because Paramount was in a rush for him to complete it for the holiday season. Shatner, Nimoy, Gene Roddenbery & the rest were here for the premiere. Now a CVS pharmacy occupies the building. There ought to be a law!

Giles on October 15, 2014 at 1:47 pm

so the premier of ‘Star Trek – The Motion Picture’ played here, but didn’t actually play here, right? or am I wrong? I thought I remembered seeing it over at the Uptown.

Jay Harvey
Jay Harvey on October 15, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Wikipedia states the film had its world premiere at the K-B MacArthur theatre

sguttag on October 15, 2014 at 5:00 pm

You would be mistaken. Star Trek premiered here AND played here. The Black Hole played the Uptown…maybe you were thinking that?

JodarMovieFan on October 15, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Re: KB Cinema’s sound system. I remember it pretty well when ‘Empire Strikes Back’ played there. The Tie fighters whizzing by like jet craft in stereo sound all, I’m afraid to say surround sound.

In regard to sound systems in general and thinking about the above posts, imho, you don’t need great sophisticated equipment to experience sound around you to get that spatial effect. I remember when broadcast tv began stereo broadcasts in the mid 80s. While Johnny Carson’s show was not that great, Miami Vice and more so, the awards shows had some cool stereo spatial effects. I still have a PCM recording of Janet Jackson performing..lip synching to ‘Control’, from the AMA awards show and there’s screaming everywhere..yelling to the left of me..behind me..applause, people shouting ‘JANET!’ All I had was a Pioneer Digital 8 stereo player and 4 speakers placed around the living room and a 25" Sony tv.

Now discovering how technically unsophisticated the Mac’s system was, whatever and however I heard it, mono surrounds and all, it was enough to immerse me into whatever was happening onscreen as long as I sat in that sweet spot, which was usually in front of the back of the middle section and center.

Giles, as far as I can remember the only Star Trek films shown at the Uptown were Star Trek II and the reboots..I think. If they did, I would have been there at at least one of the showings. II had a one week run in Dec ‘82 just before Gandhi opened there in 70mm. I know this for a fact because I saw it 2x :) I can still remember driving my Mom to work before her 7pm shift and hightailing across Mass Ave to Woodley, trying to find parking before the 7pm or 7:30pm the snow.

Why see the movie so many times? With a good film, when you see it again and again, you sometimes experience something or see something you did not recall from the previous viewings. What I recall from the Uptown viewing, different from prior ones, was how the sound system was able to convey the ship engine sounds ‘slowing’ just prior to the Reliant attack on the Enterprise. The ‘screw hitting the floor’ sound that I refer to in my previous posts, for whatever lack of tech sophistication in the hardware here, sounded less prominent at the Uptown. I always thought the Uptown’s sound was sometimes muffled, albeit slightly, in comparison to here and other venues.

Visually, the expanse of the Uptown’s superior screen size improved on the 70mm experience (aside from the grain) vs the Mac’s for sure. Starfields, simplistic effects for sure, made you feel you were traveling in space and the full beauty shots of the ships like the Reliant’s were all the more dramatic.

Going back to the sound topic at the Mac, pre ‘82 remodel, Steve mentioned the exposed front speakers in the front of the theater that were there because they couldn’t fit or be hidden. Looking back, it was a blessing in disguise because were they to be hidden behind something, they would probably impede the sound delivery.

sguttag on October 15, 2014 at 10:07 pm

The MacArthur’s stage speakers were all behind the screen. The exposed speakers (on the stage) were subwoofers that were installed for Trek II.

The Cinema didn’t get stereo surrounds until relatively late…after 1987. The Uptown had stereo surrounds first (one of the first in the nation). The Uptown’s surround layout was “unique.” There weren’t that many but they were large speakers…Altec A7s.

dickneeds111 on October 23, 2014 at 11:31 am

My favorite D.C. theatre or all around presentation was the Ontario. There Todd AO showing of Sound Of Music was fantastic. I also saw it at the Gary in Boston and was disappointed in it’s presentation there. Boston’s best presentation of 70mm was either the Charles or the Astor. Both big screens and great sound. The Saxon and Gary(both Sack/USA or Lowes theatres) were fair. The Charles was originally Walter Reade who took care of film presentation. When Sack took over it was excellent until they they put in a new smaller screen. The Charles reminded me very much of the Ontario in its conmstruction.

HowardBHaas on October 23, 2014 at 3:36 pm

see this site’s Homepage News today for Oct 28 event regarding this theater.

rivest266 on June 21, 2015 at 12:43 pm

December 25th, 1946 grand opening ad in photo section

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