A Cinematic Treasure

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 Uptown Theatre from the balcony

Sunlight filled my apartment. I sat up in bed in panic. Did I sleep through my alarm clock? No- it was only 6:19 a.m. What a glorious day! Right then I decided to play hookie.

An unexpected day from work feels different from the time off on weekends. There’s something rebellious, almost adventurous about a free day. The hours pass slower and the urge to “do something” feels greater.

After languously lounging on my couch, reading the Sunday Post and back issues of the New Yorker, I motivated.

The air felt crisp. I emerged from the Cleveland Park Metro Station to find Connecticut Avenue in its familiar state of activity. Someone new to DC might be surprised to find an exquisite movie house in Washington, DC. The single-screen theater stands defiant in the face of cinema multiplexes littering the landscape coast to coast.

John Zink designed The Uptown Theater for Warner Brothers in 1932. Built in the golden age of Washington movie-going, the original art-deco theater boasted 1120 seats. A $500,000 renovation in 1996 replaced the original chairs with high-back velour seats, as well as new wallpaper, carpets, and a second concession stand. The stadium seating in the balcony reduced the capacity to 840 seats.

Crimson, velour curtains pull open to reveal a larger-than-life curved screen, 40-feet high and 70 feet wide. Installed in 1966, this screen wowed audiences during showings of Star Wars, The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey; and special screenings of classics like Citizen Kane and Lawrence of Arabia.

Recently, people have stood in long lines that snake along the sidewalk and behind Ireland’s Four P’s to see The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. I’d planned to see the last installment for months, and never made it to a show. Today would be the day.

I shared the theater with a handful of people: mothers with small children, a father with his two pre-teens, a rowdy group of teenagers in the balcony. What a luxury!

Clocking in at 3 1/2 hours, the film met my expectations. That said, I hated the ending and thought the last half hour of the movie dragged.

A longer critique to come soon.


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