The place to see a movie in Washington is unquestionably the Uptown. In this day of generic multiplexes, the Uptown theater carries you back to the era of the movie palaces. It has only one screen. But, wow, what a screen: curved, 40-feet high and about 70-feet long. Installed in 1966, this eye-popper helps sell more than 200,000 tickets each year. Jack Valenti, the president of the Motion Picture Association of America, says the screen "is probably the best we have in this town." The second great attraction is a balcony with stadium seating. It almost feels like being at a drive-in without having to look over a dashboard. A $500,000 renovation project in 1996 brought high-back velour seats with drink holders along with new wallpaper, flooring, carpet, drapes and a second concession stand. While the refurbishing didn't take away that old-time feeling, it did take away seats; capacity dropped from 1,120 to 850. More than 300 seats are in the balcony.
But in some ways, the Uptown is no palace. You have to wait for shows in a small lobby, which quickly fills up. The two concession stands aren't really big enough for the traffic, although a hawking cart helps. On busy nights, expect a line at the bathrooms, both on the second floor. Architect John J. Zink designed the art deco theater, which opened Oct. 29, 1936. Zink's Baltimore firm designed more than 200 movie theaters nationwide, including about 15 in Washington. The other 14 District buildings are either gone or house other businesses. Loews Cineplex, which dominates the movie-theater business in Washington, now owns the Uptown.
The best way to get to the Uptown is by Metro. Get off at Cleveland Park on the Red Line. If you must drive, parking is on the street and can be hard to find. Plan on getting to the theater about an hour before a show. You might need 15 to 20 minutes to find a spot and about the same amount of time to walk from where you parked.
-- Matt Slovick
Theater Office: 202-966-8805
Modified for Hearing Impaired: Yes
Disabled Access: Assigned areas for wheelchairs in the middle of the theater. A special bathroom on the ground-floor restroom can be used by people in wheelchairs.