Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

All hail the Uptown!

Good. This can be a tribute to something good that's still here.

A benefit of having lived near Washington, D.C. was that I got to go to movies at the Uptown. Full name, back when I was attending it, Cineplex Odeon Uptown, now known as the AMC Loews Uptown, in the Cleveland Park neighborhood and not too far from the National Zoo. It's in what I remember as a fairly unassuming neighborhood, low-slung like almost all of D.C. proper, along the high-traffic Connecticut Avenue.

It has one of the biggest screens in D.C. and possibly one of the largest in the mid-Atlantic. Heading south you're probably not going to find a commercial theater screen of similar size until Atlanta, maybe; going north, maybe Philly or New York. The IMAX screen at the National Air & Space Museum likely trumps it, along with any other area IMAX screens (or, as Bobby "Fatboy" Roberts calls certain theater screens, "Lie-MAX" because some screens aren't properly equipped to show IMAX films, they're just big). Still, the screen: it's big, it's curved, and it's impressive. It made me impressed with the Uptown.

Which, 20 years ago, made lemons out of lemonade, and I benefited.

The Uptown had booked for a multi-week run the expected summer 1991 blockbuster Dying Young. The film was nowhere near the hit its studio had expected, so with that bad start and without the option of switching to some other current film, Uptown management made it a classic big-screen film summer. Week-long engagements of movies that CRAVE the big screen, not Campbell Scott's body failing in front of Julia Roberts to the sound of Kenny G's sax.

That was the second time I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey in a theater. Yes, I'd seen it before. When I was a kid, not even 7 years old yet. Confused the HELL out of me that first time, but it stuck with me like mad, got me to seek out Arthur C. Clarke's written work, and contributed to my budding geekiness. Going to such a vintage theater to see it seemed like a pilgrimage. It would've seemed like even more of one had I known the Uptown hosted that film's world premiere on April 2nd, 1968. (It was after that screening that director/co-writer Stanley Kubrick did a last-minute cut of 19 minutes of the film, resulting in the version people know now.) Other geek-significant movies it premiered: Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, and Superman II in 1980.

OK, back to summer '91. Another week? The theatrical cut of Blade Runner. My first big-screen viewing of it. The next summer the Uptown played the first Special Edition of the movie; I saw that, too. I've seen Blade Runner three different times in the theater, in three different versions. (By the way, here's the most recent time.) I just like the symmetry of that. Most films haven't been remolded as much as that one.

Those were the only two summer '91 screenings at the Uptown that I managed to make it to. I also didn't take other opportunities to see the restored versions of Spartacus (1961) or Lawrence of Arabia (1962) there, either. Still haven't seen Spartacus on the big screen, in fact, but not seeing it at the Uptown when I had the chance? Bad Chris.

Say, Tarah, maybe next time I'm in the D.C. area we should see if something worth seeing is at the Uptown. Where the screen is still curved, like a bowl ready to catch good films. Or like a half-pipe for awesome moves, where moves are light hitting the screen and not skaters skating. (This entry is kind of just tailing off. Like Kenny G's sax.)

Still: the Uptown. Good for it.

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