No matter what movie you see at the Uptown Theater in Washington, D.C.'s Cleveland Park, you'll feel like you're time traveling. This historic movie palace opened in 1936, and it's been showing films in this Northwest neighborhood ever since then. The exterior of the building is all done up in Art Deco style, complete with a movie marquee and a glowing red "Uptown" sign that's beloved by neighbors in this part of town.
Inside, you'll find just a single movie theater as opposed to today's multiplexes. The theater is enormous, complete with a gigantic curved screen and a balcony. The lobby's chandelier adds to this grand movie-going experience.
The Uptown Theater opened in 1936, according to WAMU, and at the time of its opening, it was owned and operated by Warner Bros. The very first movie screening was a D.C. event, drawing socialites and society figures of the time to the theatre.
The Library of Congress notes that the theater was designed by architect John J. Zink, who was responsible for many theaters built across the United States during this era.
Great moments in history at the Uptown Theater include the world premiere of director Stanley Kubrick's classic 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968. That showing was reportedly a disaster, according to the Washington Post, with attendees leaving during intermission.
The theater has changed ownership many times and is currently owned by AMC. When AMC wanted to replace the famous 22-foot neon "Uptown" signage in 2017 with the AMC logo, there was major backlash from the community and historic preservation activists. AMC decided to instead keep the "Uptown" sign and give it an upgrade with LED lighting instead. Cleveland Park Historical Society reports that the Uptown is part of the Cleveland Park Historic District, and all exterior changes are subject to review by the DC Historic Preservation Review Board.
What to See at Uptown Theatre
This is a unique place in Washington, D.C. to see a first-run movie. Check AMC's website to see the film schedule for the day or evening. If you're an AMC Stubs members, every Tuesday you can see $5 movies plus tax all day.
How to Get There
The Uptown Theater is located in Cleveland Park and the address for the movie theater is 3426 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008. It's a short walk from the Cleveland Park Metro stop on the Red Line.
The Uptown Theater has been the site of many film premieres, drawing star actors like Nicholas Cage who visited in 2002 for his movie Windtalkers or filmmakers like Michael Moore, who visited in 2004 for the U.S. premiere of his movie Fahrenheit 9/11.
What to Do Near the Uptown Theater
For a very full day, you could visit the nearby National Zoo before hitting Uptown Theater to see a film in the evening. The National Zoo's main entrance is up the street along Connecticut Avenue, and the zoo's address is 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008. The zoo is open every day of the year except Christmas.
For dinner and a movie, there are many local restaurants to try in this neighborhood right on Cleveland Avenue. Try Indian street food at the trendy new Bindaas, from restaurateur Ashok Bajaj and chef Vikram Sunderam (the team behind acclaimed D.C. restaurant Rasika). A fun and affordable option for families could be Fat Pete's BBQ, which serves up ribs, buffalo wings, fried green tomatoes, and more. St. Arnold's Mussel Bar is another favorite for mussels, frites, and European beer. For pizza, Vace Italian Deli is almost as historic as the Uptown Theater.
Dolan Uyghur Restaurant specializes in Uyghur delicacies like stir-fries, kabobs, and noodle dishes, while local steakhouse Medium Rare is a favorite destination for prix fixe steak dinners (try the secret sauce here). For Mexican fare, there is Laredo, which serves up Tex-Mex favorites like tacos and enchiladas.