The DC Preservation League and the Cleveland Park Historical Society have filed an application to designate the Uptown Theater as an historic landmark. Constructed in 1936, the Art Deco-style theater was the last single-screen “movie palace” still functioning in the District until AMC, its most recent tenants, decided to close up shop in March of this year.
The Preservation League and Historical Society argue the theater should be preserved due to its historic import to the Cleveland Park business district and the movie culture of Washington as a whole. Cleveland Park was even more sleepy in the early 20th century than it is now, and the arrival of the Uptown helped to spur the neighborhood’s business district along Connecticut Avenue. The theater hosted premieres for movies like “Dances with Wolves” and “Jurassic Park”, and was the place in the city to see new blockbuster films. One Cleveland Park resident described the throngs that came to see Star Wars as “an invasion” to the Washington Post in 1977, saying “There are people, people crawling up the streets constantly. We’re constantly being awakened when people line up for the midnight show.”
The DC Office of Planning won’t be making a decision until January 2021 at the earliest, but should they decide to give it landmark status, Cleveland Park Historical Society President of the Board of Directors Rick Nash says his group and the Preservation League want to avoid the Uptown being turned into a mixed-use space that preserves the facade. He says they would try to find another movie theater company to move in post-pandemic, or turn the space into a performing arts venue.