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Posted at 2:12 PM ET, 07/19/2007

Uptown Rumors to Rest ... For Now

By Jen Chaney

Washington, D.C. movie lovers were ready to throw their popcorn in protest after hearing rumors that Fairfax County's McLean Bible Church would soon purchase the beloved AMC Loews Uptown. Turns out those rumors are not true; the projectors will continue to roll at the Uptown.

However, McLean Bible Church will rent the space every Sunday, beginning on January 20, 2008. A written statement issued by the church says, "Aside from services at the Uptown, the church will also offer ongoing community service projects, opportunities to connect in small group Bible studies plus a variety of Christian education classes." Mike Hurt, the church's director of community campus development, says the group will only use the theater on Sundays.

Andy DiOrio -- corporate communications manager for AMC, which owns the Uptown -- says the venue "will still function as a movie theater," despite the church's use of the space. He noted that many theaters across the U.S. rent space to church and community groups, so this arrangement is not unusual.

That's true, but when it happens at a multiplex, other auditoriums can continue to show movies at the same time. At the Uptown, there's only one screen, which makes me wonder whether this decision might signal the beginning of the end for the 71-year-old art deco movie house.

When I asked DiOrio whether the company is concerned about the Uptown's financial outlook, his response was a curt: "Right now, there are no plans to close the theater." That didn't sound like a definitive, "We will absolutely never shut it down" to me. In recent years, the same chain has shuttered the doors at the Cineplex Odeon Wisconsin and the Cinema, also on Wisconsin Ave., so it would not surprise me if the Uptown is on a potential hit list. (When I called the Uptown directly, a manager simply referred me to corporate.)

So that's where the story stands. If the church and the company are to be believed, the Uptown will continue to screen blockbusters the way nature intended: large and loud. But I'm personally, sadly, not sure how much faith I have in the theater's long-term future.


By Jen Chaney  | July 19, 2007; 2:12 PM ET
Categories:  Movies  
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