ANC 3C Commissioner Bruce Beckner posted posted potentially shattering news to the Cleveland Park Listserv:
It appears that our neighborhood theater will soon be no more. I just received a call from a City Paper reporter asking what I knew about the sale of the Uptown to the McLean Bible Church (nothing until he called). Here's a link to the church's website with information about their planned use: http://www.mcleanbible.org/pages/page.asp?page_id=18091
Off the top of my head, I don't see much of a "regulatory hook" for this, other than the fact that the church will have to get Historic Preservation Review Board approval for any changes to the exterior. I believe the commercial zoning that applies to this area probably permits this use, whether it's considered "religious" or not.
Assuming this is true, it means that Cleveland Parkers will no longer have the pleasure of having a movie theater within walking distance.
My personal recollection of the first time I was at the Uptown was in 1963, when I saw "How the West was Won" there in "Cinerama" - a 3-projector system that used a semicircular movie screen. I think the Uptown was the only theater in the DC metro area that had that at the time. I also saw the Stanley Kubrick "2001 - A Space Odyssey" there in 1967, also in "Cinerama."
I'll keep folks posted of any further developments that I learn.
According to the Church's website:
MBC Uptown is a Community Campus of McLean Bible Church. It will impact the District of Columbia and nearby communities in both Maryland and Northern Virginia.
Ministries at MBC Uptown will include:
Videocast messages by Lon Solomon and the MBC Teaching Team
Worship led by the MBC Worship Leaders and Bands
Localized ministry teams and outreach events
Opportunities to connect in biblical community with others who live in the DC metro area
Weekly services will start in January 2008.
In fact, the Uptown has not been sold. As featured on the DCDL website, an official response from the Church:
I am writing to clarify our, McLean Bible Church's, intended use for the Uptown Theater. We are not purchasing the theater. We are simply renting it on Sunday mornings. As such, our use will not limit public use of the theater. We realize the place that the Uptown holds in the heart of the community and are committed to developing services and ministries that are
fitting for the Uptown and for Cleveland Park.
McLean Bible Church
Director of Community Campus Development
UPDATE: Here is Washington Post coverage.