09 Mar 2010

Movies Return to H Street

Bizet's Carmen“When are you going to show movies?”

In my capacity as the Communications Director for the Atlas Performing Arts Center, I have heard this question a LOT since the center opened in 2006. It’s a fair question since in a past life the Atlas was once a movie theater, one of several which graced H Street NE during its mid 2oth century heyday. The 60,000 square foot venue behind the  signature,  Art Deco marquee now boasts two main stage theaters, two Lab theaters, three dance studios,  dressing rooms, cafe space, offices, a green room, a scene shop and a box office but, until two weeks ago, no movies.

Long-time residents of the neighborhood have recounted stories of spending childhood Saturdays in the cool of the air conditioned building watching cartoons, serials and even the original Star Wars.

The building was an empty shell when it was purchased in 2001. The movie theater had been stripped of its screen and seats when the Atlas Theater closed for good in the late 70s.

One of the members of the Atlas Board of Directors, Meredith Ann Belkov, grew up in the neighborhood and has long wanted to see movies return to H Street. So to make that happen she made a donation  dedicated to the purchase of a screen.

The screen was installed just in time for the INTERSECTIONS festival which closed this past Sunday. There were several films shown as part of the multi-faceted festival.

Scott Kenison, Chief Operating Officer of the Atlas was extremely pleased to finally get the screen installed. “We are very excited because this will open up many more oportunities for programming.”

First up will be the Opera and Ballet in Cinema Series. Emerging Cinemas is a national digital distribution chain specializing in independant films as well as the distribution of High Definition versions of operas and ballets from the most reknowned companies in the world.

The ‘Live Opera on the Big Screen’ trend has become popular in recent years with live streaming from the Metropolitan Opera in New York as well as Washington National Opera broadcasting at National’s Park.  “We think opera fans are going to be thrilled with the opportunity to see the work of the best singers in the world without the cost of the plane ticket.” said Kenison.

Opera and Ballet in Cinema makes its debut this Wednesday evening at 7pm with Verdi’s La Traviata performed by Milan’s legendary Teatro alla Scala with a repeat performance Saturday at 2pm. The offerings will change weekly. The full schedule can be seen on the Atlas website.

The Atlas will also be a venue for the upcoming Environmental Film Festival with two Peruvian films showing on March 23rd.

The Atlas staff is currently developing plans for future film series and events they hope will appeal to local audiences.

What sort of series would you like to see? We know what we like but we to hear from you.  Leave your suggestions in the comments!

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  • sebastian

    Saw Carmen on the new screen. This screen is awesome to view a movie on! Better than most movie theaters in this city.

  • Babsfan

    How about some “classic” films? I’d love to see Streisand’s musical films (FUNNY GIRL, DOLLY, ON A CLEAR DAY, YENTL, FUNNY LADY) on the big screen. There’s no “rep” theaters left in town. And AFI in Silver Spring seems to always be screening either LAWRENCE OF ARABIA or CASABLANCA.

  • fisherdm

    Totally agree with Babsfan. Classic films.

  • Bruce

    Here’s an idea: allow people to propose movies on your website and then collect “votes” to qualify for a screening. I have some personal favorites that I’d love to see on the big screen, though others wouldn’t consider them to be “classics.” If given a chance, I’d do what I could to drive people to the Atlas web site and collect votes for my favorites.

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