I GREW up with the megaplex. Those boxy generic movie theaters with screens enough to accommodate the latest blockbusters. My dislike of these places was unknown until I saw a movie at the Uptown theater on Lower Queen Anne.
After college I moved to an apartment a block off the counterbalance, half way up Queen Anne Hill. Many a night after work I walked down to the Uptown. I rarely went with anybody. It was my time to unwind and lose myself in a silver screen and quiet theater. Turns out my wife lived near me at the time and did the same thing.
The suburban theaters I grew up with were large and impersonal with a labyrinth of halls reminiscent of a horror flick. The Uptown was none of these things. There was something civil about it. The small, uncrowded lobby. The modest rocking seats could have been big and plush like those of the megaplex but were not. The steep incline of the theater’s floor put the screen front and center instead of above like the megaplexes, which requires a neck-craning normally reserved to praise deities.
I do not remember the first movie I saw at the Uptown and I probably, in time, will forget which movie was my last at the Uptown. What I will not forget is the absence of the Uptown. Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald reported this week that AMC is closing the theater with its funky pink facade and old-fashioned marquee. Its last day is Sunday.
The news saddened me. It never occurred to me that it would close. Maybe it should have, considering the number of empty seats.
Seattle is blessed with a number of intimate movie houses like the Harvard Exit and the Egyptian. That does not mean the Uptown will not be missed. I spend a lot of time in Lower Queen Anne. My wife and I often grab sushi a couple doors down at Sam’s, then see a movie.
The shuttering of the Uptown, which has operated since 1926, leaves a big hole. The neighborhood has its struggles, made worse by the Sonics bolting for Oklahoma City. Lower Queen Anne still has landmarks like Dick’s and the Mecca Cafe but also has a scruffiness about it. It is part of the area’s charm, especially compared with the clean confines atop Queen Anne Hill. But another empty building is not going to help Lower Queen Anne’s intertwined business community.
My wife and I will help these businesses this weekend when we make our final trip to the Uptown. Sushi for dinner, a soft serve from Uptown Espresso and a new CD from Easy Street on the walk home.
We will still frequent these places because we love the neighborhood. But Lower Queen Anne will not be the same without one of its anchors.