Originally built in 1938, the Atlas was one of four movie theaters in Washington, D.C. For 30 years, the iconic movie house was a second home for film lovers throughout the H Street Corridor. From film noir to classic buddy comedies, the Atlas Theater was a host for the magic of Hollywood for all DC residents.
But in 1968, everything changed for everyone in America. Riots ensued following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Atlas, as well as thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed. For decades, the H Street Corridor was a dark and silent reminder of a once-vibrant H Street.
From 1968 to 2001, only the iconic art deco Atlas sign remained visible from the street. The building was empty for 33 years.
In 2001, Jane Lang, a philanthropist and lawyer, began discussing the renovation of the Atlas with its neighbors to determine the best possible use for the space. The group decided that the theater and several storefronts would become a community-based performing arts venue that would serve the blighted community. Spurred by Lang’s vision, the Washington, DC government adopted a plan in 2003 to rebuild the H Street, NE corridor and identified the Atlas as a cornerstone of revitalization.
The Atlas fully re-opened in 2006 as a 59,000 square-foot performing arts center with four performance spaces, dance studios, offices, back-of-house facilities and an expansive lobby with a café. The Atlas is on the National Register of Historic Places and was the proud recipient of the 2012 Mayor’s Arts Award for Excellence in Service to the Arts.
Learn more about the Atlas in the video below produced by our friends at Comcast.