- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Cineplex Odeon Uptown is running a new “Star Wars” film but the parking situation outside the Cleveland Park theater is like a rerun for neighborhood residents.

Ashley Bollinger, 28, who lives on Newark Street, had to park four or five blocks from her house on opening night, Wednesday.

“That’s the furthest I’ve ever had to park, and I’ve lived here for two years,” she said. “I’m expecting it to be a lot worse for the next week.”

The “Star Wars” movies have created a street-parking fiasco around the Connecticut Avenue neighborhood since the first installment ran in 1977.

“It was the same as it is today — lots of people, camped out, hard to park,” recalls 60-year-old Judy Hubbard Saul, who at the time lived around the corner from the theater.

Uptown customers in search of street parking were equally frustrated yesterday.

“It’s easier blowing up a … Death Star,” Wes Johnson, 43, of Falls Church, said in joking reference to the movie.

Mr. Johnson’s parking problems began when he and his three sons arrived at the Uptown about 30 minutes before for the 3:30 p.m. showing of “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.”

He had to move the car by 4 p.m. so he went inside to verify the family’s Internet-purchased tickets were good, then “hunted some more” for another parking spot.

At one point, Mr. Johnson looked across the street to see a car back into his blue sedan while exiting a parking spot.

“And I just got hit. Great. Thank you,” he said to the driver.

Mr. Johnson — who acts and writes for TV and movies and has a role in the latest John Waters film — eventually found a spot where he could park longer, but it was at a meter.

“Now I’ve got to get a life supply of quarters,” he said before crossing Connecticut Avenue to get change from the drugstore, then finding a friend who agreed to feed the meter while at a neighborhood bar.

With the Uptown’s 850 seats and showings from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., residents and theater customers can indeed expect no improvement in the parking situation through at least next week.

Vanessa Harris, who was walking from a Metro stop to her house on 29th Street after teaching special education at the city’s Prospect Learning Center, said she parks in a garage. But that was no guarantee, either.

She said people often park behind her garage and block her in when parking is scarce.

“With the movie coming out, it’s going to be really bad,” Miss Harris said.

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