It's a refreshing change to be reporting on a movie theater under construction, rather than theaters being demolished in the past (or, potentially, in the future, in the case of the Regal Cinemas in downtown Bethesda).
|Eric Howard of Westfield Corporation|
|The future Valet station is in|
|To the left is one of several|
trees that balance the
modern architecture with
an organic element
Ultimately, the new cineplex/dining terrace addition is the most prominent manifestation of Westfield's $90 million upgrade of Montgomery Mall. While White Flint Mall's owners chose to pull the plug on their successful indoor mall to gamble on an urban, "town center" concept, Westfield went in the opposite direction, bringing Montgomery Mall up to the standards of its California properties.
As Westfield representatives explained during a press conference and hard hat tour yesterday, dining and entertainment are the prime catalysts for success in a competitive market like the Washington, D.C. area. Westfield Montgomery had been a runner-up to regional giant Tysons Corner for many years, with the latter boasting more - and more upscale - dining options and a far more ambitious multiplex theater.
|Westfield Montgomery Marketing|
Manager Diego Gonzalez-Zuniga
the ArcLight/Dining Terrace
addition as "the new front
door" of the mall
It's amazing what 18 months and $90 million can do. Westfield Montgomery has pulled just about even with Tysons in dining options, with new and future tenants like The Cheesecake Factory, Lobster ME, MET Bethesda, CRAVE, and Naples 45. If you consider that the last time I was at the movies at Tysons, the theater seats were stained with holes in the cushions, I would argue that a buzzworthy replacement for Legal Sea Foods could put Westfield Montgomery ahead of Tysons by a nose.
|Ted Xenohristos, founder of Cava Mezze|
Restaurant Group, said the chain's new
Dining Terrace location will have
several new features, including a
wood stone oven for housemade pita,
and local craft beer and wines on tap
That potential was only made possible by the 16-screen ArcLight Cinemas and the signing of many new upscale retail tenants like Lilly Pulitzer and True Religion. Some other longstanding complaints were addressed during this period, including closing the "Starbucks gap" when Westfield finally got the coffee chain on board. It also made sure that smaller dining tenants were unique, such as Dumpling Dojo, Wicked Waffle and Aroma Espresso Bar.
|Zach Sussman of CRAVE Restaurants|
says CRAVE takes sushi seriously
Along with the bigger full-service restaurants coming in the months ahead, these dining options were definitely not the standard food court offerings of average malls in the past. That's one reason Westfield Montgomery's food court is now called a Dining Terrace, not a food court.
|The spectacular view from the|
upper level in the Dining Terrace
|Sarku Japan's sushi bar is|
a centerpiece in the new
|The escalator that will bring patrons|
up to more dining options, and the
At yesterday's press conference, representatives of Cava Grill, Lobster ME, Blaze Pizza, CRAVE and MET Bethesda offered a preview of the menus and unique aspects of their respective restaurants. In the case of Lobster ME and Blaze Pizza, there was actually food to sample (stay tuned for a separate report on Blaze Pizza).
|Gretchen McCourt, Exec. VP|
at ArcLight Cinemas
|McCourt said ArcLight patrons|
won't be bombarded with
annoying ads before movies
And, as you will see in the video, ArcLight Cinemas promises to be a major boon for film buffs, in addition to satisfying the dinner-and-a-movie crowd. I like that the chain treats movies less as a commodity and more as the art form it is, with no advertising and a black box in-theater atmosphere. And it will be the only theater in Bethesda showing films of the past, an experience that currently requires a trip over to the AFI Silver Theatre in downtown Silver Spring.
|McCourt leads members of the media|
on a tour of one of the 16 auditoriums
under construction in the ArcLight Cinemas
Ultimately, we are witnessing the reinvigoration of the suburban indoor mall. Rather than dying out, Westfield Montgomery remains a major retail destination in the DC area. With the new multiplex and restaurants, it is now also an entertainment and dining destination. This comes just as the momentum and population growth is shifting from urban areas back to the suburbs across the country, making it perfect timing for the rebirth of the indoor mall.
|ArcLight Cinemas' lobby will feature a|
small cafe/wine bar
|ArcLight's signature lobby image wall,|
which will have changing displays
throughout the year, was being
|Lobby of ArcLight Cinemas|
|Another lobby shot|
|Jordan McMeen of|
|Blaze Pizza opens today - stay|
tuned for a review!
|Chairs, tables and other|
furnishes await placement
in the completed Dining Terrace
|Sarku Japan's sushi bar|
|Where the press conference was|
held earlier in the morning
|Lobby of ArcLight Cinemas|
|Speakers are already installed in|
this ArcLight Cinemas auditorium
|Very dark shot looking|
at the future seats from the
|The corridor inside ArcLight;|
note frames to hold
Coming Attractions posters
|Curved walls are a feature|
inside all ArcLight cineplexes,
Eric Howard of Westfield said
|Entrance to Auditorium 7,|
where you may one day enter
to screen a movie
|The escalators were running|
after the hard hat tour; later
I noticed the escalator company
truck outside, meaning they
were probably testing it
|But first, let me take a selfie|