Bethesda Row Cinema is one of the most popular theaters in the Landmark chain, so there were many sad faces when the moviehouse turned off its projector in March for an overhaul. I got a sneak peek at some of the changes earlier this week, and I'm happy to report it was all worth it. You can see for yourself when Bethesda Row reopens May 3. In the meantime, read on for a few new amenities to look forward to.
First thing's first: No, ticket prices are not going up.
The first thing you will likely notice is reserved seating. After writing about upgrades at AMC Courthouse, readers made it clear that reserved seating has its fans and (borderline enraged) critics. Some prefer to wait until they're inside a theater to choose a vantage point, and debating the relative merits of seat 10-C over 4-B tends to slow the box office purchasing process. (More easy-to-use computer kiosks are being added to the lobby.) But for those of us accustomed to saving seats for perpetually tardy friends, this is a welcome development; "Sorry, these five are taken" gets old pretty fast.
Speaking of seating, the cinema has reduced each theater's capacity by about 10 percent to accommodate larger, more comfortable seats with extra leg room. All eight theaters have been equipped with new screens and sound systems; a few are now equipped to screen 3-D movies, including "The Great Gatsby" on May 10.
Outside of the screening rooms, the most noticeable difference is a massive round bar, selling beer, wine and liquor. There will be additional seating, both at the bar, and on couches around the perimeter of the concession area, where people can sit and chat, or sample from an expanded menu that includes salads and hot sandwiches. Each theater will have a countdown clock alerting filmgoers when to head inside, although with assigned seatss, there's no rush.
The visual cues of the renovation include a bubble theme, much less pea green than there had been previously and what looks like a shimmering chainmail curtain above the concessions. It's pretty, but not quite as exciting as another new addition: Dyson Airblade hand dryers in the bathrooms. Now that's progress.