Showing 24 comments
Actually the free tier of their membership program waives both the booking fees and the PLF upcharges. So just by signing up you can cut $6 off an IconX ticket; regular shows are $14.75 without fees.
I suspect favorable lease agreements, deferred rent payments, etc., the same things that saved a lot of businesses. The Boro is still an up and coming development and Icon is their crown jewel; there’s no way there were going to let them leave. It did take people a while to find it once they were opened permanently in April 2021, but it does great business now.
Saw Triangle of Sadness here last night in Theatre 7. The art deco look throughout the lobbies, and especially in the bar, is pretty neat, and everything is of course bright and shiny and new. The bar area is unique enough that it would be a fun place to hang out for a drink or a meal even without seeing a movie. The theatres themselves unfortunately were disappointing. Theatre 7 is one of the 111-seat houses, but the screen was top-masked/flat and only medium-sized, which leads me to believe the other screens, with the exception of the Big Show, are all similar or smaller. Picture, sound, and seat quality were all fine; they have the same wider, deeper recliners as the DC location as opposed to the narrow ones at Woodbridge. Food service was fine considering how new they are. The layout is stacked, somewhat similar to the DC location, except there’s nothing on the street level except the escalator/elevator lobby. The box office, bar, Big Show, and Theatres 2-5 are on the second level, with Theatres 6-9 stacked on top of 2-5 on the third floor.
I’ve been to this theatre several times now since they’ve gotten back to full operation following the pandemic and I would say it is, on balance, the best cinema in the DC area in terms of presentation. In addition to the four IconX PLF screens, the five largest conventional screens (#7 and #11-14) are all fixed scope; the five smallest are fixed flat. Picture quality is always sharp, bright, and crisply framed if the aspect ratio is conventional and matches that of the screen. The sound engineering is also especially excellent; the volume in all the auditoriums is cinematically loud and and there is clear surround channel distinction. Having nine scope screens out of fourteen and four PLF/Atmos houses gives them the edge over Alamo in my estimation; even though Alamo still uses masking most of their conventional screens are flat and not especially large. The three largest IconX screens (#1, 9, and 10; #2 is a bit smaller) are about as big as Alamo’s Big Show screens, making them them among the widest screens in the region with the exception of the Smithsonian’s two true IMAX screens. Their seats also top Alamo’s; Icon has the widest and cushiest recliners I’ve ever experienced in a cinema, and the heating is a nice bonus. There’s a nice bar with a large seating area on the first floor, as well as additional lounge areas on both floors. They allegedly have an adult-friendly policy for shows after 8pm: kids under 7 aren’t allowed in PG13 or R rated films, and ages 7-17 must be accompanied by an adult. How they enforce this given their advance and fully-automated ticketing process I’m not certain, but I’ve never encountered any audience issues here. It would be nice to see them get some more independent programming; they show a lot of Indian films but more traditional art house fare would be nice.
The concession ordering process is the one thing Icon could improve on. “Regular” concessions (popcorn, candy, soft drink cups) are ordered at kiosks in the lobby and then picked up at the downstairs concession stand; the one upstairs never seems to be open. When they first opened orders were sent to concessions automatically and you could pick up when your number came up on a screen right next to the stand; that process now evidently no longer works and you have to take your receipt to the concession stand and have it scanned; then they prepare the order. They also have a full service menu for which the ordering process is entirely virtual; either ahead of time or from your seat via the Icon Extras app, from the kiosks, or using a newly implemented QR system at each seat. I haven’t tried the QR system yet but the other processes work fine, albeit service is a bit slow. Finally, the only way to order alcohol is directly at the bar, and I’ve overheard folks being confused by this. They could do themselves a service by streamlining these processes; I imagine they’re cutting corners a bit due to a 14-screen, 1800-seat cinema being quite large for a full service dine-in experience. Those quips aside, I really do think this is the region’s best cinema, and it being Metro-accessible is another bonus; it’s just a short walk up the hill from the Greensboro station.
Tickets are on sale for what looks to be a soft opening on Mon Oct 24, followed by a full opening on Fri Oct 28. They advertise all auditoriums as featuring Barco SP4K laser projection and Dolby Surround 7.1, with the Big Show featuring the 66' x 27' side-masked/scope screen and Dolby Atmos. The Big Show seats 237 with other seating capacities ranging from 111 (x4) to 67 (x2) to 50 (x2) for a total capacity of 915.
This cinema closed at the start of the pandemic (March 2020) and I believe has remained closed since, long after the main Movieland complex reopened. It has also been removed from Bow Tie’s list of locations. They’ve continued to book the more esoteric art house films that previously played here at the main complex. At a minimum its status should be temporarily closed, if not permanently.
Bow Tie Cinemas will not be renewing their lease at this location, with Look Dine-in Cinemas set to take over and perform a full renovation for a late 2022 reopening. The article is short on details but all other look locations appear to follow the typical dine-in cinema setup with a full kitchen and bar and recliner seating. With how tightly built this complex is I can’t see them adding a full kitchen without removing an auditorium somewhere, or cutting out part of theater 5 (the BTX auditorium) which has the only large screen here. Hopefully they leave that one alone.
The Big Show is a very impressive screen; the films I’ve seen in there have all looked and sounded absolutely fantastic. Theater 2 is also noteworthy in its own right…it’s side-masked and at least as big as Theater A in Ashburn, and seats 201. Most other chains would charge a premium for a screen/auditorium of that size these days. Having that screen right next to the Big Show is ironically sometimes unfortunate for their reparatory programming as a lot of it ends up in 2 instead of the Big Show. The other six are all smaller and top masked, but this cinema employs a more modern design in that the stadium seating isn’t built very tall and the seating is split about 50/50 above and below the entrance. All that is to say that scope films generally look fine even on the top-masked screens. Living in the Fairfax City area it’s too far for me to make the drive down here regularly, but I’m crossing my fingers that they deliver on all fronts with the Crystal City location.
Theaters 3 and 6 are the largest after A and would be quite impressive for flat and not bad for scope. I saw Blade Runner in theater 6 (granted I sat on the second row) and it felt plenty immersive. The others are all fairly small.
With built-on addition of “Theatre A” a few years back this cinema now has 9 screens and 996 seats. It’s now one of the older cinemas in Alamo’s fleet; projection is Sony 4K xenon (no laser) and all seats with the exception of the front row of Theater A are fixed high backs. Theater A has a pretty large side masked scope screen and Dolby Atmos; the other eight are all top masked. Programming here is a bit more eclectic than at the Woodbridge location; it’s probably the only cinema in Loudoun County that regularly shows films that are in less than wide release.
They claim the Big Show is 66' x 28'.
I’ve been here a couple times now in the regular auditoriums. It’s nice to have a new theater with side-masked, scope screens and I hope they replicate that at the Crystal City location. The recliners here are also a bit wider and more comfortable than the ones at Woodbridge. Projection and sound have been top notch but the food service has been decidedly less so. The first time I was here they kept taking and delivering orders right up until the end of the movie, and then we had to wait about fifteen minutes after it ended for them to bring out the checks. The second time I got there a bit early and a manager came through and took my order, but the regular wait staff didn’t show up ‘til about five minutes before the movie started, and it took them a LONG time to get orders out. The checks were at least handled correctly this time. I’ve been to several Alamo locations now, all in VA or DC, and the food service has been hit or miss…so far it’s definitely a miss at this cinema.
In the long term my guess is they’ll convert 6 to a digital or laser IMAX and 7, the other Atmos-equipped auditorium, to a Dolby Cinema. The latter is in the middle of the pack in terms of screen size and capacity…the screen can’t be more than 35-40 feet wide, and with recliners it wouldn’t seat more than 80. But that would be cheaper than installing a new Atmos system in one of the larger auditoriums, so of course that’s what AMC will do. And I guess if people are willing to pay $25/ticket for something they think is a “premium experience” just because the salesman tells them so, that’s the fault of their own stupidity.
I would guess AMC considers Atmos a “premium” format, meaning something they only offer if they can charge extra. Since they only offer Atmos in Dolby Cinema and haven’t yet reconfigured any auditorium as such, that’s why they refused to play it.
I made a couple trips here recently to see The Beatles Rooftop Concert in IMAX laser and The Godfather in Dolby Cinema; it was only my second time seeing a movie in either format. This complex was built so massively that these two screens (they’re the same size) actually deliver on the L in PLF…at least for flat films as both of these were; I see absolutely no reason to see a scope movie letterboxed in either format. The sound balance in IMAX was off during the trailers; it was pushed significantly toward the surrounds to the point that it was hard to hear any dialogue, it was fine during the feature however. I still think IMAX (whether the original 15-perf 70mm version or the multiplex version) is still better suited to experiential events (like say a concert documentary) than actual feature films. The Dolby Cinema had the sound balanced correctly for the trailers and the picture was very sharp. Even via a 4K scan and DCP, The Godfather has a pretty heavy grain structure and isn’t the type of movie to show off the sharpness and contrast of a 4K laser system, but I have no doubt it looked exactly as intended. And wow, what an incredible experience it was to see that film on a huge screen for the first time.
Deadline reports that AMC is taking over the lease at the former Arclight Bethesda with an opening expected in March 2022 as AMC Montgomery 16. No other details; I assume they’ll wait a bit to see if it’s worth investing in to remodel in the AMC style. At a minimum I expect they’d put a digital IMAX or Dolby Cinema in the Widescreen auditorium, which of course means ripping out the masking.
Cinema Arts is a quality art house in Fairfax City. Programming ranges from the occasional top-performing blockbuster to mainstream arthouse fare to more eclectic releases, including the occasional DC Area exclusive. The seating has been recently upgraded; still rocker style rather than full recliners but they’re wide and comfortable. Projection and sound quality are top-notch; they play movies appropriately LOUD here compared to some chain multiplexes. All six screens are side-masked with Screen 1 being pretty large for an art house. All the other screens are roughly the same size with Screen 2 being a bit smaller. Seating capacities range from 253 in Theater 1 to 64 in Theater 6 for a total seating capacity of 878.
There is a Century JJ film projector in the booth of Theater 3 but I don’t know if it’s operational. The last film engagement I can recall here was Interstellar in 35mm in November 2014.
Cinemark re-modeled this complex in 2017 with reservable recliner seating in all fourteen auditoriums as well as new wall coverings in the largest auditoriums, new carpet throughout, and new screens. This theater is an anomaly in the DC area as most of its screens (10 out of 14) are side-masked, however the new screens Cinemark installed in many auditoriums are slightly taller than 2.39:1, meaning that scope films are slightly letterboxed. Regardless, this is one of the nicest cinemas in the area with some of its largest screens, especially for scope films. Auditoriums 7 and 8 are the largest with capacities of 293 and 278 and also have wider screens that the XD auditoriums (6 and 9, which are taller but narrower and seat 221 and 219). I have also noticed good surround sound quality here, particularly in theater 7. The XD auditoriums are equipped for Auro 11.1 but few films are mixed as such with Dolby Atmos clearly having won the immersive sound battle.
There is also a restaurant/bar area in the lobby, Cinemark’s Studio Eats Bar & Grill. Total seating capacity is 1,960.
The total seating capacity for Angelika at Mosaic is 1,516:
Screen 1: 300
Screen 2: 300
Screen 3: 155
Screen 4: 100
Screen 5: 100
Screen 6: 155
Screen 7: 189
Screen 8: 217
Based on Fandango seating chart info, the capacity for this theater is 3,123. The RPX auditorium (1) is the only one with recliner seating and as such is in the middle of the pack capacity-wise at 157. Theater 16 is the largest at 357. Theaters 7, 8, and 16 all have large side-masked screens with 16 being the largest. Theater 9 has “ScreenX” technology which includes a scope-formatted main screen as well as screens running along the side walls that are supposed to reflect imagery that blends into the main picture.
Paragon remodeled this theater in the fall and winter of 2018-19, installing reservable recliner seating in all twelve auditoriums. Theaters 1, 2, and 3 have very large scope-formatted screens; theater 1 is branded as the “Extreme Theater” and includes a slightly larger curved screen, laser projection, and Dolby Atmos. These three theaters also have upper-level dine-in seating accessed via Chatterbox, a restaurant/bar/lounge above the lobby. The Chatterbox area (including the upper section of those auditoriums) is 21 and over after 4pm, but all aged are permitted earlier.
Seating capacities for dine-in seating are 96 in theater 2 and 75 in theaters 1 and 3. General admission seating ranges from 165 in theaters 1, 2, and 3, to 55 in the smallest auditoriums; the complex’s total seating capacity is approximately 1,600.
This should be combined with the entry for “Fredericksburg 14.” This theater has been through a few different configurations: it opened in 1989 operated by R/C Theatres with ten screens; in 1997 five stadium seating auditoriums were added to the north end of the building expanding the screen count to 15, along with a remodel of the lobby. Regal Cinemas bought the theater in 1997/98, then from August 2009 through March 2010 it went through a significant remodel. What had been theaters 4 and 5 were combined to create a larger theater 4, bringing the screen count to its current configuration of 14. Stadium seating was installed in that auditorium as well as in #1, 13 and 14, bringing the number of stadiums auditoriums to nine, and the entire complex was remodeled with new seats, carpet, and wall hangings, and a new box office. Finally, theater 1 was converted to a digital IMAX in 2018.
Current seating capacities range from 244 in theaters 11 and 12 to 80 in the five remaining sloped-floor auditoriums (2, 3, 5, 6, and 7); the digital IMAX in theater 1 seats 171.
Yeah the BTX is unmasked for flat, but at least it’s designed for scope films. And I’ll take a widescreen presentation over a television-shaped one any day, which is why I’m seeing Interstellar at the Uptown instead of at Arclight, which I was considering previously.
The reported dimensions of the “widescreen” auditorium (65'x45') don’t make sense as that would produce an unmasked aspect ratio of 1.44:1, and this is obviously not a 70mm IMAX auditorium. Perhaps that measures the screen straight across and doesn’t account for the curve. Ultimately it’s likely to be (and appears to be from the pictures that are available) 1.85:1 unmasked, which means scope films will be masked or letterboxed just like at every other run-of-the-mill chain. And just like on a television. Cheaper to build, but not cinematic or widescreen by any stretch. At this point the only huge side-masked auditoriums in the NCR that I’m aware of are the Uptown and Bow Tie’s BTX screen in Reston (unless you include Fredericksburg…three down there including one large format). Some of the older Regals including former Consolidated and Loew’s theatres do have some side-masked screens, and Fairfax Corner used to be all side-masked until they put in their two Xtreme screens, and with Cinemark taking over I would guess they’ve done a full conversion, though admittedly I haven’t been there in a couple years.
Giles, when you say horizontal masking do you mean that the masking moves horizontally (i.e. side masking) or that the masking itself is horizontal relative to the screen and moves vertically (top masking)? I live outside of Richmond but love and envy the D.C. film scene, and am thinking of checking out the Angelika this weekend. But I hate screens with top masking and avoid them at all cost.