Bethesda’s ArcLight Cinemas shutters at Montgomery Mall amid nationwide closure

WTOP's Jason Fraley reports on ArcLight Cinemas (Part 1)

It was a Bethesda tradition, shopping at Westfield Montgomery Mall, grabbing a bite to eat at the food court and riding the escalators up to catch a flick at the ArcLight Cinemas.

Now, that routine is over as parent company Pacific Theaters announced Monday that it will not reopen, making permanent what was dubbed a temporarily closure in March 2020.

“This was not the outcome anyone wanted, but despite a huge effort that exhausted all potential options, the company does not have a viable way forward,” a Pacific Theaters representative said in an official statement.

The Bethesda location opened on Nov. 7, 2014 with 16 screens and plush amenities, such as reserved seating, no commercials, beer, wine, gourmet food and filmmaker Q&As.

Pacific Theaters operates 300 screens in California, including The ArcLight Hollywood, which was the first theater in the chain to open in 2002. It featured the then-novel concept of reserved seating and ushers introducing each film. Latecomers were not admitted.

Most famous is the historic Cinerama Dome, a concrete geodesic dome on Sunset Bouelvard commissioned in 1963 by founder William R. Forman using three projectors for a custom curved screen. It has since become a tourist attraction featured in movies like Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (2019).

On Twitter, fans urged Tarantino to #SaveTheArcLight after having similarly bought the New Beverly theater in Los Angeles. “Veep” actor Timothy Simmons tweeted, “Brad Pitt, buy the ArcLight challenge.” Pitt won an Oscar for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”

Others took to social media simply to lament the news.

“This is so painful,” filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Love & Basketball”) tweeted. “The Arclight is my go-to. Clean, great sound, assigned stadium seating, great popcorn, usher movie introductions. A true movie-going experience.”

“Truly a bummer,” actor Ben Schwartz (“Parks & Recreation”) wrote. “The Arclight Hollywood was my most favorite theatre in the world to see movies. My home court of cinema in L.A. I saw my first movie in L.A. there when I moved here in 2009 and the last movie before the pandemic there.”

“This is truly devastating,” screenwriter Liz Hannah (“The Post”) added. “I know I’m not alone in feeling that the ArcLight shaped so much of my experience and friendships in Los Angeles.”

The closure comes as the movie industry attempts to rebound on the success of “Godzilla vs. Kong.” Los Angeles County recently expanded indoor capacity to 50% after more than a year of being closed, but many smaller chains have struggled to remain solvent.

“To all the Pacific and ArcLight employees who have devoted their professional lives to making our theaters the very best places in the world to see movies: we are grateful for your service and your dedication,” the representative said. “It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve you.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

WTOP's Jason Fraley reports on ArcLight Cinemas (Part 2)

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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