The Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema officially reopens today, after a massive, $1.6 million renovation inside and out.
Last night, the theater held a VIP reception to mark the grand reopening. The new bar/concessions area did live up to the designs promised in renderings before the theater closed. However, the "shimmering screen" that hangs above is more subtle than you might have expected.
Speaking of concessions, the new bar is nicely-designed to accommodate a crowd. The bartenders - or at least, the bartender who made my drink - know how to mix drinks properly. I had the Signature Cocktail, the Bethesda Row Fizz. This consisted of Buillet Bourbon, ginger ale, Cointreau and a fresh - organic! - navel orange slice. Quite refreshing.
They also had sliders, and catering by their neighbors, Mon Ami Gabi and Haagen-Dazs. The latter supplied ice-cream cupcakes designed to resemble popcorn bags, with real popcorn on top.
I took the opportunity to test the seating, to find out which rows and seat numbers are the best. That's good to know, as all seating is now reserved. I also did a test run on the automatic ticketing machines in the lobby. This I got on video, to show you it's so easy, a caveman can do it.
There was a screening of new film Kon-Tiki at 8:30, and I found the new screen to be pristine and error-free, which can't be said about other local theaters.
The popcorn was above average, but not life-changing. I got movie theater butter on mine.
One celebrity in attendance was legendary Washington movie critic Arch Campbell. It was an honor to meet him, after watching his reviews since I was a child. Arch said the renovated theater is a great addition to Bethesda Row, and he certainly knows movie theaters!
I can also report that the Phillips Crab Pretzel is still on the menu, as well as Phillips Crab Cakes.
The leather seating is the widest I've encountered in the region, and there was a wonderful "new car" aroma in the air.
Any issues? The air-conditioning could have been turned up a bit higher. And maybe I did subconsciously expect the Mark Cuban connection to score at least one movie star for last night's event. I was a little disappointed there weren't searchlights out front, as they used to be synonymous with movie premieres.
But, to paraphrase the hipsters, don't let perfect be the enemy of the great, as this makeover is great.
There's a full set of brand-new movies debuting today, with stars like Pierce Brosnan, Robert Redford and Kate Hudson. So give the new Cinema a spin while it's still got the new car smell!
More pics to come!