This story originally appeared in The Churchill Observer, the student newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.
Westfield Montgomery Mall began construction last month on a new luxury movie theater and food court.
The movie theater is set to open Spring 2014, and the food court is expected to open late 2013.
"I think it’s a great way to improve the mall and make it appealing to a wider variety of people," junior Darcy Lawrence said.
The Westfield staff proposed the expansion to the Montgomery County Planning Department in 2005 and approved it in 2007, but because of the recession, the project was put on hold until recently.
According to the December Maryland County Planning Department report, the original plan for the renovation involved adding structured parking "in order to create more of a lifestyle center," which would include new lights and more spaces. However, due to the economy, the plan was changed to include only minor renovations.
These minor renovations include a new high-end 15 screen, 2,300 seating multiplex ArcLight theater, which will be built above the renovated food court and existing parking garage. ArcLight Cinemas currently operates exclusively in Southern California. The Bethesda mall will be its first East Coast location.
"We are looking to share the unique ArcLight Cinemas experience with movie lovers across the country, and Bethesda provides us with an opportunity to build an ArcLight community on the East Coast," ArcLight representative Brianna Chavez said.
According to the ArcLight website, the chain offers amenities like reserved and stadium seating, advertisement-free programming and gourmet food.
In addition, the chain includes a lounge adjacent to the theater where 21 year old and older patrons can enjoy alcoholic beverages. These patrons can bring in alcoholic beverages into special 21-and-over movie screenings.
"It sounds really cool and interesting how they are trying to make the movie theater experience cooler, though I hope it doesn’t get too expensive," junior Maria Koytcheva said.
The chain does charge a premium price, however.
"Although our prices aren’t finalized for the new theatre, our other locations are typically $11.75 for non-peak screenings— Monday through Thursday, Friday and Saturday before 6 p.m.— and $13.75 for peak screenings— Sundays, holidays and shows after 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays," Chavez said.
The current movie theater at Montgomery Mall charges $8.25 for movies.
The mall will also see changes to the food court, which will expand to include new food vendors, upscale architecture and sit-down dining options. There will also be a new dining terrace located in the new second level above the existing food court, near the new theater.
According to a February Bethesda Patch article the new dinning terrace will offer more "fast-casual dining similar to Noodles & Co."
"The dinner terrace is a great idea because there is never enough seating in the food court," freshman Admandia Frantzits said.
Both the current movie theater and food court will remain open during the renovations. Students may notice the temporary walls in the food court and a new view of the inside of the ceiling. Eventually, the old theater space will be turned into a new retail space.
Students who are 18 or older and interested in applying for a job have an opportunity to be hired to work at the new theater. Those interested should contact someone from the ArcLight website or talk to a manger for an application.