Wednesday, November 11, 2009

movies return to former cinema 'n' drafthouse, but not booze

Montgomery Cinema And Drafthouse, Wheaton Plaza
JUTP reader and Wheaton resident Melanie alerted us to a sign advertising a new theatre opening at the former Cinema 'n' Drafthouse in Westfield Shoppingtown Westfield Wheaton Wheaton Plaza, which closed last December, less than two months after its much-heralded opening. "Montgomery Royal Theater Coming Soon" reads the sign, hanging from this very marquee (this picture, of course, was taken last year) that has been so integral to the movie-going existence in Wheaton that it was immortalized in young-adult fiction.

At first, all I could find about the new cinema was this vague entry on the mall's website, which of course simply says it's "coming soon." But a representative of Westfield informed us that the theatre will have a soft opening "on Black Friday" - that's November 27 - followed by a full grand opening in December.

The Montgomery Royal will be operated by a local company (details on which we don't know, seeing as they don't even come up in a Google search), giving them major Local First Wheaton cred. They intend to show a "mix of first-run and indie films," making it sound like a less-pretentious Bethesda Row Cinema. The 'Royal will not, unfortunately, have a full-service restaurant and bar like the Drafthouse - which, sad as it may sound, will probably reduce their overhead costs by a lot, hopefully keeping them in business for much longer than two months.


Unknown said...

Why does this blog always insist on taking jabs at Bethesda even though the subject has nothing to do with Bethesda at all or western moco county. Just makes it seem overally jealous

Dan Reed said...

what, you don't think the Italian soda-vending Bethesda Row Cinema isn't pretentious? Or that a similarly-patterned theatre in Wheaton would be more pretentious? Come now. Just because this blog frequently traffics in bashing the wealthier sectors of our county does not mean there is any ill will.

Am I jealous of Bethesda? There are some things I wish we could enjoy over here. But for the most part I'll take El Pollo Rico over Jaleo any day, if you catch my drift.

Thomas Hardman said...

Really, Dan? Why the love affair with all things illegal-alien? Especially since in lovely Wheaton not too far from El Polli Rico and the renascent theaters, there's a little problem with MS-13 gangsters on hate crime fag-bashing sprees. You know, terrorizing, bashing, insults, weapons and breaking glass?

The police later found the assailants at Umberto's, where evidently they fit right in. And within such convenient walking distance of El Pollo Rico, the Metrorail station, and Westfield mall!

I have to admit that I wonder what is the opinion of our blogger of Life in (Scenic) Wheaton but that blog has disappeared. Hopefully the author wasn't one of the victims of the "undocumented migrants" she always defended.

And I hope that no more of the locals -- straight, gay, metrosexual or whatever -- fall victim to the senseless liberal tolerance of gangsters that violently assault anyone they think is "different".

MoCo po-po need to clean up Wheaton before anyone else tries to open a business there and loses their investment because people are afraid.

Unknown said...

Yeh, I am with Thomas Harding on this one you don't hear about many hate crimes and gang activity in Bethesda. So I'll take cookie cutter jaleo over wheatons crime ridden el pollo any day if you catch my drift

Bowie Mike said...

Akil, if it makes you feel better, maybe the Bethesda and East Moco folks could get together, hold hands, sing Kumbaya and unite against a common enemy - Prince George's County. We Prince Georgians get picked on too on some MoCo based sites (not this one). For example, I have seen posts about crimes in MoCo, and there will be a comment that will say something like, "must have been those P.G. guys comin' into Silver Spring to cause some trouble!" That's the pecking order. Bethesda picks on East MoCo. East MoCo picks on Prince George's. People in Bowie say, "wait a second, you must mean Cheverly!" Then the Cheverly people say, "come on, at least we're not Suitland!" Then the Suitland people pick on NorthEast D.C.

Thomas Hardman said...

Yeah, everyone likes to point to the District as the source of all that is bad. As in, "if Marion Barry hadn't brought the city to the brink of collapse, all of those people wouldn't have bailed out of the District and brought their bad-seed youngins out to the 'Burbs". Then people who know history point to the Unfunded Mandate that Congress imposed on DC which guaranteed a structural deficit that was
(some say) intended to destroy Home Rule in the District.

But we're not talking about history; Wheaton's problems mostly don't come from the District, mostly they come from Central America. I don't want to slag off on the many decent actual refugees and people who fell out of proper immigration status due to faults of the immigration system.

But when it comes to transnational gangsters from other countries that hide among the decent expatriates, I will point that finger and say "it's time to do something, really actually do something like we did in Iraq, against the Foreign Gangsters".

But even if you got rid of every last one overnight, Wheaton still has a way to go to be brought back up to decent standards.

The County government folks keep thinking that if you just get rid of all of Old Wheaton and replace it with upscale stuff, then all of the "bad element" is going to go away. Actually, they'll just have wealthier victims to choose.

The real change has to come from the hearts of everyone who lives here, and first step is "stop the violence, end the hate" and part of that is getting the violent haters off of the streets. When it's believed to be safe for the rich to go slumming in Wheaton, theaters will succeed, other specialty shops will succeed and do better, eventually everything will be good once certain folks stop thinking that it's their own private ghetto where they are beyond the reach of the law.

As to who those "Certain Folks" might be, it changes day-to-day. The cops are doing a good job of tracking down the most heinous offenders, but there needs to be a certain perception of zero-tolerance for assholes, and the assholes haven't yet been convinced of that.

Convince them of that, and you could open a ballet-shoe store in Wheaton and people would come.

Right now, you can't even open a theater that serves drinks and get people to come.

Think about it.

Unknown said...

people won't come to wheaton because in it's current state it is a sh&t hole

Sligo said...

If the original Wheaton theater couldn't survive showing blockbusters, I don't see how one that shows indie films will ever last. There's already Landmark and AFI to cater to that set.

WashingtonGardener said...

Can we get back to the MOVIE theater talk? I , for one, am ecstastic. I'd rather this be a 2nd-run movie house esp as I don't think it can compete in first-runs with better (ie stadium seating) venues. But I'll "takes what we can gets" at this point. Better than sitting empty!

Thomas Hardman said...

If the topic tends to drift towards things like Wheaton getting beyond sketchy, and gang problems all around the area, that might be because people are more concerned with public safety and neighborhood decay, moreso than with where to see Indie films.

Keeping a narrow focus on a few good things while ignoring calamity creeping up on all sides, that's symptomatic of something.

dave in wheaton said...

Wow. Interesting conversation spurred by an innocuous post about a movie theater opening.

About that movie theater. Glad they're opening a new one. Let's be clear about the Cinema and Draft House - it did not fail because Wheaton was a bad location. It wasn't open long enough to test that scenario. I think Wheaton can support a theater. But, that location back behind the mall is going to be a hindrance. At the very least they're going to need a marquee somewhere on Viers Mill and/or University. I hope it survives.

Hardman bait:
I grew up in Bethesda (and Rockville and Chevy Chase) and now live in Wheaton. Everyone knows that Bethesda has a problem with economist assassins, which, thank god, we don't have to worry about in Wheaton. Pollo Rico isn't good anymore - doesn't have that illegal flavor it once did. Nava Thai is the best Thai restaurant in the DC area - I haven't asked about the immigration status of the owners/employees/patrons. And finally, everyone knows that when they move the library downtown (maybe the building can be made to look like an open book, no that'd be a little on-the-nose) Wheaton will be reborn. But it looks like a vocal group of self-interested detractors has killed that good idea, at least for the time being; PDF, page 3.

Springvale Roader said...

I don't find Bethesda Row to be pretentious at all, and that includes the Italian sodas.

Last night the missus and I made the mistake of giving "The Majestic" another chance. We went to see the 5:50 showing of "Paranormal Activity," gambling that between the bad weather and the earlier time, the usual gang of rude idiots wouldn't be there.

No such luck. Even though there were at most 20 people in the theater, at least one group talked nonstop during a movie that relied on quiet, creepy atmosphere, other people walked in 20 minutes into the show and loudly said, "It's the movie!," and still others pulled out their illuminated cellphones because, as we all know, there's no reason to pay attention to a movie when you just might have another text message waiting for you.

You know what? I wouldn't care if Bethesda Row featured British ticket-takers in tuxedos; the audiences there are a million times better behaved than those at the Majestic.

As for local theaters, we love AFI. The Majestic can rot.

Dan Reed said...

Paranormal Activity? Seriously? That movie sounds tailor-made for noise (did you see the ads with the people in the theatre screaming?) When I go to the Majestic (or my new favorite theatre, the Royale in Hyattsville) I know to expect noise for certain kinds of movies. I even look forward to it.

Ironically, I went to see Juno at the Royale last month and the audience was silent. Of course, there were like six people in the theatre, all of whom were Maryland students or grads.

I know that Bethesda Row Cinema or AFI will be quiet, apropos to the movies they play there. But going to see a big popular horror movie at Majestic is asking for a rowdy audience. I'd pass the popcorn and enjoy the ride.

Dan Reed said...

As for the Royal Montgomery in Wheaton: I second Kathy and Sligo. Second-run films would make sense there; the market for indie films (at least in this area) is cornered by Bethesda Row and AFI, though I could see the need for another first-run theatre above-the-Beltway now that the Olney 9 is closed and Centerpark in Calverton remains as shitty as ever.

Springvale Roader said...


I don't mind gasps and shrieks and scarred giggles at horror movies; in fact, they make the experience more entertaining. What I don't want is people talking during the quiet moments. I don't want people walking in after the movie has started and jabbering loudly. Etc.

I agree that horror movies attract teens, and I try to be selective in where I see such movies for that very reason. A few points. I see lots of horror movies, and the worst place I've seen them has been the Majestic; for example, I saw "Zombieland" at the Mazza Gallery theater and it was just fine. Next, the talkers were adults, not teens. They ought to have known better. Lastly, I've seen adult dramas at the Majestic -- the kind that should not attract most teens -- and still encountered all the problems I've described. I've had it with that place.

Dan Reed said...

I can appreciate that. My personal approach to watching movies is that I'll take the crowds, because unless it's a film I really want to see I'm not going to drive out to Bethesda or Rockville or wherever to see it, but I know many people feel differently. (The question is: which audience is bigger, and which will Regal cater to in order to keep their business?)

But a lot of the movies I tend to see are kids' movies (I have a ten-year-old brother), so I usually go during the afternoon, when the crowds aren't as bad.

So I've posted, like, six comments in the past hour. I'm home sick today, if anyone can tell.

Thomas Hardman said...

Awesome attempt at trolling there, Dave, but keep in mind I have about 15 years of experience at not biting any of them I don't feel like biting.

Aspen Hill used to have theaters here, and indeed there are plenty of little "roth theaters" sitting around unused and unsold. At least there's the one in Randolph Hills, if that's the name of the shopping center on Boiling Brook Parkway near Nicholson Lane.

Aspen Hill is far more the proper site for a massive buildup-makeover than is Wheaton.

BAE Systems is vacating 263,000 square feet of space at 4115 Aspen Hill Road in April 2010, and that property is zoned C-1/R-90. So does Aspen Hill need another 245 single-family detached residential units, or should the Lee Development Group take advantage of the Planning Board's "Georgia Avenue Study" and Councilman Elrich's vision of a BRT line out past Olney, and re-develop the Northgate Plaza Shopping Center, and the 4115 Aspen Hill property right across Connecticut Avenue, and develop them along the lines envisioned by the Planning Board study?

Seriously, Aspen Hill is already a major transit hub, but bus-only for now.

Let's retrofit or redevelop 4115 Aspen Hill into mixed-use office with some high-end residential atop it to go with the upscale and modern Montgomery Chase townhomes just up the road from it. 4115 can have decent theaters and they'll draw people from Olney to Forest Glen. Add public facilities such as a police substation at least while they're doing the Randolph-Georgia intersection rebuild. Let's make Aspen Hill the next White Flint, more or less, just one short bus-ride from Glenmont, and a short walk and short bus-ride from Rockville and Twinbrook stations as well! Heck, shift the bus-routes a little and make 4115 Aspen Hill, in part, a bus transfer station! There's plenty of parking now, and there will be more later.

Anyone arguing against new theaters and mixed-use high-density redevelopment in line with the Planning Board's Georgia Avenue Study's vision is just trolling and being counterproductive, and anyone pretending to have valid arguments against it coming from their Urban Planning education will be branded a heretic and banished for their blasphemy.

Theaters in Aspen Hill!

Our main selling point?

Much less reported crime and much less of that crime is violent, there are 6220 single-family detached residential homes right in the neighorhood and twice that many high-density homes along the bus-lines that right right past 4115.

So come on back, Dave: get yourself banished for heresy by blaspheming against the Hardman Plan!

Or wait long enough, and someone else will claim they thought of it first.

Now, more theaters please, in Aspen Hill, please, and a nice new library at the same site, please. And a police substation and more County Services client service offices there (we already have WIC).

go ahead, argue against it.

srb said...

I go to Wheaton Plaza regularly and always feel fine, and I'm a 26 yo white girl who grew up in the country. There are crime issues there, but one of the ways to improve the community is to invest in it. There are people from all walks of life who would enjoy an indie/2nd run theater, and crowds of responsible people deter crime.
As for what the theater should show, I think a mix of smaller movies and 2nd run films would work. AFI and Landmark have the indie market down, and the Majestic will cater to 1st run blockbusters.
I do find Bethesda Row a tad pretentious at times, but my bigger issue there is the crowds, prices, and parking. Until the purple line opens, driving is the easiest way to get there from Silver Spring.
I've never had problems with rudeness at the Majestic, and I've been to tons of movies there. I actually have had more issues in Columbia and Arundel Mills.
I fully acknowledge that there are issues with behavior and crime in public areas of East County, but the way to turn things around is to keep going to the stores, restaurants, and theaters. Letting fear drive us away will just make it easier for criminal elements to take over.
A movie theater in Aspen Hill sounds like a good idea, especially now that Olney 9 has closed. That area is sorely lacking in things to do. But MoCo needs more high-end housing like I need a hole in the head. I like the diversity of East County, so let's not gentrify it to death.

dave in wheaton said...

I want to go on the record as supporting the Hardman Plan. Redevelop Aspen Hill and Wheaton - doesn't need to be either/or as far as I can see. (Although the case for Aspen Hill over Wheaton is not a strong one.) Raze the strip malls and build communities in their place. And include movie theaters and other places with common purpose. Who could argue against that?

Dan Reed said...

True story: when I was in eighth grade (this was winter of 2000) my friend's dad took us to the Aspen Hill movie theatre to see Harry Potter. He was really, really confused to see that it had closed. Like decades earlier.

The Georgia Avenue Corridor Study talks about redeveloping the shopping centers in Glenmont and Aspen Hill with mixed-uses, a street grid and a public green (see pages 28-33). That's a great idea if the money ever comes for it.

Thomas Hardman said...

For many years Aspen Hill was under a moratorium for further development.

Now, I know that a lot of the Urban Planning Community types who read this blog are big supporters of increasing grid connections.

Of course, this tends to fly in the face of the ideology of "Wedges and Corridors" which has dominated development planning in the County for several decades.

But don't despair!

Aspen Hill is actually already one of the "best gridded" communities of an age where people will seriously consider development or redevelopment as more of a necessity than an option.

See also a map of the area, with added lines showing most of the original land tracts from which the area was developed.

Much of the residential heart of Aspen Hill on both sides of Aspen Hill road is well (if erratically) gridded internally, but chokepoints remain. Indeed, the neighborhood is intentionally isolated from Rockville City to the west. At one point in time before the 1994 Master Plan amendments, Oriental Street was intended to be extended across Rock Creek, but the Master Plan specifically disallows that to "discourage cut-through traffic".

The geographic center of Aspen Hill can't be developed much, because that is Gate of Heaven Cemetery, originally the New Mount Olivet Cemetery Company, Inc, property. Some of the original purchase of the original "Rabbitt Tracts" wound up as part of Strathmore at Bel-Pre, most of it remains cemetery and most of that land has interments on it. Development isn't likely in such places.

Yet there are places that are long overdue for retrofitting or re-purposing.

For example, if some properties formerly belonging to the Rabbitts were to be consolidated and re-developed, considerable positive change could be forthcoming in the community, and additional tie-ins to "griddedness" could be effected between Strathmore, Harmony Hills across Georgia Avenue, and the surrounding areas.

I'm referring, of course, to the neighboring properties of Aspen Manor Shopping Center and the Aspen Hill Apartments.

Some might suggest that it makes little sense to build in a stream valley, and I tend to agree. But that didn't stop anyone from building a mid-sized office tower at on the lot where Connecticut Avenue passes the Capital Crescent Trail and Chevy Chase Lake Drive. A comparable building might fit well on much of the existing property of the Aspen Hill Apartments, with the rest of the building covering the existing footprint (and more) of the Lotte Plaza wing of Aspen Manor Shopping Center.

Across Georgia Avenue, the existing Northgate Plaza Shopping Center, as well as the 263,000-square-foot commercial office building at 4115 Aspen Hill Road are owned by Lee Development Group.

You can see a design concept for a Future Aspen Hill in the Planning Board's Georgia Avenue Study (LARGE PDF!) on Page 30.

Note if you will, the conceptions for buildings not only replacing Northgate Plaza, but also the Faller Management property currently occupied by K-Mart...