For years, my sister-in-law’s been boasting about LA’s ArcLight Cinemas, where she can reserve her opening day seat in advance, guzzle a brew, attend a talk given by a Hollywood filmmaker and not rub elbows with the mouth breather next to her. The coveted theater, she’ll say, makes her life swell.
Now, San Diegans will get a little of their own ArcLight love with an anticipated September 2012 opening at the Westfield UTC shopping center. Construction of the 14-screen theater is part of an ambitious expansion of the mall, fueled by a $180 million private investment. The fifth-of-its-kind theater will take over the top level of the former Robinsons-May building that’s been all but vacant for years but for a slew of transitory season-specific stores. A new 24-Hour Super Sport Fitness Club will take over the bottom level, and Forever 21 will move to the center, according to Adrienne Bergeron, spokeswoman for Westfield UTC.
Should you be as excited as an LA hipster about this theater? Gretchen McCourt, executive vice president of ArcLight Cinemas, sheds some light on what’s in store.
“We love to celebrate cinema,” she said, indicating that the experience focuses on a wider appreciation of film.
This means multiple genres will be offered, from blockbuster hits to indie art house and documentaries. The UTC location, as with the four locations in LA, is anticipated to host talks by directors, actors and filmmakers, pre-screenings, retrospective series and special concert-type films.
“We like to bring things into the theater that let our guests continue their journey in film: costumes, artwork from film, filmmaker Q-and-As, Q-and-As with writers and directors and talent from the film,” McCourt said.
Los Angeles, of course, is more of a convenient stop for actors, directors and the like than San Diego, yet McCourt thinks America’s Finest City is still poised to receive some celebrity face time.
“They love to speak to their fans,” she said. “La Jolla’s a great movie-going environment. The community has the [Cinema] Society. There’s obviously a ton of filmmakers.”
Final renderings are not yet complete, but McCourt said there will likely be an open-air aspect of the building, which could include outdoor seating for a confirmed cafe and bar.
As with the LA locations, select screenings will be open to an exclusively 21 and up crowd, alcohol allowed, and the same films will also always be available to a general audience. For instance, if a 21+ crowd is congregating, beer in hand, to watch The Hangover 14 in Theater II, that film will be available to the masses in Theater VI.
Ticket prices for the new theater haven’t yet been determined, according to McCourt, but prices in LA begin at $13 for general admission and she anticipates a similar price structure. A perk of ArcLight rests in its free membership program, inclusive of discounted tickets when seats are reserved online (no lines) and invitations to speakers’ series and other events.
Kiosks will be available for those who prefer to purchase their tickets in person. The idea, however, is to get people into the theater to enjoy their experience as efficiently as possible.
“We are very focused on getting the guests as close to the film as possible and as close to the story,” McCourt reiterated. “We try to do away with anything that distracts our guests from the film. No advertising. No neon. No arcades. No loud music. You won’t see things that bring you out of your connection with the film.”
For more information about ArcLight Cinemas, visit arclightcinemas.com.