Standing in the beer line Friday evening at the grand opening of Warehouse Cinemas on the Golden Mile, Randy Blount was ready for a new movie experience that wasn’t so far away.
Blount had been driving roughly an hour into Northern Virginia with his son, Ezekiel, to find an open theater due to state restrictions for the novel coronavirus pandemic.
But, with Maryland moving into the next phase of its reopening Friday, all that was required was a five minute drive from their Frederick home and they were ready to see Tenet, the latest box office hit from director Christopher Nolan.
“There’s nothing that beats being in the theater,” said Blount, the director of safety for a trucking company. “You have the big screen, the surround sound, the nice, reclining seats. You just can’t duplicate the experience at home.”
At Warehouse Cinemas, which occupies a large corridor of the old Frederick Towne Mall on U.S. 40, you could also enjoy an alcoholic beverage, such as a draft beer or a glass or wine.
Starting next week, customers will be able to order from a full menu of food that includes flatbread pizzas and gourmet grilled cheese and take it into the theater with them, along with normal movie staples like popcorn and candy.
Warehouse Cinemas President and CEO Rich Daughtridge and his team sought to create a different experience for moviegoers.
Their 10 large screens tilt forward by design to create an optimum viewing experience, even for reclined customers in the back of the theater. Warehouse Cinemas did not incorporate traditional stadium seating with raised rows of seats.
“We are trying to be the anti-traditional movie theater experience,” Daughtridge said.
That’s reflected in their customer outreach as well. Tickets for a first-run movie can be had for as little as $5 for some matinee showings, and there are free refills on popcorn, butter and sodas of all sizes.
All military personnel, whether active or retired, get free popcorn and a dollar knocked off their admission. A dollar is also knocked off the ticket for seniors and children.
“The buzz for this place is significant,” Daughtridge said. “I think more and more people will come out once they hear and see what we are all about.”
Warehouse Cinemas was originally scheduled to open in the middle of June before the closures for the pandemic pushed everything back.
Blount was among the first customers, just like he was for the opening of a Chick fil-A branch and the health food store, Earth Fare, in Roanoke, Virginia.
“I like being first,” he said.
Having not seen a movie in a theatre since March, Middletown resident Mike D’Alessio was on the verge of making the long trek to find an open one, but he couldn’t twist the arm of his friend and fellow movie buff, Patrick Barber.
“Then, Governor [Larry] Hogan announced Tuesday that Maryland was moving into Phase Three on Friday, and we were like, ‘This is perfect,’” D’Alessio said. “Let’s go to [Warehouse Cinemas].”
Not everyone stayed for a movie. Frederick resident Jamie Becker walked out of the theater with a bag of popcorn in each hand, and she wasn’t the only one.
“My mom and I just love stale, movie theater popcorn,” she said before adding that she plans to come back soon and stay for a movie.
Eric Tyssens and his friend, Alex Canales, both 17 years-old, rode their bikes over two hours prior to the 6 p.m. opening just to see what all of the buzz was about.
After getting a tour of the place, they chose to head home before seeing a movie. They said they plan to come back and do that.
“The theaters are really nice. The tickets are cheaper. I don’t regret not waiting to come check it out,” Tyssens said.