Projectors rolling in Town Center
May 8, 2002
Kristen Milton
Staff Writer

Laurie DeWitt/The Gazette

Germantown's only movie theater, Hoyts Cinema 14, opened Friday in Germantown Town Center.

New multiplex opens

Members of the Seneca Valley softball team, clad in yellow and white uniform shirts and delighted their game had been canceled, poured out of the van that brought them to Germantown's new movie theater Thursday.

The high school girls collected boxes of free popcorn and prepared to head into "The Time Machine." The school had been buzzing about the free movies and popcorn at the Hoyts Cinema 14 all day, they said. The free day at the multiplex was intended to introduce the theater to the community.

Most of the girls said they attend at least one movie nearly every weekend and had been looking forward to the multiplex opening in Germantown Town Center.

"It's close and new," said freshman Erin Speer.

Prices are usually expensive, however.

"Free movies -- that's weird," said freshman Lauren Duvall.

Across the lobby the Ruppert family of Brooklyn, N.Y., thought they had the best of their trip south even if they hadn't been invited to the White House ceremony being attended by their firefighter father.

"It was perfect. We said, 'What will we do with our extra time today?'" said Lisa Ruppert as she and friends Molly Jackson of Monrovia and Terry Harmon of Damascus organized their 10 children, ages 2 to 13, at the water fountain after dividing them between "Shrek" and "Big Fat Liar." The outing had cost only the $10 they spent on two huge drinks to be split among the children.

Meanwhile Susan Ohlhaver, who lives only four blocks from the theater, took a break between movies at one of the small round tables near the café in the theater's lobby, She had just seen "Shrek," was waiting for "Spy Games," and planned to go Friday when the theater officially opened to see "Changing Lanes."

"I love movies," Ohlhaver said.

Ohlhaver used to meet her brother and sister-in-law, Damascus residents, regularly at the Sony 6 Theatre in the Germantown Commons Shopping Center on Middlebrook Road. That theater closed in March 2001 as part of a widespread closure of 112 theaters across the country by Loews Cineplex.

Since then they have had to drive much farther for movies, she said, so she was glad to see Hoyts open.

"Germantown's growing so much so fast and with all the restaurants and all here I think they can support it."

Movie-watchers like these from throughout the upcounty and southern Frederick County made the opening weekend of the Town Center theater a success, said Dan Vieira, senior vice president of operations and marketing for Boston-based Hoyts.

The free movies Thursday "sold out" nearly every show, Vieira said, and on Friday several showings of "Spiderman" did the same. By the end of the weekend the Germantown theater was among the six top-grossing Hoyts theaters nationwide.

"It was better than we expected, especially since it was such a beautiful weekend down there," Vieira said.

The theater has been discussed for more than five years as the cornerstone and major draw of this part of Town Center. In 1997, the Germantown Alliance fought a proposal to build a 24-screen AMC Theater at Interstate 270 and Father Hurley Boulevard in Milestone in order to preserve the viability of the Town Center theater.

Those who visited the theater in its opening days said they normally go to theaters in the Kentlands and Rio in Gaithersburg or the Hoyts at the Frederick Towne Mall.

Many said the lure of the restaurants surrounding Hoyts increased its appeal.

"You come here, go to dinner and go to a movie, and that's real good -- to be that convenient," said Harmon, who hoped to talk her husband into a movie that night.

Harmon said she usually waits for movies to hit video but may have been converted by the theater's amenities (which didn't faze many more experienced moviegoers). "The cupholders that flip up and the reclining seats -- that's right up my alley," she said.