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Design Panel Opposes AMC Theatres Plans at Georgetown Multiplex

By Mark LiebermanCurrent Staff Writer

AMC Theatres is in the early stages of planning interior and exterior renovations for its Georgetown multiplex, according to a recent presentation before the local advisory neighborhood commission.

For the exterior, AMC’s architects are planning three major changes: a new AMC streetfront sign to replace the misleading “Loews Theatres” sign that currently tops the 3111 K St. NW building; a new sidewalk “blade sign” to advertise the redesigned theater to passersby; and a reduction in the number of doors entering the building, from six to three.

An architect from the Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber firm presented the exterior concepts on Jan. 4 to the neighborhood commission, which voted to oppose the designs and request revisions. The interior matters are not subject to commission approval. The Old Georgetown Board, which deals with preservation issues for the historic neighborhood, followed suit a few days later.

Neighborhood commissioner Bill Starrels, at the Jan 4. meeting, raised objections to all three aspects of the exterior proposal. He shared concerns about what would happen if theatergoers were forced to squeeze through only three doors in case of emergency. He also pointed out that the proposed AMC sign would exceed Historic Preservation Office guidelines for signage height of only 1 foot.

“The logo is too large and not in keeping in any way, shape or form with the standards of Georgetown, especially this location across from the waterfront park,” Starrels said.

Neighborhood commissioner Tom Birch confirmed to The Current on Friday that the Old Georgetown Board suggested a smaller sign and opposed the plan for fewer doors and a blade sign at its monthly meeting on Jan. 7. The doors were a particular sticking point for both the commission and the board, Birch said. The three doors would be situated on the left half of the front entrance, with a solid glass wall lining the right side.

“We felt at our ANC meeting that that really detracted from the clean, modern look that the theaters have had since that building was first up,” Birch said.

The AMC representative at the neighborhood meeting also described plans for an interior makeover for the theater, bringing plush lounge seats, an updated lobby and alcoholic beverage offerings. The number of seats in the theater will be reduced from 2,900 to 1,300, he said.

AMC’s corporate office declined to elaborate on the plans, offering in an email only that the theater chain is “exploring [its] options” at the Georgetown location, which opened in 2002.

Birch speculated that the theater’s plans are an attempt to make the Georgetown spot more competitive with other upscale movie theaters in the city, including those owned by Landmark. Several of those theaters boast features designed to elevate the comfort and luxury of the moviegoing experience.

“My assumption is that the AMC theater in Georgetown wanted to be able to provide the same kind of accommodation that other movie theaters do now and patrons presumably expect,” Birch said. “They want to have more than just a ticket stub. They want refreshments and a comfortable seat.”

This article appears in the Jan. 13 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.