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October 30, 2019

Philly's Fashion District is ready for its big-screen debut with new movie theater opening Monday

Fashion District Philadelphia Movies
AMC Dine In theater Philly Stephen Silver/for PhillyVoice

The new AMC Dine-In Fashion District 8 theater on Market Street in Center City opens Monday, Nov. 4, 2019.

Ever since the Sameric Theater, which was on the spot of the former Boyd Theater at 19th and Chestnut, closed in 2002, Center City has been completely without a multiplex. This has made Philadelphia the only large city in the United States without a major multi-screen movie theater in its downtown area.

Over the years there have been many attempts to fill that void, including a plan in 2014 to put an iPic theater in the Boyd's former building.

But on Monday, the Center City cinema drought will finally come to an end, when the new theater known as AMC Dine-In Fashion District 8, opens for business. The new theater, which will serve both an expansive food menu and alcoholic beverages, is located on the top floor of the Fashion District Philadelphia on Market Street, although the nearest street entrance for the theater is at 11th and Filbert streets.

PhillyVoice toured the new theater Wednesday, and spoke with an AMC representative about what moviegoers can expect.

"The (Fashion District) development had a lot to do with it," Ryan Noonan, AMC's director of corporate communications said, explaining why AMC is entering the Center City market now. "We don't build that many new (buildings) anymore … we've been really focused on renovating the existing theaters in our circuit, including in the Philadelphia area, I know we're renovated a lot of the theaters here. But we're always, always on the lookout for new and exciting locations."

AMC is based in Kansas City, and its CEO, Adam Aron, is a Philadelphia native who was the chief executive of the Philadelphia 76ers from 2011 to 2013.

After initial reports in January 2017 that an unnamed "movie theater tenant" had filed permits on Market Street, the AMC theater in the former location of the Gallery officially was announced in September of that year. The theater is opening around when it was first scheduled to, albeit two months after the Fashion District complex itself opened its doors.

AMC Philly Dolby theater Stephen Silver/for PhillyVoice

The high-end Dolby theater at the new AMC Dine-In theater at the Philadelphia Fashion District will features state-of-the-art projection and sound, as well as seats that pulsate.

"We really feel like AMC Fashion District 8 is going to be an incredible movie experience, both for where it's at, and just in general," Noonan said this week.

The theater has eight screens, two of which – the Prime and Dolby theaters – are "premium" experiences with larger auditoriums and screens. The Dolby theater features state-of-the-art projection and sound, as well as seats that pulsate.

A standard ticket for a movie will cost around $12.99, a price that will increase to $16.99 for the Prime auditorium and $17.99 for the Dolby one – although prices will fluctuate based on time of day and day of the week.

All of the theaters will have assigned seating, and plush, reclining, heated seats.

In addition to popcorn, candy, and other traditional movie fare, the AMC Fashion District 8's menu will have everything from Ultimate Nachos to dry-rub wings to flatbread, salads, and several different burger options. It is missing, however, the giant Bavarian Pretzel that's a popular item in some AMC theaters. See the full menu here.

Food at the AMC DINE IN theater Stephen Silver/Philly Voice

A member of the new AMC Dine-In Fashion District 8 theater in Center City displays some of food offerings that will be sold there.

It works slightly differently from the concepts at the Alamo Drafthouse, the Studio Grille, or even the existing AMC Painter's Crossing dine-in theater in Delaware County.

Moviegoers at the Center City location will order food up front, which is then delivered to their seats, although customers pay when ordering, which avoids a waiter having to interrupt the movie by bringing the check at the end. 

And yes, the theater will serve alcohol. It sports a bar called "MacGuffin's," named after the Hitchcock-era concept of an object for which all of the characters in a movie are chasing. The bar will debut during the theater's first or second weekend. The lobby even has a TV screen, where moviegoers can take their food and drinks before or after the movie; the screen will likely show sporting events. 

Noonan said the theater is not a Fathom Events venue, at least not at launch. When asked if the theater will host repertory screenings of older movies, he said those types of programming decisions will be made further down the road.

As for the concerns that have been raised over the years about "screen masking," and other incorrect projections of movies by national chains, Noonan said AMC has both people on site and at its headquarters in Kansas City "that monitor projection issues and monitor sight and sound issues and stay on top of things like that."

The theater opens Monday, and while full showtimes have not yet been released, "Terminator: Dark Fate" is the first movie that will play in the Prime and Dolby cinemas.