ArcLight Cinemas opens 14-screen theater at Westfield UTC mall


By Ashley Mackin

La Jolla’s Westfield mall at University Towne Center (UTC) is the new home of ArcLight Cinemas, a luxury movie theater with a few amenities not found in many theaters. It is also the first ArcLight theater outside of Los Angeles County, and the fifth overall.

ArcLight chose La Jolla as its branch-out location because, “San Diego is a fantastic movie-going market, they see movies at a higher rate than the national average,” said Gretchen McCourt, executive vice president of programming. A partnership with Westfield UTC sealed the location, as Westfield is in the process of renovating and adding new businesses.

McCourt said the 14-screen theater would play a variety of films. “Traditionally, there’s been big mega-plexes that show the big blockbuster films and there have been the little art houses,” she said. “We have found a very successful way to merge both of those.”

To ensure what she called a “disruption-free viewing environment,” McCourt said there will be no commercials or advertisements before the movies and no printed ads in the hallways. Instead, patrons will see only movie posters and stills for upcoming and now-playing films.

Currently, there is a display of James Bond posters to promote “Skyfall.” This display will change every few weeks.

Promotional materials for the movie, “Wreck-It Ralph,” include functioning old video arcade games, such as Pac Man. Future displays include costumes worn in “Anna Karenina.”

To further contribute to the distraction-free environment, there is no late seating and seating is reserved by seat number. Those who arrive late may attend another showing. Also, the popcorn is not served in bags, “to avoid that crinkling noise.”

Moviegoers can buy their tickets online, which are $11.75 all day Monday through Thursday and Friday through Saturday before 6 p.m.; and $13.50 Friday through Saturday after 6 p.m., Sundays and holidays. Through a free membership program, members save $1 on each ticket.

With the Meyer and Dolby Atmos sound system found in certain screening rooms, the speakers generate sound that complements what is seen on the screen. When helicopters are coming in from the top left of the screen, only speakers from the top left of the theater project helicopter sounds. As they fly overhead, sound moves across the top of the theater.

Other amenities include wider seats, popcorn made with real butter, and a café that includes a full bar and food items sourced from local vendors. There is a 21-and-older lounge that serves alcohol that can be taken into one of three adults-only auditoriums.

ArcLight CEO Nora Dashwood said all these little details add up to one big thing: “a great experience of going to the movies.”

If you go

■ ArcLight Cinemas is in the Westfield Shopping Center at La Jolla Village Drive and Genesee Avenue, in a building just north of Macy’s

■ Tickets: $11.75 Monday- Thursday and Friday-Saturday before 6 p.m. $13.50 after 6 p.m. Friday-Saturday and Sundays and holidays

■ Show times and tickets: