MONTGOMERY TWP. >> For the first time in over a year, moviegoers walked into the AMC 309 Cinema 9 in Montgomery Township on Friday morning — and liked what they saw.

“This is, like, the best theater. I love this theater. The service here is awesome, the vibe is so pretty. As I’m driving up, I was like, ‘Wow, they decked it out,’” said Layla Frasier of Philadelphia.

As she waited for her mother to finish a different movie showing, Layla said she made sure to be the first of her friends to see a movie there, and the only problem she encountered was with recliner buttons more complex than those she has seen at other theaters. While waiting for her mother’s movie to end, she used touchscreen displays to check the dates and times, and reserved seats, of other movies at the same theater, and said seeing the running times included with the start times was something she had never seen before.

“Not even Plymouth Meeting has this. You can buy them for different dates? That’s awesome! And it tells you exactly when it ends? And it’s nice and big, so there’s no worry you’re going to miss anything,” she said.

The theater, located within the Gwynedd Crossing shopping center at the corner of Welsh Road (Route 63) and Bethlehem Pike (Route 309), was closed in May 2017 for a renovation project that officially ended with the Thursday night showings of “Ready Player One” and “Pacific Rim Uprising.” After what the company termed a “multi-million dollar” renovation, each of the theater complex’s nine theater rooms includes new AMC Signature recliners, new movie screens, speakers and sound systems, new carpet within the theaters and marble floors outside, and touchscreen displays where visitors can print tickets they’ve ordered online, or pick tickets for future shows.

“I think it’s beautiful. It looks a lot different than it did before,” said Katie Smith of Fort Washington.

Smith spent the morning seeing an early showing of “Sherlock Gnomes” with her mother Barbara Rose and her children Niki, Billy and Charlotte, all of whom said they were impressed with the newly renovated theater’s clean layout, fresh decor — and for Billy at least, lots of popcorn.

“Many moons ago, we all came here to see ‘The Sound of Music,’ in 1964 or whenever it came out,” said Barbara.

“I saw my first movie here, it was ‘The Little Mermaid,’ back in probably the early ‘90s. I came here all through high school, and when they put the covering over the front, I’m like, ‘It’s getting close,’” said Smith.

In the entrance area where a carpeted lobby was once bracketed by movie posters and a game room, the theater now sports a service desk on the right side, opposite from an “AMC MacGuffins” adult beverage area that staff said is scheduled to open in roughly two weeks. Automated soft drink machines dispense Coca-Cola products in the proper sizes automatically, with traditional movie snacks supplemented with more healthy options.

“I think they did a really nice job. I think it kind of compares to a movie tavern we used to go to, but we’ll be here instead,” said Colleen Downer of North Wales, as she filled her soda cups on the way into seeing “Sherlock Gnomes” with her husband and daughter.

“I go to the gym across the street, so I’ve been watching it come together, and we were really happy to see it open. It’s the first full day, and they’re doing a great job,” she said.

Keith Siegel of Lower Gwynedd said he stopped in Friday morning without tickets, just to see how the new theater looked, and would likely return with his family later in the weekend, including a son with a food allergy who has trouble with traditional theater food.

“For him, there’s no exceptions. We bring our food. I’ll bring my son tomorrow, and we only live like half a mile away. In the old place, I said, ‘You are not allowed to touch anything in there’ — that bathroom was disgusting, and now it’s great,” he said.

Siegel said he appreciated the expanded food offerings, and that food is not served while spectators are watching a movie. He added that when he learned the renovations were nearly complete, he tried to call AMC headquarters to thank them for doing so, and to ask that the company do more publicity for that and similar projects.

“If your goal is to build a brand, this is your brand locally. If it looks like the old one, either shut it down, or do this. This is great, it looks beautiful — we needed AMC to make this investment, and I’m trilled that they did,” he said.

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