Friday, November 12, 2004
arclight cinemas plaza
there was a time in the late nineties to early noughties when you could see a movie at a better theater in the 'burbs than in los angeles proper; developers and cinema owners were building better, bigger, state-of-the-art facilities in areas with more land, outlets, and malls in riverside and orange counties, while the older theaters in the city languished--unloved, grumbled at for their tiny seats, bad sightlines, even worse sound, and crap popcorn. even though los angeles was (is?) the entertainment capital of the world, its theaters were not up to par.
that was then, this is now. in the past couple years, many of the older theaters have closed (witness the death of westwood), have been refurbished, or new ones have been constructed. pacific theatres has led the pack of new theaters, my absolute favourite one being arclight cinemas on sunset blvd., followed by the theaters at the grove and in culver city.
arclight, while impressively stylish, remains true to its concept of substance over style. it has all the sound and vision hoo-has necessary, of course, and the focus is on showing films the way the filmmakers intend for their movies to be seen: the 14 theaters in the main facility follow the black box formula, with assigned stadium seating for unobstructed views. seats that are 3 inches wider than standard seats and there is 6 inches more legroom. the cinerama dome, a geodesic domed theater with a 32x86 foot curved screen which was built in 1963, has been completely refurbished, but still retains all the period details that make it unique.
there is a café on the premises with decent food, and an attentive staff that gets your meal out before your movie starts. there is also a fully stocked bar, which comes in handy and is great for people watching. the full bar is also a prominent feature in the theater's special 21+ screenings, which means no one under the age of 21 is allowed in, so you can enjoy cocktails during the show. mmm. of course, there is a concession stand, but not like most others. arclight touts that it has the best popcorn in los angeles, which i first scoffed at, but later scoffed down because it's true. it's so so very good. light, fluffy, warm, and drenched (if you want) in real butter. they also make their own caramel corn every morning, which will probably be the freshest caramel corn you'll ever have. instead of hot dogs they've got grilled chicken sausages with mustard or pesto--i know, i know, it's overkill but i hear they are really good.
anyway, what i love the most about arclight is that it is very clean. it's the cleanest theater i've ever been in. two years old and it looks brand new. even the bathrooms are fabulous. and they scarily match my bathrooms back in guam.
of course, there are downsides. first, the price of a movie there: prices range from $7 for children at matinees to $14 for adults at evening shows. interestingly--i believe as a way to discouraging bringing them--infant admission price is the same as adult price. second: the assigned seating can go completely out-of-whack when the theatres are full and someone decides to move because you're late or because he's annoying, or, oh just because. and third: the crowds at night and on weekends are mind-boggling. you are definitely best off on weekdays and matinees. still hasn't stopped me.
i should also mention the bridge. touted as "cinema de lux", it has all the bells and whistles, and is a gorgeously designed theater with a seventies space-age loungey feel that could possibly be my favourite in terms of architectural aesthetics. however, it is in a useless mall tucked inside an industrial parkway, tucked off the 405 freeway and on a dead side of westchester. the people who work there have no use for its aesthetic value, and obviously hate working there. the café is nice, but again, the staff don't care about you or your movie so don't expect getting your food in time. the movies shown are suburban family fare, and on weekends the place is overrun with rugrats and cliquish teen throngs, all who could care less about the "de lux". also, the last time i went there the tickets for the directors' hall (leather seats, digital prints, assigned seating) were $11 for a matinee, there was vomit all over one of the elevators, and no water for sale to drink, nor any water to keep the public toilets open. bleah. probably never again.