Friday, November 12, 2004

movie time

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.


Reid said...

Hi Santos,

When I was there, I saw movies at the El Capitan and Mann's Chinese. I think I saw the Matrix at the Mann...movies weren't that expensive yet. Here, the most you'd pay to see a movie is $9.00...most of us think that's expensive.

Santos said...

hi reid!

i like el capitan. it was one of the first refurbished theaters but i don't know if there has been another one since the one in the nineties. i haven't been there in forever. mann's chinese has reverted to its original name, graumann's chinese, and it's now a part of the hollywood and highland complex (this photo on one of my first posts here is the new facade). the last movie i saw there was "the river's edge" (remember that?). movies on guam are $7, which everyone thinks are too high as well. i like taking my mom to the movies there because senior rates are only $2.50. cheap date.

Maria said...

i'm really enjoying your l.a. blog entries... all the places we love about this city. i'm sorry i missed your radio show with senor amor the other night...

Anthony said...

Great post about the cinemas. It's the art-house v blockbuster cinema split here and I've a soft spot for the Deco cinemas here that are still hanging around and it's just about outdoor cinema season. For one friend, the end of an era was when there were no longer any wooden floored cinemas in Perth that you could roll Jaffas from the back to the front in.

More nice tiling btw.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever been to the Vista? The matinee's are still under $5. Plus you get all of the kitschy Egyptian art deco stuff to boot. They took out every other row of seats and you can lounge like you are in your own living room.

Santos said...

hi maria

i love your blog because it's obvious y'all love la with all its faults (pun intended), and it shows. i'll be on the radio again next tuesday and i'll be sure to listen to mike's show, hawaiian eye next friday as well!

hey anthony

i owe you a cd, but in the meantime i need to send an interim cd while you wait for the first one. arrrgh.

there are lots of lovely old movie palaces in downtown los angeles that are sadly no longer in use as movie theaters but are still standing (luckily). there are others still in use scattered throughout the city though. some of my absolute favourites are in an egyptian style, like the vista and the egyptian. cinema treasures is an excellent resource. there are also the theaters at the grove which were consciously redone as an old movie palace, even though it's a plex--velvet seats, lots of gilt and architectural details, and ushers in goofy suits.

hi anon

i love the vista! sounds like i need to repay it a visit.

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