Thursday, May 19, 2005

My favorite theatres? State-of-the-art, I'm afraid

Long gone are the days when I can sit in an uncomfortable seat at the theatre, listen to my fellow theatre-goers dish about their day at work while the movie is showing on an old and blistered screen, and hope the tallest alien in the Hitchhiker's galaxy doesn't sit in front of me.

Oooh, no. Give me stadium-seating, THX sound, and digital projection. What a wonderful, terrific movie-going experience -- seeing a crystal clear image on a spotless screen with no giant head in front of me, landspeeders roaring by my head in surround-sound. If I have those, I won't whine about not having great popcorn (with real butter).

However, I still insist on going to movies without the conversation, something over which I have less control. Just last week I was at the United theatre on the Las Vegas strip, watching Kingdom of Heaven with about nine other people, when this guy was blasting his business all through the room: he was talking on his cell phone during the first 15 minutes of the film. Horrible. I also have distinct memories of a certain theatre in Torrance, California, where the audience would collectively talk to the screen. DURING EVERY SHOWING. It was a neighborhood thang, I guess. I stopped going to movie houses in that neighborhood.

Having said all that, I really do like the old time movie houses like the Grand Lake in Oakland. There's just something about them that screams "special experience." And if the movie is in Number One (the big one with the great sound), I'll sit off to the right side so that I can see the screen. The popcorn at the Grand Lake is top notch, fresh and with real butter, and the smell hits you smack in the face as you walk in.

The only thing that deters me any more from visiting the Grand Lake is comfort. It's wonderful if the stars align, but these days I'd rather find the theatre with state-of-the-art features. And hope the aliens don't talk too much during the movie.


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