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» Cinematour Forum   » Cinema Yak   » How To Revive The Moviegoing Experience

   
Author Topic: How To Revive The Moviegoing Experience
Chris Utley
Senior Member

Posts: 631
From: Torrance, CA
Registered: May 2003


 - posted May 17, 2005 01:17 PM      Profile for Chris Utley   Author's Homepage   Email Chris Utley         Edit/Delete Post 
This is a really long rant. And it's a long time coming, too. I've had this idea rolling around in my head for a while but never got the chance to share it until now...

I love movie theatres. Regardless of everyone's early predictions about the future of cinemas and theatrical presentation due to the emergence of DVD and other digital media, there is nothing like driving up to a theatre with a big marquee on a Friday or Saturday night and buying a large tub of popcorn to see the new movie of the week. I am especially envious of those of you who grew up in the 40's through the 60's. You guys had the pleasure of seeing movies in these gargantuan movie palaces with big sound and even bigger screens. My generation feasts on Dolby Digital. You guys had Cinerama, Todd A-O, Cinemascope and other widescreen technologies shown in the most palatial and beautifully decored auditoriums ever seen.

Sadly, these grand palaces and megasized auditoriums have been shuttered and torn down. In their places come these 20 screen shoeboxes with stadium seating and screens slightly bigger than a flat screen TV. Add to the fact that the quality of movies has gotten worse and worse over the last few years, it's no wonder that the predictions of the eventual demise of the movie theatre are prevelant nowadays.

On the other hand...

In my neck of the woods, there is a movie complex called Arclight Cinemas (a subsidary of Pacific Theatres) and the centerpiece of that complex is the world famous Cinerama Dome. As almost everyone knows by now, the good folks at Pacific Theatres wanted to convert the Dome into a stadium seating shoebox and build 14 other auditoriums behind it. But Pacific did the right thing and restored the Dome to it's original 1963 glory (minus the gold interior) and built their new auditoriums surrounding it. Nothing got hacked, sliced, or chopped in two. Word has it that Arclight is one of the biggest grossing movie complexes in LA...if not the country.

Why can't the other theatre conglomerates follow this model? Instead of shutting down these single screen palaces, why can't they just simply build around them? They could let the original palace be the centerpiece of the complex, restore them to their former glory, put in all the state-of-the-art sound systems with 70 foot (and higher) screens and build 10-12 more auditoriums surrounding them.

By proudly advertising the new and improved movie palaces, they'd attract more attention to the complex as a whole. The teenagers would flock like bees longing for honey to the restored palaces. They'd make money hand over fist.

Has anyone else considered this? Why aren't today's theatre chains catching onto this idea? Please share your thoughts.

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Jeff Arellano
Senior Member

Posts: 685
From: Monterey Park, CA
Registered: Jun 2003


 - posted May 17, 2005 03:36 PM      Profile for Jeff Arellano   Email Jeff Arellano         Edit/Delete Post 
Maybe due to teh cost of land for some of these palaces, or the fact that they cannot build right next to theatre. Another alternative is kinda like what the Mann did. Keep the Graumanns Chinese intact, build a new theatre next to it. It works. That theatre is always busy. I would love to see some of the grand hollywood theatres returned to prominence, like the Warner / Pacific.

But alas, a lot of the problems with this is due to the size of the theatres themselves. Many are just way too big for one movie. The Dome is just the right size. You try something that seats more than 1,000 people and its impossible to fill.

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Bill Gabel
Member

Posts: 288
From: New York, NY
Registered: Feb 2003


 - posted May 17, 2005 05:42 PM      Profile for Bill Gabel           Edit/Delete Post 
There are many factors that don't work anymore with mant of these palaces. The cost of the land in the metropolitan areas. Many of theses great palaces were built in the late 1920 - 1940. In the downtown areas of the city. People were always coming into these areas daily. But in the 50's-60's people moved away from most of these areas into the burbs. So you had your neighborhood houses that did the business. So these large 2000-3000 seat palaces could not fill their many seats daily. So the massive square feet that are in these palaces became gold to the chains. Since they could not fill the seats with ticket holders they could knock the building down and sell the land. Look at how Metropolitan Theatres in downtown Los Angeles handled Broadway during the 60's,70's,80's and the 90's. They changed with the market till the market died. They slowly closed the lesser performing houses, leaving the business to the larger palaces till the end. When I worked in Los Angeles, I worked many of these theatres and the ones along Hollywood Blvd.. I saw these 2000 theatres in Downtown LA, full all day on the weekends, but during the mid to late 80's. They would be running during the weekends at less than 1/2 full at each performance. By the 90's it was over, they were running at around 100 people or less each show. During the week it was much worse, less than 10 people for many of the shows. Now the cost of labor comes in. During the week they could not even pay the labor cost for the staff.
Now lets move over to Hollywood. Pacific Theatres has done a great job reinventing the Dome. The one thing that works for Pacific Theatres is that they own a lot of land on Hollywood Blvd.. They own the land the Dome sits on and the former parking lot and the land just east where the Wells Fargo Bank and Bank of America and Micky D's sit on too. During the 70's Pacific Theatres had the most theatres along the Blvd.
  • Pantages
    Hollywood Pacific
    Pix
    Vine
    World
    New View
And the Dome over on Sunset Blvd.
During the 70's-80's was the Golden age for Pacific Theatres in running class theatres. They had those along Hollywood Blvd., the Wiltern Theatre, Warner Beverly Hills, Picwood, Paradise, Warner Huntington Park, Tower, Encino, Garmar and a few other very nice singles. The Picwood Theatre was the last theatre I managed in early 1983.
Another problem is parking in large metropolitan areas and zoning in some areas.
One of the problems during the mid to late 1970's in Beverly Hills. This is when the Fox Wilshire Theatre, Warner Beverly Hills and the Beverly Theatres closed. The chains tried the keep these palaces going. But the city of Beverly Hills changed local parking around these theatres. They zoned the areas for the home owners. So the chains closed the theatres. The Warner Beverly Hills Theatre was the major loss to the city. It was a beautiful Art-Deco design. It was razed to make way for a parking lot. The Beverly Theatre on Beverly Drive is soon slated to be razed to make way for a Hotel.
Things have changed over the years, but it all depends on the size of the theatre. In New York City, some people still ask why they razed the Roxy, Capitol Theatres. One problem is these two theatres both sat 5000 people each. And they were just one block away from each other. The Radio City Music Hall is just another block east of them.

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Dan Roben
Member

Posts: 155
From: Seattle, WA
Registered: May 2003


 - posted May 17, 2005 09:01 PM      Profile for Dan Roben           Edit/Delete Post 
Chris, I feel your pain.

Unfortunately, as long as the theater circuit operators consider their reason for existence as being purveyors of popcorn and nachos (with movies as a come-on), the state of moviegoing will continue to be of the "herd them in and stuff their faces" mentality.

Sad, isn't it?

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Ron Newman
Member

Posts: 145
From: Somerville, MA
Registered: Jan 2005


 - posted May 18, 2005 05:23 PM      Profile for Ron Newman   Email Ron Newman         Edit/Delete Post 
The owners of the Somerville Theatre in Somerville, MA, did just what you suggest, bless their hearts. They restored the original auditorium intact, complete with balcony. Then they added four more screens in other parts of the building that had previously contained retail stores or office space.

When it's not showing movies, the main theatre is a popular venue for live shows, usually Celtic and other world music concerts.

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Chris Utley
Senior Member

Posts: 631
From: Torrance, CA
Registered: May 2003


 - posted May 19, 2005 11:59 AM      Profile for Chris Utley   Author's Homepage   Email Chris Utley         Edit/Delete Post 
I have no problem with being "herded in". But don't boast about your giant "wall to wall screens" that are nothing but 30 to 40 ft. shoeboxes! That's why I hate the fact that I was born after the Roadshow Presentation era. Everything was much more elegant and majestic back then. You didn't just see a movie, you SAW a movie!

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Jeff Arellano
Senior Member

Posts: 685
From: Monterey Park, CA
Registered: Jun 2003


 - posted May 19, 2005 03:38 PM      Profile for Jeff Arellano   Email Jeff Arellano         Edit/Delete Post 
Chris, the correct terminology would be....

YOU EXPERIENCED THE MOVIE.

You forget the experience with the crowd interactions.

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Chris Utley
Senior Member

Posts: 631
From: Torrance, CA
Registered: May 2003


 - posted May 19, 2005 03:45 PM      Profile for Chris Utley   Author's Homepage   Email Chris Utley         Edit/Delete Post 
I wasn't talking about crowd interaction. I was talking about the sheer delight it must have been for "the old school" to experience Cinerama, Cinemascope, Todd AO, Dimension 150 and other 70MM presentations back in the day. That is missing from today's cinema.

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