Movie Theaters Worth the Drive?

Posted on December 8, 2014 at 8:00 am

Movie theater owners are constantly having to up their game to sell tickets, knowing that many film-lovers have well-equipped home theaters and will wait three or four months until the movies are available for home viewing. It can be tough when changes made to accommodate more films result in a diminished (literally) viewing experience. Brookes Barnes writes about what some theaters are doing in the New York Times.

“When I step back and think about what will get people off a couch, in a car, down the road and into a theater, the answer is not postage stamp-sized screens and old seats,” said Gerardo I. Lopez, the chief executive of AMC Entertainment, the No. 2 chain in the United States. “Why would they bother? What the hell, stay in the house.”

So, what’s the answer? Barnes writes that:

some theater chains are now installing undulating seats, scent machines and 270-degree screens.

For an $8 premium, a Regal theater here even sprays patrons with water and pumps scents (burning rubber, gun powder) into the auditorium. Can’t cope with two hours away from your smartphone? One theater company has found success with instant on-screen messaging — the texted comments pop up next to the action.

And if you find yourself in Seattle, be sure to make time for the sumptuous Cinerama theater extensively by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen.

Even before its latest remodeling, the Cinerama was a jewel: an increasingly rare single-screen theater with comfortable seats, fantastic sightlines and state-of-the-art digital projection and sound.

But if you are as rich as Mr. Allen — No. 46 on the Forbes billionaire list — that isn’t good enough. The renovated Cinerama has a new digital projector — the first installed in a commercial theater, according to Mr. Allen’s representatives — that uses a laser as a light source rather than the xenon lamps used by older digital projectors.

The benefits of the new projector will be more apparent in 3-D movies, providing a brighter image and less eyestrain than from older 3-D projectors, said Ryan Hufford, a senior systems engineer for Vulcan, Mr. Allen’s investment firm.

The Cinerama has 110 new speakers, up from about 60 before, made by Meyer Sound, the high-end manufacturer that makes the speakers in Carnegie Hall. The system uses a new sound technology called Dolby Atmos that envelopes theatergoers with sounds from all directions, including above their heads.

Don’t miss his EMP Museum, either.

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