Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Arclight Dux

Because "Redux" would mean I was going over it again, but I haven't yet, so... take that, Latin!

The Arclight was among the first in a wave of "deluxe" movie theaters, but it was the first one to really get it right. Nobody's perfect, especially not giant faceless corporations (as I understand it, the Arclight is owned by Pacific, which is owned by Disney). But the Arclight does a pretty damn good job. Reserved seating is a thing of beauty. Three trailers before each showing. No commercials. Plenty of legroom, every seat, in every theater (except the Dome, which is a special case).

On Easter Sunday (screw you, Jesus), we went to see Ice Age: The Meltdown at the Bridge Cinemas, down at the Promenade at Howard Hughes Center, which is a business/entertainment complex just off Sepulveda south of Centinela. (We went there instead of the Arclight because we were going with a friend and their daughter, and they live right near there, so it was more convenient, geographically.)

"The Bridge Cinema de Lux" is its full name, and it's got "value-added" features that presumably make it a more attractive option than your standard multiplex, but despite its pretensions, it ain't the Arclight.

The fundamental difference is that the Arclight is trying to make the movie-watching experience better, while the Bridge tries to make the complex as a whole more interesting... except the way they've chosen to do it is to add what are essentially bells and whistles, without addressing some of the core issues of the experience.

There's a series of alcoves along the main hallway outside the lower theaters, in which are situated couches. And behind each couch is a video screen embedded in the wall, which cycles through camera views of the other alcoves. So you can watch other people in other alcoves watching you on their wallscreen... which is very meta, but really has nothing to do with being in a movie theater, and the screens or cameras are frequently on the blink. It comes off as tacky and faintly unsavory.

Then there's these overhead projectors which display the theater number on the wall, in the style of the old circular-sweep countdown you see before old movies (there's a name for it, I just forget). They do this by projecting a static image on the wall, and having a little rotating wheel -- a mechanical rotating wheel -- in front of the lens, causing the image to be interrupted a few times a second, so as to imitate the flicker of a movie projector. They don't do a very good job. It's vaguely lame. Does this really improve the movie-going experience?*

In essence, they wasted a bunch of money on shiny crap that doesn't work all that well and doesn't really add much to the experience. (And for some reason, the theater's screen had a big dirty blotch covering most of it. Srsly.) I think the Arclight's model is the one to beat.

* No.