The movie house

The lobby contains a restaurant, a bar, and a book-and-gift shop. Before the movie, people hang out and have a drink or leaf through a hot new novel or a movie-star biography. The rest rooms are spotless, and the concession stand serves delicious coffee. All the seats are reserved, and they are plush, with plenty of legroom. The steeply raked auditorium is dark, and insulated from the sound of the other theatres in the same multiplex. Is this some sort of upper-bourgeois dream of the great good place? A padded cell for wealthy movie nuts? No, it’s an actual multiplex, the ArcLight, on Sunset Boulevard near Vine.

The idea of user-friendly theatres may be catching on. Sumner Redstone’s daughter Shari, the president of National Amusements, the family-owned theatre business, has vowed to convert half the lobbies of the chain’s hundred and nineteen theatres to social spaces with comfortable lounges, and to build more. Martinis will be served; newspapers and magazines will be offered. If theatres go in this Starbucks-plus-cocktails direction, the older audience might come back, with a positive effect on filmmaking, and the value of the movies as an art form and an experience could be preserved. After you are seated at the ArcLight, an usher standing at the front of the auditorium tells you who wrote and directed the movie and how long it is. He promises that he and another usher will stay for a while to make sure that the projection and the sound are up to snuff. There are no advertisements following his speech, and only four coming attractions. The movie begins, and you are utterly lost in it.

Big Pictures: Hollywood looks for a future,” by David Denby, The New Yorker, January 8, 2007
Locally, Arlington Cinema ‘n Drafthouse, is showing “Idiocracy” this Friday and Saturday, January 12 and 13, 2007, at 11:55 pm. 2903 Columbia Pike, Arlington VA, 703 486-2345

Posted in: Caught Our Eye

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