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New movie complex has positives, but also complexities

By Gary Clift

Here is a set of observations about the new movie theater in town.

The 13-plex is attached to the south end of the Town Center mall. It features smaller auditoriums than some of those out at Seth Childs, but the new theaters are adequately heated and have decent sound reproduction.

One of them is an IMAX theater—not an Omnimax with a large curved screen but a 3-D house that relies on a version of the 3-D glasses we were used to getting at the older theater.

If you aren’t seated in a central seat, at least, the picture may look as if relatively flat objects and people were arranged in four or five relatively flat rows going from the front of the the picture to the background. The picture will be a little dark and may be a tad fuzzy at the edges. But this is a better standard of depth-suggested projection than we had been getting.

It needs to be good to be worth the charge. The first weekend a ticket to a new movie in the IMAX theater cost $22.12, more than twice what a non-discounted ticket at a first weekend showing had been at the old theater. If you ordered your ticket ahead of time on the web, it probably cost even more.

Early purchase is being promoted by theater management as half of the auditoriums have assigned seating. The earlier you buy your ticket, the more likely you are to find something central alongside your companions.

There are a couple of self-service stations along one wall of the new lobby where customers are supposed to be able to buy tickets to showings. But I couldn’t work the automated setup the time I tried it, and I’ve not yet known anybody to have any success with those stations.

Which means customers will have to go to the concession stand to pay for seats. The concessions business has become semi-self-service. Attendants will sell you a bag of popcorn, but they will sell it to you full. You must take it to the condiment station to put butter flavor and salt on it, which means there is no more buttering and salting “in courses” except if you wish to come out of your showing to add more toppings once you’ve eaten down a ways in your bag of corn. The auditoriums to the east of the lobby are set up so that customers can order hot food to be delivered to them in their seats. The new films tend to show in those houses, at an additional $2 a ticket, whether you are ordering anything to eat or not. Waiters frequently walk in front of seated viewers as the movies run.

The seats themselves are recliners. Their uni-cushions are vinyl and seem inflated. My upper legs are too short to allow me to sit in these seats upright with my knees bent and my hips on the back of the chair. Bifocal wearers will find the reclining viewers must crane their necks to see the screen at the correct angle.

In fact, all of the seats in the 13-plex recline to some degree. Only in the IMAX is the angle comfortable. And there the seating is divided up into a complicated number of sections. So ushers and other ticket-holders will be walking in front of many of the seats. And it may be an adventure to find a specific seat again when one returns from a trip to the gents. The staff is helpful enough. But, oddly, the ticket-takers seem to have been incorrectly instructed about right and left. I’ve been given directions to my Town Center 13 auditoriums now on five occasions, and in each case the usher told me right if he meant left or vice versa. Odds suggest a pattern.

Since this theater building was constructed, Carmike, which built it, has been absorbed by the Chinese theater ownership group AMC. The AMC website states that Carmike loyalty cards will still be accepted at former Carmike theaters, but the concessionaires at the Town Center theater have been told otherwise.

And the website that offers information about showings has been inconvenient since the new theater opened. Sometimes new movies are not listed until hours before their first showing.

Then, too, the showing times have not always been convenient. One new movie seemed to have been scheduled so that it had no showings during the late afternoon period when Super Bargain Matinee prices were in effect.

The new film “Fences” seemed to have only one showing a day. The first day it was shortly after noon. The second it was shortly after 10 p.m.

And the price schedules themselves are even more complicated than they were out at Seth. One really needs a computer to figure what the price of a ticket at a specific showing will be.

It is nice to have the new 3-D house and the reliable furnaces and sound systems. But in some ways the complexity and difficulty associated with movie-going at the new theater has made Seth Childs, now a $2 per ticket secondrun house, all the more attractive.

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