Is Going To the Movies Still Worth it?

This past weekend there were two different movies that opened in movie theaters that I wanted to see.  “Amsterdam” and “Tár”.  Here are the pros and cons of my movie theater experiences.

I decided to go see “Tár” on Friday during the day.  It’s only playing at 2 theaters in Los Angeles and 2 theaters in New York City this past weekend (it ended up making a per theater average of $40,000 at the 4 theaters it played at over the weekend) so I was guessing Friday during the day would be the least crowded since most people are working.

Con: Parking – The movie was only playing at the AMC Century City and the AMC The Grove.  Both are really bad for parking.  First, both malls are very popular (I would recommend AVOIDING either location during the holiday shopping season) so finding a place to park usually takes a while.  Second, you pay for parking.  The AMC Century City theater gives 3 hours free parking with validation and the AMC The Grove theater give up to 3 hours for $3 with validation (the last time I checked), but a lot of movies are over 2 hours these days (“Tár” is 2:35 but with previews and promos it’s about 3 hours).  After 3 hours the prices for parking at both locations go up quickly ($1 every 15 min or something like that).  

I chose to see the movie at the AMC Century City theater.  (full disclosure – I worked at the former AMC Century City theater several years ago when it was a different location.  After I left, they tore down the former theater on the north side of the mall and built a new theater on the south side).  I arrived there about 40 minutes before showtime, and it took me about 10 minutes to find a parking spot.  I believe it was about 25 minutes before showtime when I walked into the theater.

I am a big fan of the Dolby Vision projection system and the main place you can see a Dolby Vision movie is at an AMC theater in one of their “Dolby Cinema at AMC” theaters which is at almost every AMC location.  Another benefit of the “Dolby Cinema at AMC” theaters is the comfortable recliners in the theater – I have friends that don’t care about the Dolby Vision picture or Dolby Atmos audio but they love the recliners in the theater.  If the movie is playing at a “Dolby Cinema at AMC” theater, that is usually the theater I will see the movie in.  However, it’s usually not the Century City AMC theater.  One of my favorites is the AMC Burbank 16 – which has FREE parking close by.  

Pro: Reward points – Since I go to AMC Theaters so much, I decided a few years ago to sign up for the AMC Stubs program.  I don’t go enough to get the “A-List” program with the monthly fee, but I do go enough to get the “AMC Stubs Premiere” with the yearly fee.  When I was ordering tickets for this movie, I discovered I had enough rewards available to pay for the ticket.  So, I didn’t pay anything for the ticket to this movie.  Plus, part of my concession purchase was also paid with the rewards points.  

Pro: Reserved seating – A great new thing that is happening at more and more theaters now is reserved seating.  You can pick where you’re sitting in the theater when you buy the tickets.  No more waiting forever in line to get a good seat.  Also, with COVID still happening, you can see how crowded the movie theater will be.

Con: Too many trailers – Not only do you have to sit through the pre-show entertainment before the movie showtime.  At the movie showtime you still have a bunch of promos and 7 PREVIEWS that are each between 2 min and 2 and a half minutes long:

  1. The Inspection
  2. Armageddon Time
  3. Spoiler Alert
  4. The Banshees of Inisherin
  5. The Fabelmans
  6. I Wanna Dance with Somebody
  7. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

(I didn’t memorize the trailers.  If you order the movie tickets on the AMC website, you can go back to the website later and re-watch the trailers online).

All the previews and promos – including the AMC promo featuring Nicole Kidman which has been shown on television recently – EQUALS ALMOST 30 MINUTES before the feature starts.

Con: WTF!!! – Here’s something unusual.  After all the previews and promos played, the movie played for about 10 minutes and then THE SOUND SHUT OFF!!!  At first, I thought it was part of the movie.  The movie is somewhat unusual because it has several credits (they look like end credits) playing at the start of the movie.  However, when I started seeing people lips moving but no sound coming out, I figured there was something wrong.  

Other people in the audience also thought something was wrong and some of them started yelling “SOUND”.  I really don’t understand this.  Everyone in the theater knows the sound is off and there isn’t someone in the projection booth who is monitoring the auditorium in case someone yells something.  I also don’t understand when people applaud at the end of a movie.  The filmmakers and actors can’t hear the applause unless they’re coincidentally in the same theater watching the movie (which usually only happens during the movie premiere or special screenings).  

Next thing, a few people started leaving the theater to report the problem.  After about 5 minutes the picture froze.  Then about 5 minutes later the theater lights came on and an employee came in to say the showing needs to be cancelled and refunded.  


I’ve been in theaters when problems have happened before including when the fire alarm went off, when the power went out, and during an earthquake (that was a fun one).  I’ve even been in a movie theater where the projector bulb went out.  This was back when there were film projectors.  The movie was stopped, the bulb was replaced, and the movie started again about 10 minutes later.  Usually, it’s not a problem.  However, this time it apparently was a problem.  Digital audio systems are apparently a lot more difficult that film audio systems.

So, everyone left the theater and by the time I got to the customer relations desk there was a long line.  Everyone was getting refunded.  Plus, there was a showing on another screen of the theater (since it’s so long the movie was playing on more than one screen) which some people got tickets for.  I got a refund (my points were refunded) and a ticket for the next showtime.

In the other theater, THE EXACT SAME 7 PREVIEWS PLAYED.  Then the movie played without interruption.  Since the new showtime was an hour later, I paid around $10 when I exited the parking since I entered around 11:05am – 11:45 show – 12:45 replacement show – show ended around 3:45 – left parking about 10 min later.  Total time parking was approx. 4 hours 45 min.

The second day – Saturday – I went to see “Amsterdam” and I wanted to see it on an IMAX screen but I’m very picky about my IMAX screens.  There is an IMAX screen at almost every AMC location, but I think most of them aren’t true IMAX.  In my opinion, true IMAX is the giant – 3 story tall – screen. 

There are only 2 true IMAX theaters in Los Angeles showing feature films (there is one at the California Science Center, but it doesn’t show feature films).  The first one was remodeled a few years ago: The TCL Chinese IMAX (formerly the Graumans Chinese Theater).  The second one is the Universal Cinema AMC at CityWalk near Universal Studios (it was an IMAX film theater before AMC took over the location).  

Since I still had the rewards points (after being refunded the day before) and since you also need to pay for parking at the Hollywood and Highland mall next to the TCL Chinese IMAX, I went with the AMC Universal Citywalk.  

Con: Parking – There are good things and bad things about parking at Universal Studios (where the CityWalk is).  Bad Thing: There are TONS AND TONS of tourists who aren’t sure where to go and don’t know that parking costs $30 (general parking) during the day.  So, just parking takes about 15-20 min.  Good thing: The parking is $30 (for general parking) upon entering but if you show your parking ticket at the movie theater, they will refund $25 so you only pay $5.  It’s not free but I think it would be about the same as if I parked at Hollywood and Highland.  Good thing: After passing the entrance gate and paying the $30, there are traffic cones, signs, and people directing traffic so you don’t have dozens of cars all looking for a parking spot.  They literally direct you to an open spot.  Bad thing: Unless you’re lucky (or you pay the extra money for preferred parking which is $50 or $70) it is a VERY LONG WALK to the movie theater.

Pro: Reward points – As I previously mentioned, I still had rewards points so this movie ticket was free.  I didn’t have enough for concession items though.

Pro: Reserved seating – I recommend sitting in the very back row of this theater since the screen is very large.  With the stadium seating, the very back row of the theater is approximately the center of the screen height.  Closer to the screen means you’re looking up at the picture.

Con: The concession stand is far away – It’s a long walk from the concession stand to the theater.  From the concession stand on the first floor you need to go upstairs to enter the IMAX theater and once you enter you go up to the last/top row of the theater.  All while carrying the concession items.  I’m guessing there is an elevator for handicap access but I’m not sure where it is or if it’s available to everyone.

Con: Movie was NOT in IMAX format – Some of the movies shown on IMAX screens were filmed partly with IMAX cameras (or completely with IMAX cameras for some Christopher Nolan movies), others were “formatted for IMAX” so it would play better on IMAX screens.  This movie didn’t seem to be “formatted for IMAX”.  The entire movie didn’t use the top or the bottom of the screen.  It was like watching a letterboxed movie on television.

Con: Too many trailers – The website doesn’t list the previews that played before this movie but I counted 7.  I remember “Oppenheimer”, “Babylon”, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”, and “Avatar: The Way of Water”.  I don’t remember the others.  Another approx. 30 minutes of promos and previews before this movie which is approx. 2 hours and 15 min.

This time the movie didn’t stop so there’s no “WTF!!!”

The next movie I see could be “Tár” (again) if it’s in Dolby Vision when it opens in more theaters at the end of this month.