Over the course of a 7 day span last week/weekend, I went to see two movies in very different kinds of theaters: one in theater being a new, “stadium” seating style, but probably allowing probably 150 viewers, and the other show in an old-school, true “theater” style, with likely upwards of 600 seats (including the balcony). Seeing the second movie in the larger theater on a Tuesday afternoon, still with maybe 50 people, I got to thinking about the different benefits of each and wondering which, if either, I preferred.
You don’t hear many people complain about stadium seating. Virtually every seat (well, except those first few rows — and last weekend I was in row 2) is a “good” seat, and because of the “stadium” quality, you don’t have to worry about being 5’3 3/4″ and someone like me (at 6’3 3/4″) sitting in front of you and obstructing your view. A lot of the places I’ve been have the option to put down or up the arm rest, giving you some privacy or the chance to “cuddle” with your neighbor, and they also tend to have some type of nicely reclining back to provide extra comfort.
But sitting in the “theater” style theater, I decided I preferred that better. Much of it probably has to do with that fact that I tend to be a “purist” when it comes to movies, and thus I feel movies in the theater were meant not only to be viewed large in size, but with a large group of people, as well. Getting hundreds people packed together, maybe having to adjust your head so you can see around the one in front of you, sharing an armrest with your date and fighting for a comfortable way to hold hands — that’s a movie! When you’re in a place like this, you know you’re not at home, sitting on a couch, and really, shouldn’t a movie feel like that? I’m definitely at atmosphere guy — if I do view at home (where the intent is to watch the movie, not “socialize with a movie on,” which does happen sometimes), I like my lights off and no interruptions, usually without snacks (just like I how I do it in the theater), or with the popcorn almost gone by the time I hit play.
An while you’re here, I wanted to share two movie viewing locations that provide some unique and enjoyable experiences for those living in or visiting Chicago and Milwaukee.
I think the favorite place I’ve ever watched a movie is the Music Box Theatre in Chicago, IL. The theatre has a great history, but what do I enjoy? Well, it seats about 800, with a forward and a back section, which allows one tall like me to sit in the front row of the back section and have a great seat with virtually unlimited leg room. Plus, if you attend the right weekend, evening showtime, you get to be serenaded by the fully functioning theatre organ! You certainly don’t get that at your local cineplex! And while the fact that it shows mainly independent fare is a turnoff to some, it’s a bonus to me — and midnight showings of things like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” make it a place for all living in or visiting Chicago to explore.
The other very unique, large group movie viewing location I want to highlight is the Rosebud Cinema Drafthouse in Wauwatosa, WI (just west of Milwaukee). While it may only seat around 180, it’s worth mentioning for the exact reason you might think I wouldn’t like it — the seats aren’t “seats” at all, but instead sofas and love seats! You can purchase beer and food and get the “at home” (as it says on their website) feel while still viewing your movie with a large group of strangers! The uniqueness alone makes it notable. (And on a side not, the Times Cinema, found through the same website, located not too far away just across the border in Milwaukee, is more “my kind of theater” — at least the last time I went in early 2007, as it has since been acquired by new owners seeking to give it a new feel.)
How about you? I’d love to hear your take on movie viewing preference (both in a theater and/or other kind of location) or special places to see a movie around the country, or the world! I didn’t even mention outdoor viewings or drive-in theaters, which could be a whole new topic in themselves. Please share your thoughts!