Tag Archives: food policy

My Movie Theater Recommendations

11 Feb

For years my friends, coworkers and readers have asked me to write a blog explaining WHERE to see movies. Sure people know where one is playing, but that’s usually where it ends. Often they’ll come back from their movie-night and make any of the following complaints:

– “It was sold out”

– “It was so full that we got lousy seats”

– “Parking was awful, and by the time we walked in the movie had started”

– “I sat down on a hypodermic needle, and it wasn’t even mine”

Yes I realize that you can solve many of these problems by buying advanced tickets online, but that is simply more expensive, prevents you from ever using discount tickets, and don’t get me started on those aforementioned hypodermic needles. Well, I don’t have all of the answers, but my seeing an insane number of movies (in the theater) each year has taught me the numerous pros and cons of each location, including many juicy nuggets you haven’t thought of. So for my fellow Angeleno readers, consider this your new Lonely Planet for LA Theaters…

(NOTE: This is not a ranking, I simply tried to lists the theaters in the order I visit them from most to least often.)

AMC

AMC Century City 15

How busy – Try to avoid it on weekends. If I’m seeing an older movie at 11pm on a Saturday night then sure, it should be no problem. But a movie during prime-time you’ve got almost no shot unless you buy advanced tickets. On a weeknight on the other hand you should have no problem unless it’s an extremely popular one in its opening week. This is one of my least favorite targets for a weekend, but one of my ideal locations to go on a weeknight.

Seats – As with most theaters on my list these are nice stadium seats – that’s almost a given in today’s day and age. Remember the old days when you’d decide where to sit based on who’s in front of you? What a wonderful thing to leave in the past! And the seats are assigned, which is a double-edged sword in my opinion.

Screens – No small screens here, and a handful of really big ones that I’ll mention later on.

Outside food policy – Moderate. They technically don’t allow you to bring food in, but they also won’t question that big shopping bag in your hand, so be respectful and clean up after yourself if you do!

Parking – Free for exactly 3 hours as long as you validate at the theater. After that I believe it’s 4 bucks at the 3 hours and 1 minute mark.

Tidbits – They also have their fake version of IMAX (nice, large screen but don’t get my started on how it’s not a real IMAX screen), and I haven’t tried it yet but Mike & Jared went to see American Sniper in their ETX room, and apparently the seats are leather, recline, vibrate and have speakers built-in. (Raise your hand if you’re excited to see Fifty Shades of Grey there!)

A quick rant – The theater chain a year or so ago decided that it wouldn’t violate any laws or ethics to start charging a surcharge on each (prepaid) discount pass you use. People who paid for a pass that supposedly covers the full purchase of the movie suddenly were told to give extra money, something incredibly unethical. Other popular theaters such as The Grove have created surcharges in the past, but have printed new passes that give this warning in the fine print; if you have a previous pass from before the change, they still accept it without the surcharge. I’m still quite annoyed at AMC for continuing this unsavory business practice.

Grove

Pacific’s The Grove Stadium 14

How busy – Very similar to the busy-factor of Century City, but even MORE crazy on weekends due to the crowds at the outdoor-mall. This would be dead-last in my list of theaters to visit on a Saturday night, but once again no problem on a weeknight.

Seats – Ditto to above: stadium seating, and assigned seating.

Screens – All are a good size, and some are really big (cue Michael Scott).

Outside food policy – Open. Beautifully wide open. This is the one and only theater I’ve found in all of LA that 100% allows outside food, it’s fantastic! I’ve tested this countless times by walking in with a giant pizza box and the only response I get from them as I enter is “Where’s my slice?”. I appreciate this amenity so much, and although I’ll sneak food into just about any theater, it’s great to be able to bring in something fresh and hot with no fear of “getting caught”.

Parking – $2.50 for the first 4 hours with validation. And if you ignore my advice and come on a Saturday night, then enjoy spending an hour trying to park, or better yet just go straight up to the roof where you’ll hopefully find a spot.

Tidbits – Next door my friends Seth, Frank and “Big” Mike all work at the Cheesecake Factory, a place that Adi claims I’d never leave if I was willing to eat non-kosher food. Another tidbit, the stock photo above shows a marquee for two movies I’ve not only seen, but reviewed on this blog. Feel free to take a walk down memory lane with Snitch, and Jack The Giant Slayer.

Culver City

Pacific Culver Stadium 12

How busy – My favorite choice on a Saturday night, because it does get busy, but RARELY enough to sell out. I’ll go there pretty much anytime, unless it’s an insanely popular movie’s opening weekend.

Seats – Yes stadium seating, but unlike the previous theaters you can choose any seat you want once you enter the theater – something I personally prefer.

Screens – Slightly smaller screens than the previous theaters, but still not bad at all.

Outside food policy – Easy/Moderate. Like most theaters they “don’t allow” it, but this theater is super chill, sometimes I can’t even find someone to take my ticket as I enter!

Parking – On Saturday nights it is sometimes tough thanks to the lovely Downtown Culver City really blooming the last few years. But on any given night there are multiple nearby parking lots, and all of them are free with validation for 4 hours.

More Images : www.tiny.cc/mgpfb  |

Tidbits – We had our engagement photo-shoot in this exact spot, and the theater was completely chill about us coming in and taking photos inside a theater, even though we asked last-minute and offered them nothing for it. As the example above shows, such great shots and memories came from here!

Landmark

The Landmark

How busy – On weekends, extremely. The theaters are smaller, and the crowds are huge, so either buy your tickets in advance online, or don’t bother going on a weekend. On a weeknight on the other hand you can generally get a ticket.

Seats – Yes stadium seating, and yes assigned seats, but here you get something very cool – the living-room theaters! A few of the screens have leather couches instead of chairs and the front row even gives you a foot-rest. It’s really comfortable and my only “complaint” is that the couches have low backings so taller people may get uncomfortable unless they slouch. But definitely a fun way to see a movie. For anyone going on a date, this could be a much more “intimate” way to see a movie.

Screens – A few are large, most are medium, and the living room screens are pretty small, so sit in the front few rows for those. And FYI one or two of their medium-sized screens are placed awkwardly high up, so if you see a movie in those rooms you’ll want to sit in a row further back or you’ll be straining your neck to look up the entire flick. Weird design, right?

Outside food policy – Moderate. They do have a nicer concession stand than most theaters, serving coffee, tea and nuts.

Parking – Busy on weekends as well. Free parking for 3 hours with theater validation. Strangely, when you exit on the Pico Boulevard side, the gate is often already up and you can just drive straight out.

Tidbits – In June of 2007 I had my birthday party at this theater, where we literally bought out the entire living-room theater and watched Son of Rambow. They charged us only 7 bucks per person back then. The sound and sight of a theater packed full of your friends watching a movie with you? Priceless.

Sundance

Sundance Sunset Cinema

How busy – Not usually too hard to get into, but I usually only go on Tuesdays (I’ll explain why below)

Seats – Very nice leather seats with plenty of space between each person for food.

Screens – Generally medium to small-sized, but perfectly fine.

Outside food policy – Moderate. They have a nice bar for wine and beer as well as some nice other goodies at the concession stand, and people can order food to bring inside the theater.

Parking – Easy to find within the parking lot, and 3 hours free parking with validation.

Tidbits – Why do I go on Tuesday nights? They have 6 dollar movies all day and night! This theater is quite expensive the rest of the time, but any movie, anytime on a Tuesday for 6 bucks? Quite the bargain.

Howard Hughes Cinemark

 

Cinemark 18 & XD

How busy – This is my other favorite theater for Saturday nights. I’ve never had trouble getting into a movie, any night of the week.

Seats – Typically good stadium seating chairs, and choose any seat you want when you arrive.

Screens – Medium to large screens.

Outside food policy – Moderate.

Parking – 3 dollars flat-rate as you enter on weekends and weeknights.

Tidbits – The downsides of this theater are that it’s a bit further for me to get to (Howard Hughes Center, off the 405), and a lot of loud teenagers tend to hang out here, making it more likely than the previous theaters that you’ll encounter an inconsiderate, noisy audience.

Magic Johnson Rave

Rave Cinemas Baldwin Hills 15

How busy – I’ve only been here a handful of times, but have never had trouble getting a seat.

Seats – Newly built theater with stadium seating and no assigned seating.

Screens – Medium

Outside food policy – Strict. This is the only place I’ve ever been to where they checked my bags, and sent me away due to outside food.

Parking – An outdoor parking lot, and totally free.

Tidbits – This used to be known as the Magic Johnson theater in Crenshaw, and my friends thought it was funny that I’d travel all the way there to catch movies. Well now some of them have seen the light after trying it, and want to give this place repeat business. They closed the theater down and rebuilt it, and now you have a brand new theater which is as nice as any other, while being the cheapest place I know of for new movies in LA! They offer student discounts and other discounts, and it usually costs between 5 to 7 dollars per movie when I go. In fact even if you don’t have a student ID, Wednesdays all day are just 6 dollars a movie, even 3D showings!

Westwood

Regency Village and Bruin Theaters

How busy – Mostly empty. It’s so easy to get tickets, even if it’s the opening weekend of a popular movie.

Seats – Old-school chairs and no stadium seating, so don’t sit behind someone tall. (Not a problem since there are always tons of empty seats.)

Screens – Huge! These are some of the oldest theaters in LA, and each of them has just one screen, but it’s a giant one!

Outside food policy – Medium strict. They have Starbucks and candy stores right by it and tons of UCLA students as customers, so they really try to keep outside food from entering with you.

Parking – Usually you’ll have to pick from one of the nearby lots and pay a flat rate. There is also metered parking but it’s usually enforced until late at night.

Tidbits – This is where many movie premieres used to take place, (it’s quite historic) and now it’s sadly underutilized. I look forward to my birthday party year after year being in one of these theaters (across the street from each other), and they always rope off however many rows I need and give us a huge discount. Many, many great memories are from here. Fun fact: If there’s a line to buy tickets in front of you, just walk across the street to the other theater and they’ll let you buy tickets for either location!

 

Of course there are other theaters in the city, and some of them are nicer than the rest:

– The Arclight in Hollywood is fantastic, but since it offers zero discount passes or cheap days, I avoid it. How else can I afford to see so many movies each year?!

– Ditto for the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, the main screen is massive and historic, but the rest of the screens are very average and just too darn expensive for no apparent reason.

– The various theaters on 3rd Street Promenade are all last resort choices for me, because it takes forever to find parking, and the theaters are old-school without any stadium seating. But I’ll still go if that’s the last place a movie is playing – hell, I’ll go anywhere.

– Universal Citywalk has a great theater with many screens, but call me crazy – I try to avoid driving to the valley and paying 10 bucks for parking.

So there you have it, a new guide for my friends and readers living in Los Angeles that should make you much more prepared to have a successful movie-night. (If you live in the valley and are shouting, “WHAT ABOUT ME?!” I make no apologies!)

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