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BIG LITTLE MOVIE HOUSES

      

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 21, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: Today I read this column from 30-plus years ago and chuckle at the notion of a 100-seat theater being ridiculously small. Today you can find 50-seat auditoriums all over the Salt Lake Valley. But back then, without all the stay-at-home video-viewing options we have now, it seemed silly to pay full price for a movie in a cracker box. This was written to alert readers to the groundbreaking of a new multiplex back when multiple-screen movie houses were still making inroads into suburbia and we had no idea what was yet to come. (In the end, the smallest of this 10-auditorium multiplex had 189 seats; it stood from November 1990 to February 2001.) This item was part of a longer ‘Hicks on Flicks’ column on three different subjects, published in the Deseret News on June 4, 1989.

Ground will be broken July 1 for the long-anticipated (by Sandy residents, anyway) Cineplex Odeon 10-theater complex at the South Towne Center, 10450 S. State.

South Towne manager Neil Rollins announced last week that the multiplex movie house is scheduled to open Dec. 16, in time for the Christmas-movie season.

So what, you ask?

      

      The Cineplex Odeon South Towne multiplex in Sandy.

First of all, it means that the already oversaturated Salt Lake Valley movie market will be a little more saturated. (At the moment there are 101 commercial movie screens in the area, from Bountiful to Sandy.)

Secondly, Cinemark’s Movies 7 multiplex won’t be able to call itself “Sandy’s only first-run motion picture location” anymore.

And finally, we may see an example of Cineplex Odeon’s notorious mini-theater, the 100-seat box with the postage-stamp screen, as used in the monster 18-screen and 22-screen multiplexes in Los Angeles and Toronto, respectively.

That’s only speculation, of course. Cineplex Odeon declined to comment on its South Towne Theater plans so there’s no telling how big the auditoriums will be.

But the possibility is worth noting.

      

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I saw a movie in Cineplex Odeon’s 13-screen multiplex on the top floor of the Beverly Center Mall in Beverly Hills.

We didn’t know the size of the auditorium going in, of course — we chose a movie, not a theater. But upon entering we both automatically looked at each other and laughed out loud. “It feels like we’re in someone’s living room,” Joyce said. I replied, “Yeah, watching a movie on the wall.”

To be fair, the sound was very good and the seats quite comfortable, just as they are in the new Cineplex Odeon theaters here — the Holladay Center and Trolley Square Cinemas.

      

But during our Beverly Center experience we suffered the worse-case scenario for an auditorium that small. Behind us was a rowdy group of teenagers apparently there to party, not watch a movie.

Altogether there were maybe 25 people in this 100-seat theater, and the teens were asked to quiet down by nearly every one of us, from the front row to the back row. There was simply no place to go to get away form them. (And the teenage ushers were ineffectual.)

Actually, seeing a movie in such a small auditorium was not totally foreign, since Salt Lake’s Blue Mouse art theater has only 120 seats. But the auditorium is stretched out like a long hallway. And the audience there — except for “Rocky Horror” — tends to be more reverent. And, an even bigger difference, the Mouse charges less for admission.

Here’s hoping all the South Towne auditoriums are larger than 100 seats.