For, Friday, March 26, 2021


EDITOR’S NOTE: As we look forward to the fog of the coronavirus pandemic lifting and movie theaters nationally have begun to reopen, it’s worth noting that in Utah many theaters have been operating for months, with the expected social-distancing and mask-wearing protocols in place. In the Salt Lake Valley, the Cinemark and Megaplex chains have been showing a mix of independent films (including those made for Netflix) and older ‘classics,’ and admission prices are about the same as they were before the pandemic.


At Cinemarks, depending on which theaters you attend, matinees are $6-$8 and evening shows are $8-$10, with XD auditoriums (Cinemark’s version of IMAX) a couple dollars more, and all chairs are in the luxury style with no fluctuations in cost for seating.


That’s not true of Megaplex auditoriums, where pricing uses a more complex formula: $7.25 for matinees and $10 for evening shows, with a rise in cost for IMAX and D-Box seating, and also for the theaters' limited ‘Luxury’ seating.


The latter is an obvious inequity with Cinemark theaters. Only one Megaplex multiplex has every seat in the ‘Luxury’ style, the Cottonwood (which is actually in Holladay). In keeping with its pay-more-for-comfort model, Megaplex charges $9.71-$10.24 for matinees and $9.71-$12.92 for evening shows across the board.


At least the theater screens in even the smallest movie-theater auditoriums these days are generally large enough to outdo your big-screen TVs at home. Thirty years ago when multiplexes were just starting to become the norm across the country that wasn’t always the case, as pointed out by this column, published in the Desert News on June 5, 1988.


After watching “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” Friday in the new Cineplex Odeon Holladay Center Cinemas. I realized that moviegoing has become less fun over the years because of the crackerbox multiplexes that plague America. (Or, as Jay Leno says, “The cement bunker at the end of the shopping mall.”)


I don’t mind small, intimate theaters. I just mind small screens that make you squint, such as those in some of the smaller auditoriums in the Midvalley Cinemas, also owned by Cineplex (but built by Plitt Theaters before Cineplex took over).


What a difference!


In the Holladay theaters you have wide aisles that don’t make you hunch your knees up on the seat in front of you, comfortable chairs that make even a long movie like “Close Encounters” a pleasure to sit through, and a wonderful stereo sound system that enhances the experience. And the screens are perfect in every house, even the smaller auditoriums that have just over 200 seats.


(Did I mention that they also serve real butter on the popcorn?)




All of which makes me wonder why in the world Cineplex Odeon, which obviously cares about moviegoing quality, has let a serious problem at the Centre Theatre go on for more than two weeks.


I’m going to suggest here that you ignore my previous advice about seeing “Willow” in its 70mm format at the Centre Theatre — a movie house that has been a longtime favorite of Salt Lake moviegoers. Or that you stay away at least until Cineplex Odeon spends the time and money necessary to fix what has become a problem of ridiculous proportions.


After taking over the Plitt chain a few years ago, Cineplex Odeon refurbished the Centre’s sound system, and for some reason it’s never been the same.


If you have any doubts, just ask anyone who’s gone there to see “Willow” in the past two weeks.


I can’t remember ever receiving as many complaining calls from moviegoers as I have about the problems with this run: Sound popping in and out, the film shutting down in the middle of scenes, background noise occasionally overwhelming the dialogue, and the sound getting softer and louder without warning. …


On the first day, maybe. On the second day … well, it could take that long to work out some bugs.


But two weeks?




I’ve talked to people who saw “Willow” in the Centre for its earlier showings and some who’ve seen it there as recently as a couple of days ago. They all say the same thing — a dreadful experience. Oh, they like the movie — they think. But going to the Centre isn’t the same anymore. (One customer said he’d never go there again.)


Cineplex Odeon officials don’t like to comment on anything — they like being a big, mysterious entity in Canada, and they tell local employees not to talk to the press. But, of course, the executives in Canada don’t tell the press anything either. So the only comment I could get is that the problem is being corrected.


But my advice to people who want to see “Willow” is to go elsewhere.


When a problem goes on for two weeks either the theater owners don’t care or it’s something that’s going to take a lot of work to fix.


That might mean shutting down for a show or two.


Big, mysterious entities don’t like to lose money by shutting down for a show or two.


But it might be wiser to think about how much money is being lost by word or mouth as people who have a dreadful moviegoing experience tell their friends about it.