For my money, and I've spent a lot of it this way, there are few things better than sitting in a dark room full of strangers, munching popcorn or some other incredibly unhealthy food-like product and watching light and shadows dance about a screen for a few hours.

The movie theater was arguably the most popular form of mass entertainment during the 20th Century and its popularity shows little sign of slowing down in the 21st, despite the rising popularity of high-quality movies on DVD and home theater set-ups. In my opinion, it's more than the simple fact that theater screens offer images at a scale that few can match in their houses. There's something almost transcendent about being in a room with other people who all watching the same thing.

Sometimes the reasons are obvious. When you go to see a movie like Star Wars and everyone cheers at the opening titles, the palpable sense of excitement in the room dwarfs anything the movie can provide (particularly if said Star Wars movie happened to the first prequel). For most movies, though, it's more subtle. Maybe it's just the fact that you had to venture outside and risk social interaction in order to see the movie. Maybe it's just me.

But I'm not alone. Box office records continue to be broken on a fairly regular basis (even if actual ticket sales are down slightly). While there are annoying things at theaters (people talking on cell phones, crying babies, teenagers), in my mind the experience is worth any hardships.

The only real problem is that most theaters suck. Gone are the days of extravagant movie palaces that seated thousands and had monstrous screens. Most theaters today are multiplexes, meaning they've got 8-20+ screens to manage. The upshot of this is that each screen tends to be small and quality suffers. The reality is that movie theaters sell snacks, not movies. As such, the general attitude among exhibitors is to not really care about little things like making sure the print is framed properly or that the projector's bulb is good (apocryphal tales abound of theater owners purposely dimming bulbs to save money).

Fortunately, in most big cities (and even the occasional small community) there are still a few good theaters if you're willing to look. They may not have all the modern luxuries, but in my opinion if the people running by the theater genuinely care about movies, the overall atmosphere and quality will make up for any lost amenities.

This node is an attempt to document these theaters, to encourage their patronage and, in some small way, maybe make going to the movies a better experience for everyone.

The List

Helping Out

I encourage everyone who enjoys quality movies and theaters to get involved with this project of mine. I'm in San Diego, so I'm pretty much limited to doing theaters in Southern California -- but there's a whole world of movies out there to cover!

If there's a theater you're particularly fond of, feel free to node it and then /msg skeller with the info (you might as well add a softlink to this node while you're at it). I'll then add a hardlink to the body of this write-up.

A few guidelines, though. Please don't just write the name and address of the theater and think that will suffice. We all know how to use Google, so we can find the AMC 16 by your house without too much trouble. Tell us why the theater is cool. Does it show interesting movies? Is there a story behind the theater? Some experience you had with the staff that makes it extra special? If it's just a run-of-the-mill multiplex, I'm probably not too keen on linking to it in this write-up.

Also, please try and include as much factual information as you can. At the very least, name, address, phone number and Web page would be handy. I want to help people get to these theaters, so the easier you make it for us to locate your theater, the better.

That should cover it. As always, feel free to message me with any more questions.

Oh, and if you're looking for more theaters in your area, littlerubberfeet turned me on to a good Web site: Go look at the site, find a local theater, see some movies and come back and node the theater.

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