For Christmas, my boss was nice enough to give me a $25 gift certificate to the local Sundance Cinema in our area, so my wife and I decided to see Juno there. We’d been wanting to see Juno for a while, and we hadn’t been to that location since it had recently been converted from an AMC theater to a Sundance one. On the way to the movie, I asked her, “So what should we do with the extra money on the gift certificate?” She replied, “Maybe we can use it to get some popcorn or something.” We obviously were both thinking that movies (barring IMAX) do not cost more than $10.50, even for a Friday night showing. How wrong we were!
We walked up to the counter, ordered two adult tickets to Juno, picked our seats (Hong Kong-style) on the monitor, and the cashier said “That’ll be $27.” What?! I forked over my two dollars and asked what the extra $3 was. My wife looked at the screen and said “Yeah, what’s the ‘amenities fee’?” The cashier smiled and told us how their theater was an environmentally-friendly theater, and there are costs associated with that, and that they also do not show any commercials before the movies—only previews.
Like us, everyone else in the theater was audibly taken aback by this “amenities fee,” and these people probably did not get a gift certificate, so they were paying $13.50 a person to see this movie. People were really angry about it and grumbling to total strangers about how they actually like the commercials before movies and what were the amenities supposed to be? I have to confess, even though the theater got a remodel after changing from an AMC to a Sundance, I had trouble seeing what the amenities were. Maybe they could have called it a “remodeling fee.” And how were they environmentally friendly? They didn’t even have blow dryers in the bathrooms. And the picking seats in advance would be a wonderful thing to have for the opening night of a blockbuster like Harry Potter, but for an art house film to which people were showing up late and taking a long time to sit down (in the dark, it’s hard to find your seat), it was annoying.
Surely Robert Redford has made some money on his movies these past few decades and can cover the renovation costs for us? Or at least really provide some amenities? Honestly, it was a small screen in a small theater. The seats were not any cozier than I’ve experienced in other theaters. I didn’t get a massage before the movie or a free towel.
This is what the Sundance Cinemas website says:
Amenities and Fees Sundance Cinemas offers a movie theatre experience like none other. Our amenities include gorgeous furnishings from the Sundance Catalog, free wi-fi internet, six stadium seated auditoriums with plush rocking love seats, beautiful finishes and the best in art, independent, documentary and world cinema. We don’t show annoying television commercials, we offer a custom pre-show produced by the Sundance Channel, and we put real butter on our popcorn.
Okay, the furnishings were gorgeous, but they appeared to be attached to the bar, at which you probably have to pay even more money. No one mentioned anything about free wi-fi, and none of the patrons had laptops. The seats in the “auditorium” seemed the same to me as in other theaters. I actually don’t mind the “annoying” television commercials. And I couldn’t hear a damn bit of the mumbling in the “pre-show.” What a crock of horse dung.
Next time I want to go to the movies, I’m going back to the Balboa Theater. It’s a local business. The movies are $8.50. You can buy a movie card (5 movies on the card) for $30 (that’s $6 a ticket—yes, any time of the day). There are no commercials. The butter for the popcorn is real, and the popcorn is freshly popped. The theaters have more seats than in the Sundance, and any seat is a good seat. The people who work at the Balboa actually care about movies and make little nice decorations on the walls that are relevant to the movies playing. They’ll even sometimes open a movie with a trivia question related to the movie and then hand out little prizes to people who get the trivia questions right. That’s right, Mr. Redford, a neighborhood theater that’s better than your theaters and a lot cheaper. It’s a movie, not the opera!