by Jordan Hale
Going to the movies has always been my idea of a perfect outing. You can go with anyone, any time of the day, and there’s always the same feeling: you’re different when you walk out of the theater than you were when you walked in. You’ve just seen something new. No matter what film you chose to see, whether you loved it or hated it, there’s always that sense that something has changed in your world, even if it only lasts in that tiny window of the walk from your seat to the car.
However, I must say, going to the movies in Los Angeles is an experience in and of itself. I’ve been in this town for about four months now and I’ve already developed an intense love/hate relationship with the cinema here. My first couple of experiences at the theaters were cruel reminders of the fact that I am indeed now living in one of the most costly cities in this fair country: I paid $12.50 for a matinee ticket one day and thought I very well may just give up and go home. While this, shockingly, is the standard for most of what are now the standard multiplex stadium-seating theaters in this city, some deeper digging has lead me to a few diamonds in the rough, and my faith in humanity has been restored.
There is actually a 3-dollar movie theater here. No it’s not a terrible rumor someone started to mess with tourists, and yes they serve “$1 All Beef Eisenber Hot Dogs!” But the fact that the advertisements as well as the people that work in the theater seem just a little too excited about these hot dogs has caused me to steer clear of them so far. That being said, I’m not ruling them out entirely. While the films they show are pretty hit or miss (from what I’ve seen so far, usually miss) Valley Plaza 6 in North Hollywood still makes for a great cheap time, which is hard to find in this neck of the woods.
But my favorite cinematic discovery so far is a tiny 3-screen theater in a fantastic neighborhood called Los Feliz. Once you walk through a lobby that’s about the size of the average living room the immediate sense of intimate charm sets in and you realize this nondescript movie theater is what it’s all about. It’s only showing 3 titles: The King’s Speech, Black Swan, and True Grit, and mind you, this was before the Oscar nominees had even been released. I don’t at all mind a lack of selection when the choices are of that caliber, who needs it? Tickets were half the price of the ridiculous matinee I had paid at the “normal” multiplex, and when I walked into the smallest theater I had ever seen and watched a 20s-glam velvet curtain raise up over the big screen, I knew I was home.
It reminded me of all the things that are so wonderfully irreplaceable about going to the cinema: sitting down in a quiet, dark room, music and sounds of the story in which you are about to enter booming around you. No distractions, you’re out of your element and about to enter a place you’ve never been before. This environment was the creation and the intention of the earliest filmmakers for a reason: it allows us an atmosphere most conducive to being swept away into the world of a film, and gives you that unmistakable sense of rebirth once it ends.
Forget the giant multiplexes with the awkward celebrity reproduction paintings plastered all over the walls and the interactive concession stand screens. Give me a small, charming theater that selectively chooses the films it shows because it cares about the quality of the entertainment more than it does the ticket prices. Knowing that movie houses like this exist in L.A, the wild and unpredictable heart of this industry means that we still care about honoring the way movies were meant to be seen, and we always will.