This Seems Like a Bad Idea

Sure, it's comfy, but at what cost?Jim Emerson, who writes the Chicago Sun-Times’ consistently entertaining Scanners blog, comments on an architecture review in the L.A. Times about the Landmark Cinemas’ seating design for its new Westside Pavilion megaplex:


Technically, they’re “living room theaters” — three screening rooms on the top floor of the ‘plex with larger seats, side and end tables for your popcorn and soda, and ticket prices that reflect the exclusivity.

If you’ve ever been in the VIP rooms at Toronto’s Varsity Cinema, it’s like that, but with overstuffed leather seats. And, at least in the room pictured, actual sofas.

Christopher Hawthorne, the Times writer, uses the Living Room concept as proof that “Hollywood is openly admitting the extent to which the public now associates the movie-watching experience with the comforts of home.” (You can read the whole article here, after registering for the Times site.)

This is not entirely the case; first of all, “Hollywood” didn’t design the theaters, Landmark Cinemas did, and secondly, only three of the Westside Pavilion’s twelve cinemas are laid out this way. There’s not a lot of money in thirty- to fifty-seat venues.

Maybe they’re better behaved in Los Angeles, or maybe it’s a self-selecting thing; if you’re willing to invest in the VIP experience, you’re probably happy to shut up and watch the movie once it starts.

But my cynical soul curdles at the thought of people being encouraged to slump and sprawl and put their feet up at the cinema; it further blurs the line between watching a movie at home and Being Out Among People.

This. Is. Bad.

People have already lost the ability to behave properly at the movies; they talk, they text, they take cell-phone calls, they repeat favorite lines of dialogue in loud, dull appreciation. In short, they behave as though they were in their own living rooms, where it’s fairly common to watch a movie while holding a conversation, or taking a phone call, or doing your homework, or whatever.

I’m a purist. I watch a movie, I want to disappear into the experience; I don’t even like to press the “pause” button. (Ask my wife.) If I am in a theater, I do my best to ignore the idiot two rows over who’s using his outside voice to ask his buddy what happened while he was in the bathroom. Like it or not, that’s also part of the moviegoing experience.

But movie theaters aren’t living rooms. There are some lines that shouldn’t be crossed. And turning an auditorium — even a private one — into a venue for a pizza party just seems like a really bad idea.

Besides, would you want to sit in that couch after Lindsay Lohan’s just rented out the place so she and her friends can watch the “Transformers” movie unmolested?

3 thoughts on “This Seems Like a Bad Idea”

  1. I agree, this is lame. As a strategy for dissuading serious moviegoers from hitting the theatre it could work wonders.

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