Hillcrest Cinema's summer remodel

Complete with electric leather recliners

Come for the chairs, stay for the movie!
  • Come for the chairs, stay for the movie!

Changes are in the offing at Landmark’s Hillcrest Cinemas that include the addition of electronic seats, a lobby makeover, reserved seating, alcohol, and even newly designed finishes and fixtures to make every bathroom encounter feel like your first.

It was inevitable that Landmark would follow the lead of other legitimate theater chains (like the Angelika) or restaurants that show movies (like the Lot or Cinepolis). In the eyes of desperate exhibitors, art is no longer cinema’s key nutrient. To their way of thinking, craft beers and bar food, not what’s onscreen, pave the road to financial well-being. (Ed. note — and before that, it was popcorn and soda.)

Electric leather recliners will be available in the three big houses, with what are being called “oversize VIP seats” in the remaining two. I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent 60 years on this planet with my feet firmly glued to sticky multiplex floors and my ass never cared where it was parked so long as what was on-screen was framed, focused, and even somewhat forcible.

A couple of cocktails and a Laz-Z-Boy are a recipe for slumber. Theater chains would be wise to put in a line of earplugs to complement their booze sales. When I saw Batman vs. Superman, a guy clutching two bottles of beer took his position four seats to my left and proceeded to snore so loudly throughout that the bastard kept me awake.

A merry prankster once scrawled “Flush hard, it’s got to go all the way to the booth” on the inside door of a bathroom stall at Landmark’s Hillcrest Cinema. That line of memorable graffiti, the first to meet with my approval upon arriving in San Diego 16 years ago, is quite logical when one considers both comfort stations (and the manager’s office) occupy the upper-floor of the multiplex.

The theater is seldom open for business when press screenings let out, so managers look the other way and allow members of the working press to use the otherwise reserved “accessible” facilities located downstairs. If memory serves, the institutional water closets located on the upper lever were designed to make ex-convicts feel at home.

Newly renovated commodes will not come equipped with electronic footrests.

Exact dates were not specified, but expect the transformation to be completed by summer’s end. As for the Ken, it’s fine as is. Leave it the hell alone!

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Of course, drive-ins did a similar thing decades ago, making food sales [Let's all go to the lobby."] a big part of the experience, and a moneymaker.


by dwbat

I don't think I've ever consumed quality popcorn at a drive-in. It's generally over-salted and from the taste of it, popped last month.

Same as the mystery-meat hotdogs/corndogs, right?

Reserved seating is the best thing to happen to theatres since pretty much ever.

Do you know how much time I've wasted standing behind yentas who pick their seats with as much care as they do jewelry? "Which ones are open again? Green or blue?" "Is the screen at the top or the bottom of the seating chart?" First some, first served. I hate it.

Hilarious! True! Thank you, Scott. They have managed to make movie-ticket-buying major megillah annoying. But I admit to irritably having asked where exactly is the screen on the seating chart. Not that such map-reading matters: in the pitchy black interior you stumble around looking for your assigned seat. But the giant barca-loungers are a lot more comfortable than seats at the Ken. As for food, eating in the dark is expensive and weird and I never do it.

I'm with you. I enjoy the food at the Angelika, but never been in an auditorium. I have to take notes in the dark and use the swivel arm as a desk, not a TV tray.

I'd imagine you probably wasted more time composing angry youtube comments, so I guess vaguely anti-semitic ageism is the only way to back up being contradictorily old fashioned for no identifiable reason...so, yeah...

I loved the 70mm films (SHOT in 70mm, not blown-up from 35mm footage), like "Spartacus," "Ben Hur," "Dr. Zhivago," etc. And the screen looked like it was a block wide! Now that was an experience. For those who have only watched "Spartacus" at home, you really haven't seen that marvelous movie.

I hate reserved seating, makes going to the movies more hectic and less relaxing. Quit treating going to the movies like your going to the Opera or something. I don't know why the trend nowadays is making movie theaters like your in your own living room. If I wanted to watch a movie in a recliner, with a meal and mixed drink, Id watch the thing at home. It would be the exact same atmosphere pretty much, the food would probably taste better, as well as the drink, plus I don't have to deal with those annoying little brats with smartphones for hands. Although I only encountered those kinds of people three or four times at the Hillcrest or Ken. Movie theaters use to have character, today they all look dull, and exactly alike. As long as the Ken stays open for as long as humanly possible, and they don't go overboard on the modifications (if they do decide to make modifications) I'm a happy camper. Please keep the Ken open for as long as possible.

I'm old enough to remember putting on a suit and tie to attend roadshow screenings. I was 6 at the time. Never again. Don't forget the noise coming from the cement mixers chowing down on their "craft bites"? They sound like the Stockyards at feeding time. Electric chairs take up almost 3 times the space of conventional seating. How does one cut their seating by over half and expect to turn a profit? They can't double the admission price. I guess they're banking that food and spirits sales will compensate for the diminished seating capacity. PS: I LOVE THIS COMMENT! THANKS!

Glad you enjoyed my comment, thanks :). I wish I had a chance to visit the old theaters that were in the Gaslamp. The Aztec, Casino, and Bijou. I remember driving with my family in the early 90s, and looking at the lit marquees on a Friday or Saturday night. I would have gone but I was like eight or nine so I needed someone to drive, plus I don't think they showed to many movies that were appropriate for a kid. I also miss the Cinema 21, although I only been there once, and that was watching Toy Story.

I, too, only made one visit to the Cinema 21. My father dropped dead while I was watching "Return to Oz."

You wore a suit and tie at age 6? I don't remember owning long pants at that age. Or shoes! [But I grew up in OK.]

Wow, 2-tone shoes, and a tie clasp, too. I think I wore a rope belt at that age, and a homemade shirt sewn from a flour sack!

OK, I checked my archives, and scanned this old photo (I'm on the right). I told you I didn't wear long pants. As I recall, my mom did make my outfit, matching my sister's garb.


by dwbat

The cap's a nice touch! I grew up in Chicago where long pants were an indispensable fashion accessory 8 months out of the year.

The Loma ("Staying Alive" with John Travolta) and the Grossmont Theater ("Gandhi" with Ben Kingsley) were better giant screens than Cinema 21 in Mission Valley which regularly used to flood during heavy rains. I think the last movie I saw there was the hokey "Titanic." But there were many better smaller movie theaters -- pre-"multi-plex" -- all over this town that have been shuttered for eons. (And I'm not talking about skin-flicks in the old Gaslamp.)

Maybe Scott will write about how we got here from there -- a rumination on movie-making economics and film distribution and whatever happened that's led to the present moment.

It's simple. The multiplexing of America began all in the name of staggered showtimes. A single-screen theatre in Chicago, a house that I grew up in, went under the multiplexer's knife. I remember driving past it and one of the "Raiders" sequels was playing on all three screens. Talk about a blinding moment of confirmation!

Home video made movies even more conveniently consumable. The small screen and big screen have long become partnered in crime. It was bad enough when movies became little more than feed-through for TV. Now exhibitors think the best way to keep audiences coming is by turning their auditoriums into oversized living rooms complete with La-Z-Boys and the ninja equivalent of Mom bringing dinner to your seat.

Groucho said it best: "There is nothing the matter with bad movies that good box office won't cure." Hollywood needs to pay more attention to what's on screen, providing audiences with something to feast on other than electro-loungers and bar food.

Absolutely, Scott. Story is still king. We need better screenplays (and less spent on SFX). The studios need execs who can READ screenplays, and know a good one when they read one!

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