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Elana Koff

Multiplex Madness: Millie checks the exorbitant candy and popcorn prices
at the spiffy new AMC 1000 theater on Van Ness.

Millie visits the Cadillac of movie theaters

By Millie

Movie theaters make money on popcorn, red licorice and all the junk sold at the concession stand, not on ticket revenue. So imagine Millie's surprise when he arrived at the new AMC 1000 multiplex preopening press conference to find freshly scrubbed teenagers manning the concession stands and giving everything away for free!

"Welcome to the AMC 1000!" they chirped. Millie inquired if free junk food was going to be standard practice at San Francisco's newest multiplex (which opened on July 10). That's when the concessions manager spilled hot butter on her polyester vest. "I guess that means no," mumbled Millie.

Millie was a little suspicious upon hearing that AMC was opening a 14-screen megaplex on Van Ness, just blocks away from the Galaxy, an older, smaller multiplex; the Regency, with its one functional big screen and an additional cavernous stadium-sized screen; the cramped four-screen Opera Plaza; and the four-screen Lumiere Landmark Cinema on California Street. (The Sony multiplex at Yerba Buena will open by the end of the year, and the Candlestick Park megamall/theater complex looms uncertainly on the horizon.) Millie wonders, Do we really need the AMC 1000?

The guy from AMC says San Francisco is "underscreened" and San Franciscans view twice the number of movies the rest of the country sees. But Millie doesn't buy it. Of course, San Francisco doesn't need the 14 new screens of the AMC 1000. The smaller houses--with their uncomfortable seats and bad pictures--will feel the impact. Already, the grand Alhambra has recently closed, as well as another small-fry movie house on Polk Street.

However, Millie will admit, the initial interior of the AMC is pretty fabulous. The foyer of the old Cadillac building--a huge expanse of space--has been completely preserved. Ornate wooden steps lead up to the soon-to-open CRUNCH gym. Summer blockbusters always leave Millie feeling somehow less of a man. CRUNCH will sign up lots of us with post-blockbuster body insecurities.

Follow the wide corridor in the back and you move into the standard movie theater interior--all soft and unchallenging hues, with rugs on the walls--not unlike the corporate office of some HMO. Escalators carry you swiftly up to one of four floors, each housing various screens. The second floor offers the latest in food-court fare: desserts by Sweet Inspirations, even a Starbucks! There are bathrooms on every floor, so running on the escalators will not be tolerated.

The greatest feature of the AMC 1000 is the seats. "LoveSeat stadium-style seating!" crowed the AMC guy. Millie curls up in his seat and immediately starts dozing. High-backed, plush, with a slight rocking motion, armrests with cup holders--it's like watching a movie in your dad's easy chair. The theaters are sharply raked, so no one is blocking anyone's view no matter how big their hair.

Unfortunately, theaters like the AMC 1000 are not very well suited for small, independently made or foreign films. AMC 1000 was made for movies like Titanic and Armageddon, with huge screens and state-of-the-art sound systems. But movies like Titanic and Armageddon represent everything that's wrong with American culture--bloated, greedy, base, indulgent and insulting. It makes perfect sense that this old Cadillac dealership is still pushing such cheesy, overdone fare.

Give Millie a small movie house any day of the week. Bad seats, cold, small screen, homeless guy sleeping in the back. The Karmann Ghia of movie theaters--that's more Millie's style.

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From the July 27-Aug. 9, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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