What a difference a chain makes

By Michael Olinger

It should come as no surprise to anyone reading this that I see a lot of movies.

A lot of them.

At least two a week, every week, to be precise.

Never forget.

You get to develop strong opinions about everything when you see that many movies. How much butter is just right on your popcorn? How much ice is too much? Where is the best place to sit in a theater? Why do they still keep letting Adam Sandler make movies?

Perhaps most important though is everything taken together. Me and my partner in blogging, the incomparable Christine Barnhouse, will be making comparisons between several theaters and Cinemark. Eventually we will compare Cinemark theaters to each other, but for now, we will compare between chains.

I have a particular favorite Cinemark theater, and I will be comparing it in this first outing to the Galaxy IMAX theater at Legends.

My theater of choice is the Park Lane theater on Plumb. It is older, lacking many of the amenities of the Galaxy. I also happen to like it more, for reasons that are almost impossible to quantify.

You’re not fooling anyone.

The service at the Park Lane is amazing. The people there treat me like family. I am always greeted with a smile that feels deeper than the corporate mandated one that finds itself plastered on to every employee everywhere.

The Park Lane has been where it is for two decades now. It has at least some weight of history behind it. I saw my first movie in Reno there. It is where I have seen some of my favorite movies. American Beauty, Fight Club, Moulin Rouge, and countless other perennial favorites. It feels comfortable, like home.

It is also a big winner on a more tangible, objective, and less emotional metric. Concessions.

At the Galaxy, patrons cue up in a huge line to walk up to individual people at the counter who put together each individual order in its entirety. Do you want popcorn? A hot dog? A soda? Nachos? Any combination thereof? Be prepared to wait, and make everyone behind you wait too, as a single person puts your order together and rings you up.

They’re all dead now. Those poor, delicious bastards.

By comparison, the Park Lane is a model of efficiency. Do you want all of the above items? You can grab most of them yourself, or get your popcorn very efficiently served to you assembly line fashion before going to a seperate incredibly efficient line to pay. I rarely go to the Galaxy, but most of the times I have I have waited a long time for concessions. I have never had it take longer than a few minutes to get everything I need at the Park Lane, and almost all Cinemark theaters use this exact same model.

As for areas where the Galaxy can claim victory, for each one there is a drawback.

Behold the difference between IMAX and LIE-MAX!

While the Galaxy is equipped for IMAX, the screen is formatted for 16:9 aspect ratio. True IMAX is 4:3. So, when Jurassic World 2 comes out next year (YAY!), with scenes filmed specifically in IMAX, at the Galaxy the top and bottom of the image will be cut off.

The Galaxy has reserved seating, which is nice, except for the fact that reservations can make it impossible to add people to your plans. Did you buy tickets for you and five friends to The Fate of the Furious in advance? Well, you’d better hope there are still open seats around you if a sixth friend throws his hat into the ring, or he will be exiled to another part of the theater, doomed to watch Vin Diesel in solitude.

The Galaxy has very comfortable leather seats in their non IMAX theaters. Very comfortable and space consuming leather seats. This means screenings can sell out really fast. Hope you didn’t have your heart set on that 4:15 screening of Beauty and the Beast. Hey, maybe there are a few open seats in the 4:30 Power Rangers. That’ll be just as good, right?

None of this is to say that the above things aren’t neat, or in many ways convenient, but they each have drawbacks and add a labor intensity to going to the movies that almost rules out going to the theater as a last second decision.

Then again, maybe I’m just set in my ways. Maybe I’m loyal to the Park Lane because it has given me years of steady service. For all its bells and whistles, the Galaxy doesn’t feel like home. The Park Lane does. Part of that comes from my history there, but another part comes from the culture engendered by Cinemark.

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