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Arts and Entertainment

Building the Arclight-Killer

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Written and photographed for LAist by Eric Reyers.

In a city of movie lovers as picky about projection as they are snarky about snacks, elevating the theater-going experience is no easy feat. The redesigned Landmark Theater at the Westside Pavilion has made a bold gambit by transforming a small, typically janky mall theater into a high-end mecca for indie film.

When it opens this Friday, June 1, Landmark's flagship venue in the Los Angeles area will show the chain's traditional slate of indie, foreign and art house films. But they will do it in a high style uncommon to art house cinemas.

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From the sleek, glass-walled exterior to the plush theater seats to the upmarket cocktail bar, the Landmark Westside Pavilion is hoping to surpass the Arclight and make a name for itself as Los Angeles' best or at least poshest theater.

Back in the day, theaters were long, flat caverns leading to a moderately sized screen spitting out AM radio quality sound. Back in the day, you'd sit uncomfortably, knees to your chin due to child-size legroom (and to keep your soles safe from the sticky "I really hope that's just dried soda," candy-covered floor). Back in the day, showing up late meant getting stuck in the first five rows followed by a post-movie trip to the chiropractor.

Then something changed. Theaters realized a little bit of quality and a new seating plan could make everything that came before obsolete. The great theater revolution of the 90s took hold. Suddenly screens were bigger, sound was better and seats were staggered, stadium style. Post-revolution, how does a theater distance itself from the pack?

The Landmark is betting these selling points will win your heard-earned dollars.

# 1: Assigned seating. No one likes having to show up 45 minutes early to ensure that your group of three people can sit together. Like the Arclight, the Landmark will let you buy your tickets online, early in the week and pick where you sit, so you can show up just in time to grab some popcorn and catch the previews.

# 2: Softer seats. Stadium seating is great, but when those seats have been pressed flat by thousands of moviegoers, more time is spent readjusting the cushions than following plot lines. With run times on movies averaging longer than ever (Pirates 3 clocks in just 12 minutes shy of three hours) the Landmark Theater's NASA-developed memory foam and leather-upholstered seats will be a welcome comfort.

# 3: Free parking. Yeah, the Grove and the Arclight validate. So what? It still ends up tacking two to three bucks onto your evening. That doesn't sound like much, but after spending 15 dollars on a ticket, and five dollars on popcorn, another three bucks starts to put me in I-could've-spent-that-dough-on-a-nice-meal-or-a-ticket-to-the-Hollywood-Bowl territory. The Landmark has 3,000 free parking spaces, and they're hoping that'll make a difference.

# 4: You can drink. After years of sneaking beers into theaters (I love the way the "kssh" sound of a freshly opened can turns heads, half of them annoyed, the other half jealous) and tucking flasks in purses (rum and diet, anyone?) a theater is finally letting you enjoy a film with your favorite libation in the armrest cup holder - provided you purchase it from the theater. The Arclight does this too, but only at select midnight screenings. The Landmark on the other hand has two screens dedicated to the drink. Auditoriums 1 and 2 will allow in-film "refreshment" during most films, which is lifesaving news, because the only way I can make it through the next Jennifer Lopez rom-com is with my senses dulled by a healthy buzz. (Note: I don't I have a drinking problem, my date just has bad taste in movies.)

# 5: Marc Cuban is an owner. Maybe you don't think this matters much, but the guy tends to have his finger on the pulse of what people want. Also, He's the only owner in the NBA that ever looks like he gives a damn. If he cares half as much about his business ventures as he does about the Mavs, we're in good hands.

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The Landmark folks will rattle off a bunch more facts they hope will sway you towards their screens. High-end candy, health-conscious snacks, top-of-the-line sound and projection as well as a battery of other press release-y bullet points all aimed at getting you to head west for your next film-going experience. LAist will be checking out the Landmark when it opens in a few days, and we'll see if the hype lives up to the reality.

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