The AMC Santa Monica 7, on Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, at the corner of Third Street Promenade and Arizona Avenue, is, like most AMC Theaters, the best value for your buck
This theater of seven screens on three floors is fairly modern and architecturally non-memorable. But it is becoming very rundown.
On the first floor, which is below ground level, are Theaters One and Two. Theater One is the largest theater in the complex. A fairly large seating area with a large screen makes this a pretty acceptable alternative, if you can overlook certain things, which I will discuss later. Theater Two is slightly smaller, but otherwise comparable. This is generally where they book films on their opening weekend. This does not always guarantee that a brand new movie will be in one of these theaters. A smaller new release, or a film with less "buzz", could end up in one of the other theaters. This isn't always a bad thing.
A few years ago, AMC Theaters upgraded most of the seats in the LA area to feature movable armrests. These armrests move back into the chair and provide you to snuggle with your loved one. For a while, they were advertising theaters with "Love Seats". If you are alone, it merely provides flexibility. If no one is sitting next to you, this allows you a little room to spread out.
These moveable armrests also provide more room for people to stick their feet through the chairs. When exactly did this become acceptable? It seems like it happens all the time now. More often than not, I'll be watching a film and all of a sudden sense something moving next to me in the theater. Looking over, a big tennis shoe is sticking through a few seats down. Every time this person's legs cramp or get uncomfortable, and they need to move them, they will kick the seat. This will happen many times during the course of the film. Guess what? If you kick a seat a seat anywhere in the row, every person sitting in that row will feel it. They are bolted together.
Down the long escalator, entering a fairly strange subterranean area, you will first spot a concession stand. This is a nice thought on the part of the theater owners, but the concession stand is rarely open during the day.
Another thing you will probably notice as you descend the escalator is a stench. There are restrooms down on this level, below ground level, and they seem to be in need of a remodel. All of the faucets and fixtures are a mix match reflecting different repair jobs. But because this level is underground and gets no sunlight, it also never fully dries out or airs out. The combination of the restrooms and the cleaning crews liberal use of cleaning agents on the carpets and upholstery, cleaning agents that never fully dry, creates an unpleasant odor as soon as you walk in.
The nice thing about all of the theaters in this complex is that they have a central seating area with aisles on both sides and smaller seating areas on each side.
On the second floor, which is actually at ground level, are Theaters Three and Four. These theaters are smaller, but not bad. This is also where they have the capability to present films in Digital Projection and Digital 3-D. If they are showing the newest Disney animated film in Digital projection, it will most like be in Theater Four, which is a nice size.
On the third floor, up a long escalator, are Theaters Five, Six and Seven. These are the least desirable theaters in this facility. Fairly boxy and sometimes echoey, they are not the best. This is also where films generally go at the end of their runs.
There are concession stands on the first and second floors. AMC Theaters seem to have the cheapest prices in town. That isn't to say that they are cheap, but compared to the prices at Mann Theaters, you are saving a lot of money. They also serve Coke. Yay!
AMC Theaters also offers one of the only Reward programs I am aware of. They have the Moviewatcher program. It is really easy to use and has many benefits. Get a membership application at the customer service desk in any theater. The membership is free. If it is still run the same way, you have to buy four tickets to any movie (bargain matinees included) and get your application stamped. After you have the four stamps you mail it in and they send you a laminated card. Use the card every time you buy movie tickets (again, bargain matinees included). Every time you buy tickets, you get two points per ticket. They do have a cap of two tickets per show. For every ten points, you get a coupon for a free soda, popcorn or movie ticket. For every 100 points, you get all three. The best thing is that you get these coupons immediately when you are buying the tickets that give you the points. Another added advantage to this membership program is that if you want to buy tickets ahead online, use the Moviewatcher.com website. Be sure to enter your Moviewatcher Membership number and you won't be charged any online service charges.
AMC Theaters also offer bargain matinees for all shows before 6pm every day, even on weekends. Most other theaters only offer bargain matinees for the first show on weekends and holidays, usually at 11 am or so.
These two programs ensure that you will receive the best value for your dollar.
This theater is not perfect and has problems. Sound bleed through is pretty noticeable. If you are watching a dram or comedy in Theater One and an action film is playing in Theater Two (or vice versa) you will probably hear a lot of explosions. I avoid this by sitting on the opposite side from the adjoining wall. But in these theaters, that doesn't always help.
In all AMC Theaters I have been in recently, they lower the house lights before the show begins, to the point that you can't see anything else except for the movie screen. Why do they want you to see the movie screen before the movie starts? For the Pre-Show Countdown of course. A mix of still ads animated to appear more realistic and low-resolution television ads. This is extremely annoying, almost beyond words. In order to get a good seat, you have to be at theater early. Therefore, you are a captive audience. They turn down the lights really low, too low to allow you to read anything.
Also, AMC Theaters was one of the first theater chains to show commercials before their films. Now, they show a good ten minutes of commercials before the trailers. How many times a week do we need to see ads for Mountain Dew and Mazda? Isn't it enough that we are inundated with these on television? Now we have to pay for the privilege to watch them. If they are going to persist in playing commercials in movie theaters, they should really adopt the system employed in Britain. There, they publish the starting time for the Programme and the Film's starting time. The programme starting time is when they start showing commercials and then trailers. The film's starting time is when the film actually starts. In Britain, two of the major television stations don't show commercials, so it seems a little more acceptable that they show commercials before the film. In America, commercials are everywhere.
Parking in Santa Monica is fairly good. There are a number of lots on Second and Fourth Street with easy access to Third Street Promenade. In any of these city lots, if you park before 6pm, you get two hours free. Additional half hours are $1. If you park after 6pm, there is a $3 flat fee. Don't park anywhere else. There are two lots very central to this theater, just beyond the corners of Second and Arizona and the corner of Fourth and Arizona.
The AMC Santa Monica 7 is an OK choice. It has value going for it, but the entire complex is badly in need of a remodel. Be sure to become a Moviewatcher Member as well. You'll save a lot of money.