These are my initial thoughts on Landmark Theater's new flagship cinema, the Landmark, located at the Westside Pavilion in Los Angeles. After I visit a few more times, I will further expand this review.
The new Landmark, a 12-screen multiplex built in the Westside Addition of the Westside Pavillion, replaces the previous four-screen theater. This is, in and of itself, a major improvement. The old four-screen theater was a travesty perpetrated on film lovers and one of the only venues some films would play. It almost seemed as though lovers of foreign and independent film were being penalized every time they had to go there. Nothing in this theater worked; the seats were odd and uncomfortable, each theater had a ramp built of uninsulated wood at the entrance, echoing the footsteps of everyone as they entered the theater, throughout the film, the screens were small. It was just a run down pit.
So, I was very happy to hear of the plans for this new, state of the art multiplex. The idea was to make it a Westside version of the Arclight Theaters in Hollywood.
Well… Yes and no.
This new complex opened on Friday, June 1, the height of the summer movie season. From what I can see, it is a hundred times better than the old theater, but it could still be better.
Many of the problems are related to not being ready to open. There are monitors in many different locations that didn't work on this visit. Presumably, these are available to show people movie times as they enter the complex. But only a handful worked and these were located inside the entrance to the theaters, showing the movie poster and the next show time for the movie in the theater nearby.
This theater offers reserved seats. I like this idea, because you don't have to rush to the theater in an effort to get a good seat. If you order it online, you have your seat. This practice also means there are ushers to help you find your seat.
This is about the only thing comparable to the far superior Arclight Theaters.
Theater One is the largest screen in the complex and a big improvement over the size of most independent film theaters. I also detected the film was projected in digital, making the colors brighter and the image sharper. While this all sounds promising, I suspect studio films or "independent" films widely-released by studios will dominate this screen.
At the Arclight, they have 'black box' theaters, meaning no light or sound gets in during the screening. The door for Theater One is directly in front of the left side of the screen. During the screening I attended, every time someone moved in or out of the theater, this side of the screen became diffused with outside light. I guess this wouldn't be a problem at night.
I also detected sound bleed through on at least one occasion. And, between each of the trailers and the beginning of the film, the sound system made a loud popping noise. This is probably a kink they have to work out of the system. There are, I think, a lot of kinks they have to work out of the system before this theater becomes a premier showcase.
The box office is on the second level, and you will first meet a "concierge" who will help you choose a seat for your performance and give you a ticket. The concession stand is immediately to the right and it serves the expected popcorn (with real butter) and soda. They also have non-fat frozen yogurt with fresh fruit, Peet's Coffee, international candies and some other unusual treats. At some point soon, there will also be a bar within the theater and a café downstairs. Barnes and Noble is next door, and will be re-opening soon.
Eight theaters are on this level. These are the more traditional theaters, but they have nice seats which rock back slightly and have moveable armrests. My companion remarked that she liked the new leather seats, and our usher remarked that it is fake leather; the Landmark is a 'green' theater. The seats were nice and they had more than the average legroom. Although not as much as the Arclight.
Another feature I really like about the Arclight is that there are no bad seats in any of their auditoriums. In each, the first row of seats is far enough back that if the screen fell to the ground it would not hit the first row. In Theater One at the Landmark, the first row of seats is very close to the screen. People who sit here would get neck problems.
Theaters Nine through Twelve are on the next level up. Three of these are called community theaters. Apparently, the seats in these auditoriums are couches and designed for couples, families and groups to use, to enjoy films 'just like at home'. This intrigued me, so I went back the next day to catch "Day Watch" playing in one of these theaters. They may have something here.
Every seat in these theaters is a couch. They are on two levels and the levels are sloped. Most couches seat two, but I noticed at least one for a single person (and for someone accompanying a wheel chair bound person) and there was at least one couch seating three. Most of the couches are made with the same material as the seats in the regular theaters. But there were two at the front of the theater covered in red fabric. And these couches also had footrests in front. They may have something with these couches, very comfortable. And the sightlines were good; it isn't stadium seating so I guess if you are short and someone tall sits in front of you, you could have a problem.
The size of the theater seemed to fit as well. It made me think of screening a film in a rich movie producer's private screening room. A very rich producer's private screening room. It was comfortable (in fact, so much so that I fell asleep at least once) and a neat and unusual method of watching a film. I suppose after visiting one of these screens a few times, the unique aspect will wear off, but it will still be neat.
My one concern with these theaters is they are general admission. No reserved seats, as in the rest of the complex. What happens if the film sells out and I buy a single ticket and someone else needs a seat? I have to share a couch and meet a new friend? I'm not sure. There were a lot of people at the screening I attended, but it didn't seem to sell out.
While this theater is a huge improvement, it could have been a lot better. It looks like an airport terminal. A huge wall of glass separates the lobby from Pico Boulevard. All of the monitors are reminiscent of airport and train station departure signs. All of the walkways slope slightly to get you to the next area. Everything is very modern and lacks any sort of design aesthetic.
A few years ago, Pacific Theaters opened their newest theater, the Grove 14, at the new Grove Shopping Center next to the Farmer's Market. This theater, brand new and very modern, was designed to look like an old-fashioned movie palace. That kind of flourish is lacking at the Landmark; there is simply nothing there that says 'Landmark'.
It doesn't help that a sign pointing the way to the restrooms is on the floor and many signs ask to "Please Pardon Our Dust". If the theater wasn't ready to open, don't open it. In fact, as we were waiting for the screening of "Mr. Brooks" to start, the film started to play, without sound. Thankfully, it was a digital projector or we would have missed the beginning of the film. Make sure everything is running smoothly before you ask people to pay $11 for a screening. Or give them free tickets if you expect them to be guinea pigs.