Comments from John Fink

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John Fink
John Fink commented about Kinnelon 8 on Jun 14, 2010 at 10:19 am

Well it’s good that the theater is adding DLP because Kinnelon can’t seem to get 35MM right. I had an awful experience here last night which caused us to leave before the feature: the manager had told us they changed aperture plates and rearranged the booth so that a scope film could only project on about 80% of what is already a pretty small screen.

The film was projected in the bottom right leaving much of the top and left side of the screen unprojected. The placement of the projector also slightly distorted the image. The kicker is that this isn’t a second run discount house where I could be more forgiving – I expect a quality experience at a first run theater with an adult evening ticket price of $10.75. We did receive a refund, and the reason we come here once in a while is that it’s local and the popcorn is good.

Howard B. Haas you’re 100% right with your comment, Clearview does do a better job elsewhere and I’m sure its new complexes are fine (I know SOPAC very nice). I would say part of the problem are the cheap sites they acquired such as this one – converted from retail it follows the old AMC model, it could just as easily be converted back to retail with projection booths only a few steps above the theater. Therefore the previous operators not thinking of advent of stadium seating boom in the late 90’s (which cased many a chain to go bankrupt) built the place on the cheap. I mean really this place competed with musty old Colonial Twin and the revolving door of operators at the Abby. This theater doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of a modern cineplex, but the sound is fine (in one of the larger theaters staff often tell us to sit in the center to experience the full sound system) and there is a commitment to get that $3 upgrade charge by adding digital 3-D.

The problem here is it still holds its own because it fills a niche in the region, it’s the closest theater to me, which is why we went here first before driving to Garden State where we ultimately saw the film which filled the whole of a properly masked large screen. It has a pleasant atmosphere where parent feel safe dropping off their kids, so as a “community theater” it works.

With that said, and those are important qualities, I would venture to say that of every theater I’ve been to (and I see about 4 films a week in theaters) this is flat out the worst in terms of projection now that the (former Clearview) Screening Zone (which I dealt with only because they showed amazing films despite having outdated projection equipment and oddly placed screens) is gone.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Cinemark Hazlet 12 on Jun 12, 2010 at 6:24 pm

I caught a flick here earlier today: what’s changed? Glad you asked. Strangely enough the theater is identical in design to the former Showcase Cinemas Berlin (Berlin, CT) and also has a new expanded snack bar with hot foods and ice cream, Rave kept that and changed the popcorn (not for the better) and now serve Coke.

I had last been to Hazlet about 5 years ago, since then the concession stand is new as are the electronic displays over the auditorium entrances, the ticket stands still have analog boards. They’ve also added LCD menu displays at the main concession stand. The theaters aren’t stadium, ironic since we saw a digital slide show (Screenvision) before the feature that told us Rave is the “ultimate stadium theater”.

As for outside signs they’ve pained over “Multiplex” on board near the highway and also removed that lettering from the building, they’ve also centered the word “CINEMAS” over the main entrance so I’m not sure if they will be changing any other signs (theres slight label scarring). The presentation was 35MM with no Rave logo (they did show the National Amusements exit bumper before the previews). I really wish Rave didn’t change the concessions, National has the best popcorn of any major theater chain, Rave’s is decent and actually larger but not as delicious.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Cinemark Baldwin Hills and XD on Jun 10, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Harlem and Largo, MD – both being newer are still open. AMC is shifting direction but I’m not sure where they are going so I’m not sure how giving this one up plays into that shift.

Any word who the operator is going to – who understands the LA and urban market as alluded in the prwirenews release? Regal, Rave, Cinemark, Regency? Any guesses before the official word is out.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Tikahtnu Commons Stadium 16 & IMAX on Jun 9, 2010 at 9:18 pm

To be fair my local Regal has a genuine IMAX built before the push to retrofit (Transit Center 18, Williamsville/Buffalo, NY) – they exist but the retrofits has taken over. My major objection to this theater and I hope I’m wrong (I probably won’t have an occasion to be in Anchorage, AK to see it in person, but then again stranger things have happened) – is that it looks to be a new retrofit. There are a few pictures online at:

View link

Okay – so first clue – no “cliff” the way in classic IMAX theaters the audience is elevated from the street (there is a drop off between the first row and the screen). Second clue if you look at the photos – the theater that may actually be the IMAX auditorium is the same height as its neighbor across the lobby. The are also pictures of the IMAX auditorium as well, but those can be misleading.

Man I hope I’m wrong on all counts, but this looks like it was an afterthought which is a shame. IMAX should be the star attraction and it should be larger than life! It should be included in the early planning stages and these auditoriums should be larger than life monsters that aren’t comparable in size to other auditoriums.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Cinema City Moving to Palace 17 on Jun 9, 2010 at 9:07 pm

lol – those seats won’t be missed! Although they might have not been bad if there were re-apulstured, while the new Cinema City wing is said to contain artifacts of the old theater, I hope they don’t preserve the musty smell of the old place and pipe it in to the new Cinema City wing!

On a serious note: I do have confidence Bow Tie will be keeping the same programing, although the New Haven Criterion Cinemas started as mostly an art house and slowly slid more towards mainstream aside from the later added “digital screening rooms” – the theater started with 5 and grew to 9, although the screenings rooms originally were intended for private rentals). Of coarse it appears Cinema City itself is a little less daring (the enjoyable and beautifully shot Letters to Juliet is playing this week) with Showcase Cinemas East Hartford closed. I assumed historically Cinema City and East Hartford could not/did not play the same films at the same time. This agreement/booking territory probably extended way way back. Occasionally when they were under different ownership Cinema City (Hoyts) and the (Crown) Palace would show something day and date when it was of interest to their different markets – I remember Love Actually and Under the Tuscan Sun having books at Cinema City and not East Hartford in the Hoyts/Northeastern era.

If anything “Cinema City” can become a sort of brand, Crown tried that by calling it “ART @ Cinema City” – lame name if you ask me. I’m all for indie films getting more exposure and a label if it means more people will see them like “AMC Select” or the refreshed “AMC Independent” – but I’m not sure if the label helps without proper marketing. I’m more optimistic about a separate wing of Cinema City and wish it well, it has to succeed or you’ll be driving to New Haven or (sometimes for some flicks) Middletown to see these commercial indies.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Movie theater shares down after holiday weekend on Jun 8, 2010 at 10:43 am

I have many thoughts on this – high ticket prices and premium fees I think are both overrated by analysts and unnecessary to a good degree. Perhaps weak films don’t help: the big tent pole movies sucked including Shriek Forever After and Sex & The City 2, I guess there’s not much optimism for The A-Team. There was a whole string of recent films that I thought sucked, the aforemented and Price of Persia, Kites, MacGruber, The Back Up Plan, Robin Hood. The good were under the radar or marginal hits (on the mainstream side): The Losers, Letters to Juliet, Just Wright, Get Him to the Greek, Splice. On the indie side – I have no idea what will be a break out hit this summer, but then again I suppose that’s the awesome thing about a break out hit, who knows. But I haven’t seen a trailer that screamed out to me the way the (500) Days of Summer one did this time last summer.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Cinema City Moving to Palace 17 on Jun 8, 2010 at 3:24 am

Being a huge fan of Bow Tie Cinemas I’m very happy for you, Tomas Kent.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Cinemark University City Penn 6 on Jun 7, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Is the theater still a reserved seating venue? I’m wondering if Rave is focusing just on theaters operations and closing the extras National had like reserved seating and 12 Lounge (which would be crazy when you think about how Sex & The City must justify these amenities).

John Fink
John Fink commented about Preston Crossing 16 on Jun 7, 2010 at 7:15 pm

From the new pictures on Cinema Tour it looks identical in design to the Island 16 right down to the outdoors seating.

John Fink
John Fink commented about IMAX and AMC to develop more IMAX-lite theaters for 2011 on Jun 6, 2010 at 7:38 pm

I’ve come the conclusion IMAX is now a sound system more than anything else – cool, but I don’t think we should pay more for an immersive experience, some of those new builds AMC has (Rockaway even before the IMAX and Garden State) are immersive on their own. I almost want to say – you want original the IMAX experience – sit close to the screen.

In that respect I’ve sort of come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter anymore, with the Titan XC, EXT, RPX, and XD, not to mention Cineplex in Canada doing a system, it all irrelevant. Congrads IMAX – you cannibalized yourself, you deserved it for selling out. But I’ve been warning you about IMAX lites since the first retrofits (Buckland Hills in Manchester, CT). In that respect if it’s not in 3-D then I probably shouldn’t care. And I don’t get why IMAX theaters in new builds are the sizes of the retrofits – if your building a star attraction why not build a monster – raise the roof – do it bigger and better!?! (I’m going by the pictures of the brand new Regal Tikahtnu Commons' IMAX in Anchorage, AK)

I guess it’s like any theater, an informed customer will make the right choice. There’s a reason why I go to a certain theater over another to see a certain film: the audience, which is a factor that shouldn’t be discounted, I go to have a good experience, or if that night going is a form of meditation then I might go to a theater that isn’t crowded. I think instead of figuring out who to extract a few extra dollars with minimal construction costs from film goers – they ought to figure out how to make the experience better and more exciting. Ploys are nothing new in the history of film, but I’ve said if a theater chain could harness the power and excitement of a great film festival like Toronto they’d have movie goers coming back every night of the week and that atmosphere starts in the lobby and extends to the films, audience and customer service. A few chains get it right, but I can tell you I was a hell of a lot more excited to be in the lobby of Harkins Northfield 18 (Denver, CO) than I was to be at my local Clearview Cinemas.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Consolidated Theaters launching Titan XC big screen experiences on Jun 5, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Agreed – unless they can increase the throw of image to enlarge it, then what’s the point? And I’m not sure if these giant screens have masking. Again, this is a frustrating, stupid gimmick instead of theaters actually building a new large screen. It’s nothing new – I always laughed when there was no new IMAX product at Showcase Buckland Hills (near Hartford, CT) and they would show a 35MM film in the IMAX auditorium (an auditorium modified with a wall to ceiling screen) – the 35MM image would be the same and with such a small screen (Buckland didn’t have any monstrous theaters) the quality was great, without the extra ticket price.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Abby Cinemas on Jun 4, 2010 at 7:00 am

Wait!? There was a theater in Riverdale, NJ?

John Fink
John Fink commented about Cinema City 4 on Jun 3, 2010 at 6:47 pm

I hope they do convert an auxiliary snack bar (that are never used) into a coffee bar, tables and pleasant atmosphere. Part of the charm of Cinema City was the patron review board, so adding those touches will give it a sense of community. Ironic that a certain type of patron you wouldn’t mind loitering – whereas others…..well let’s not go there.

I haven’t been to either theater in about two years since I lived in CT but the rare art film that played at the Palace rarely was met with success – I think we were the only ones in the theater when we saw Bee Season there. I think the issue is the perception of the Palace, which attracts a certain kind of rowdy crowd no matter what Joe Masher might believe (it did last I was there). Upscaling part of it and making it into a unique art house would probably help them sell the idea of art pictures at the Palace – or better yet – show them at Blue Back Square. It makes sense since I think that end of town/West Hartford is a little over screened (although the Palace’s 7PM shows on Saturdays did too well – in fact we’d have to budget in a half hour just to buy tickets, other times it was less crazy).

I’m sad to see Cinema City go, it was out of date and really it just needed new seats and masking in the two smaller theaters (it didn’t under Crown, anyway). I have many a good memory from my undergrad years at Cinema City (many times virtually alone at the late show on a weekday night under Hoyts/Northeastern and Crown).

John Fink
John Fink commented about Beverly Center Cinemas Closing Tonight on Jun 3, 2010 at 4:47 pm

While I have zero confirmation on this I suspect Rave had a management agreement with the mall and not a lease, therefore they were operating it so that the theater wouldn’t sit, it’s common for theaters to be offered leases way below what a retailer would pay because a theater is considered a draw on its own, adding value to the complex. It’s better to have a theater with move overs and indie flicks as a draw to a shopping complex. I’m guessing the reason it never became a discount house is that an upscale mall would view that as drawing a crowed the might not prefer to have. Unfortunately the mall probably thinks it’ll pull in more with a large national retailer in that spot.

Ironically enough Virgin Megastore recently closed and was still profitable despite heavy compition from iTunes and Best Buy – it had been taken over by a real estate firm that saw the potential to release the space to national retailers (Times Square is also becoming a Forever 21).

PS: Tim – what’s happening with the Carlton – I cinema tour-ed it when I was there on the eve of TIFF in 2008. Last time I was up there (two months ago for the Images Fest) I noticed that it was still dead. Is Rainbow Cinemas still reopening it?

John Fink
John Fink commented about Beverly Center Cinemas Closing Tonight on Jun 3, 2010 at 2:34 pm

It’s a shame that it sounds like you and Rave put a lot of work into making the theater work, I know first hand on the east coast how Loews Cineplex under Travis Reed and with the investment banks ran a few fine multiplexes into the ground (like the Cineplex Odeon-expanded Route Four 10 Plex that Justin referenced above, to name a few). Ironic because the Canadian Cineplex locations are pretty good. (Sony and Cineplex, independently from what I recall were the best operators – although I should note AMC did improve a few sites)

The little things like keeping theaters and restrooms clean and the projection in frame and focused go a long way in improving the experience and they really don’t cost the theater anything to provide, just training and a staff that actually cares. I don’t know why that was so hard for certain chains to grasp. It sounds like Rave provided you with the resources to have a well run operation. I wish you and your staff all the best.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Regal Greenwood Stadium 14 & RPX on Jun 3, 2010 at 8:51 am

Now run by Regal.

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC Bridgewater Commons on Jun 2, 2010 at 7:47 pm

It’s certainly an innovative use for a location that’s probably still doing decent business but is in need of refreshing. It was pretty successful years ago and was a venue that often got exclusive area bookings (I remember seeing the Almost Famous sneak preview under GCC back in the day there – great movie). Fork & Screen in the ATL had been a dinning and movie venue for a while, and they’ve added this concept to their flagship location (Main Street in Kansas City, MI) and Studio 30 (in KS), and I’ve heard talk of it coming to a location in Santa Monica area.

Of coarse its worth noting that no other theater in NJ does this to the best of my knowledge (in theater dinning), although I was always hoping National would turn Edgewater into a Cinema De Lux. Muvico at Xanadu was going to have it, as well as Jersey Gardens (they even have special seats with tables in a few larger theaters). AMC didn’t say if Bridgewater would become a Fork & Screen or Cinema Suites – with the later being more upscale, and the former being like the less hip corporate version of the Alamo Draft House. Both might work at this location since its an upscale mall, but I do remember the theater being a hit with teens/families. Unless they abandoned it for the Reading 12-plex down the street.

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC lowers 3-D prices on May 28, 2010 at 10:03 pm

I doubt it knowing that everything is controlled by Kansas City at AMC. I remember someone in Kansas City a few years back keyed in the wrong thing and I was able to go online and buy tickets for Mike Judge’s Idiocracy in West Orange, NJ. That film never played in NJ/NYC.

I called the theater to ask if it was a mistake and they told me “no” – so I bought tickets, printed out my confirmation only to arrive and find that on the digitally controlled board that Idiocracy at 8 was sold out! When we printed our tickets at the Kiosk we were given a message saying the show was canceled and I should visit guest services, when we arrived the manager said “so your the two that bought tickets to the show we don’t have”

We did get comp tickets, a refund and free popcorn for our troubles with the explanation that it was someone in the home office that punched in the wrong thing (the movie that should have been punched in was Jackass). Strangely they had to manually override it at the theater level and couldn’t remove it from digital hallwalls signage.

I also know from the folks at Rockaway that the prices on the digital menu boards at the concession stand are controlled remotely by corporate. Hell maybe even the digital projection rooms are. My guess is AMC corporate jacked up the prices and retreated when they got caught.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Time to revisit the Paramount Consent Decree? on May 28, 2010 at 9:54 pm

That’s awesome! I personally HATE Tim Burton flicks! Where are Wilcox Theaters? If I’m ever in town I’m going to stop by, see a flick and buy lots of snacks to support this place!

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC to sell nine cinemas to Regal to complete Kerasotes acquisition on May 28, 2010 at 10:15 am

I don’t think Van Ness is on the table, I wonder if AMC couldn’t get what they thought was a reasonable price for that theater.

I’m wondering what markets AMC will gain a foot hold in with the Regal flip. Last time AMC two theaters and I have no idea if they were successful sites: I know one in Kansas City, KS is in a mall that’s currently owned by the FDIC (per an NPR story I heard a while back), and the other one was a former Cobb site in Fayetteville, AR.

I wouldn’t rule out, and this only my speculation, Buffalo, NY where AMC has a single 8-screen theater and Regal is a dominant player. They wouldn’t run into any DOJ issue here, but who knows. It’ll probably be two strange, one-off markets where neither chain have a major presence.

It should be noted AMC is getting some odd locations for them: a few twins and even a single screen rural theater, a couple without online and perhaps computerized ticketing. Also one discount theater (AMC to my knowledge ceased all discount operations years ago). Should be interesting to see how long these sites remain under AMC management. Meanwhile The Grand 24, the company’s first “megaplex” is loosing its lease.

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC lowers 3-D prices on May 28, 2010 at 10:04 am

Yeah, um kay.

I’m losing respect for AMC lately – first they doubled back on their policy regarding outside food and beverages after they closed or reduced menu items that General Cinema and Loews had (although Loews Cineplex in its later years had really truly awful popcorn). And now I feel like they’re jacking up their 3-D prices with every release, between that and the mini-IMAX screens and even worse their EXT screens in markets where Regal has the IMAX franchise – there moving into a direction that I don’t particularly care for under Gerardo Lopez.

PS: If they were smart they’d adopt Kerasotes' popcorn, popcorn is an important part of the experience: Kerasotes is so delicious it’s second only to National Amusements in terms of deliciousness, when I go to their Showplace in Secacus, I have to plan on an extra hour of cardio at the gym the next day, because it’s that good (and free refills on all sizes!).

John Fink
John Fink commented about Time to revisit the Paramount Consent Decree? on May 25, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Holding companies can indirectly own US theaters (Paramount and Warner Brothers jointly own Mann’s holding company, National Amusements is the holding company for CBS and Viacom). The problem is block booking I believe is still illegal, each picture is booked on a case by case basis. If Disney were to buy Regal Cinemas and allow all product to be shown at Regal, you would in essence be creating a block booking type of situation where all product, no matter what instantly goes to Regal. There are territories where Regal shares bookings with another theater down the street (in greater Buffalo, for example Regal Quaker Crossing doesn’t play the same films as Dipson’s McKinley Mall – allowing both to stay in business).

What is proposed is shutting off supply, which is a dangerous and would allow studios to purchase stakes in US chains for the sole purpose of block booking which I think would harm the industry, create barriers for start ups on both sides. I worry about the lack of competition which leads to a decrease in services – the DVD section at Best Buy for example is less and less interesting without Circuit City to compete with.

Same for theaters: Regal does well in Buffalo because they are the only theaters in town with stadium seating, the other game in town is an AMC that AMC must have forgotten they own since other theaters like it closed or were sold in the 90’s (they let their General Cinemas' acquired locations either close or sold them), and Dipson is an excellent local chain but lacks stadium seating and large multiplexes. You’d need Rave or someone like that to shake things up in town.

Having studios own theaters and control product would lead to less resistance and higher prices for consumers, granted AMC and Regal got greedy jacking up 3-D prices, imagine what a studio calling the shots might do (then again it could cut both ways, maybe variable pricing by the week of the film’s run). I don’t think C. Robert Cargill’s argument takes into account the anti-completive nature already in existence in certain markets dominated by two chains. If AMC, Regal and Cinemark were team up to artificially inflate prices, most movie goers aren’t sophisticated enough to “shop around” unless a theater actively advertises its a discount house. (Same thing in Canada – most theaters are owned by Cineplex Entertainment, and smaller chains Empire and AMC)

On a more personal level I’ve noticed the decrease in quality at the IFC Center – for $12.50 you can sit in a 40-seat closet and watch a first run film from a cinematic master projected from a cheap data projector they bought at Office Depot! Often unless you want to sit home and watch it on demand (if you have on demand), it’s the only option you have because IFC is fulfilling some contractual obligation. This is a scam if there ever was one, granted this would never happen to Iron Man? Or could it? I wish the economists would come down to human scale and see things from the perspective of a filmgoer, ownership of theater chains by studios would present the same frustration as movie goers feel at IFC Center, Clearview Cinemas or sub-par art theaters where you deal because they’re the only game in town showing the film you want to see.

John Fink
John Fink commented about ArcLight Cinemas Glenview on May 23, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Due to be sold before the Kerasotes purchase by AMC can happen.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Regal City North Stadium 14 IMAX & RPX on May 23, 2010 at 9:14 pm

I think AMC is legally prohibited from reacquiring this site as they don’t have to sell off any locations in Chicago proper (they do in the suburbs including one originally built by Crown, the Glen 10). I’m wondering if the Brothers Kerasotes will continue to own a few of these theaters as they aren’t leaving the theater business, their investment bank is cashing out and they’re starting over with their 3 newest locations. (Interestingly enough the Kerasotes aren’t taking an Edison, NJ location that was on the drawing board, that one will be an AMC when built).

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC Monmouth Mall 15 on May 21, 2010 at 11:17 pm

We should mention the stadium seating is a retrofit, like some Cinemark designs it has two entries, one with stairs to the top and the other to a portal that opens to a third tier riser or so for handicap patrons. I also saw the interactive Mr. Payback here many years ago, this and Richfield Park were two Sony Theatres flagships that had the interactive movie technology. Kevin Smith also famously joined protestors here when his film Dogma came out and was covered on the local news!

Otherwise it’s a generic Sony Theaters / “Star” design era theater with a stadium upgrade.