Comments from John Fink

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John Fink
John Fink commented about Controversy about whether new screens meet IMAX expectations on May 30, 2009 at 8:48 am

This is an awful idea, period.

I blame Regal and AMC, even more when I hear about new complexes opening with digital IMAX retrofits. IMAX should never be an afterthought during construction – it should be the star attraction in the theater instead of just another theater like all the rest. They should look to Lincoln Square for inspiration – they built a giant IMAX on the top level of a well themed but pretty much standard multiplex. But this nothing new, I knew about this scam when National Amusements opened the IMAX retrofit at Buckland Hills – the only thing worth seeing in that tiny theater was 3-D presentations, anything else was pretty much a waste of money.

Not to mention the new multiplex set-up doesn’t account for the true IMAX frame the way that the existing theaters (some built by the IMAX corporation themselves) do. Even the small true IMAX screens (like the Tropicana in Atlantic City) outshine even the largest retrofit I’ve seen. I saw Star Trek in digital – in short, the sound was great but the picture sucked, it looked lifeless as a lot of 2K digital does.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Mega-Plex Guzzo Taschereau 18's owner ordered to pay $10,000 in damages for a search on May 30, 2009 at 7:39 am

The search thing is the thing that blows my mind the most. The laws, of coarse are different in Canada and I’m not sure if this cinema has a problem with patrons sneaking in food, but if a theater asked me to consent to a search, I’d ask them to provide a warrant. Perhaps Dick Chaney and the MPAA can join forces and craft a “procedure” for this. Maybe they’ll even give Cinemark’s Front Row Joe permission to start water-boarding suspected patrons.

This is an odd infringement on the rights of the privacy of the patrons, understandably some infringement is required in some areas (ie: metal detectors in a theater where public safety is an issue – see Sunrise Multiplex), but smuggled in snacks – give me a break. Of coarse it doesn’t say what exsactly was smuggled in, often I’ll take something in the theater that the theater doesn’t offer (ie: Jamba Juice at AMC, which allows one to bring in snacks). While there I may purchase popcorn, but a lot of theaters don’t offer healthy alternatives (some do). I would get annoyed at people that bring in certain types of foods that might offend others with their odors – there is obviously a difference between someone who sneaks in a small bag of Twizzlers and someone that takes in an entire meal.

Movie theaters don’t help themselves. Ron, I will give you a Canadian example: while at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, I was upset that the Scotiabank Theater for a good part of the day (a Saturday, no less) operated only the main concession and coffee bar stands – they did not have the food court (KFC, Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, ect) stands open. Seeing as I was spending the entire day in the building watching films, it would have been nice to have had lunch at some point.

Regarding your discussion of piracy: I’m a firm believer that if films were better no one would have a reason to pirate them. Studios shortening windows between theatrical and video as well as same day VOD (ie: The Girlfriend Experience and every IFC Films release) don’t help the situation. I understand they are copy written works but good pirated versions are stolen at a studio level (screeners) as demonstrated with Wolverine. They need tighter controls in house. Camcorder piracy seems minor, especially in a multiplex. What moron wants to watch a shaky camera video recording of the screen – whereas copied screeners I am told are pristine.

With that said, I’ve observed the obnoxious practice of teens snapping cell phone pictures on screen – is this piracy? It is a form of it, as well as being annoying. Cell phones should be turned off but security, unless your at a prerelease screening doesn’t ask you to do so. Theaters should do more to create a respectful movie going environment, as a matter of habit, while I’m at the movies when the lights go down, my phone gets shut off – not put on vibrate. Nothing is that important that it can’t wait 2 hours. The problem as well is HD quality cameras are now so small they can fit in one’s pocket, perhaps the only useful way to combat piracy is having a person with night vision googles stand in front of the screen and watch the audience (that or 3D).

From a customer service end, a chain that counts the beans so closely that they violate their own privacy policy is one I probably wouldn’t attend. The situation seems like poor customer service and relations. I have no problem paying for good movie theater concessions, but chains that have awful stale popcorn, watered down sodas and unimaginative snacks don’t deserve my money. Perhaps I’m reverting to the Me Me Me attitude of your post, but it’s movie theater snacks aren’t cheap nor healthy. Like the studios, exhibiters need to put out a high quality product. I know its a business, but look at Pixar, the secret to their success is high quality. Since the major chains are consolidating, they need to further address this – high margin items are fine for the bottom line but if the food they offer is nasty tasting and they are the only show in town, I can understand why someone would sneak in their own snacks to enjoy with the screening.

John Fink
John Fink commented about My career as a movie theater manager on May 16, 2009 at 10:29 am

I look forward to your notes on these theaters!

John Fink
John Fink commented about Regal Entertainment CFO Miles to become CEO on May 16, 2009 at 10:25 am

I’d call Regal Cinemas the Wall Mart of movie going but that’s an insult to Wall Mart which is an efficient and well managed operation. Regal grew too fast and as a result became the type of thing that was hard to manage and they built some truly idiotic locations (including two in North Bergen, NJ – opening a new 12-plex 30 blocks from a 13-plex that had become a discount house within a few months of opening). It’s amazing Campbell was permitted to run the company after the chain cannibalized itself, central operations may be good for efficiency but when the company is so growth focused it’s opening 20-plexes within 5-miles of another 20-plex it owns, in a location that isn’t terribly dense – it seems like bad business.

Miles and her team seem to have new opinions on concession items, which will be good to grow profits – but as far as I see they are a little late in the game. National Amusements has been running theaters selling expanded menu items with food courts for years, same for Loews. Regal and AMC just didn’t take advantage of it and took a more McDonalds approach to their business. What they should do is hire Sherri Redstone who has some great ideas about brining people back to the movies by transforming theaters into community destinations. That was what was missing from Regal – no knowledge of regional operations – the experience is the same from coast to coast at Regal – it doesn’t matter if your at Union Square in New York City or Winter Park Village in Orlando.

The chains need to bring back excitement, if going to the movies was half as fun as seeing a film at a film festival, I’d be there every night.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Fremont Street theater closes on May 16, 2009 at 10:13 am

Crown Theaters – what a strange company. I remember they said ‘we specialize in locations where people say 'what are you crazy for building there’ “ – I guess some have worked out for them, others not so much – this one and a 16 screen theater down in Florida that had a giant screen are closed. They built fine theaters that were as good as anything AMC or Regal did for the most part, and a few gambles I think have paid off (their 17-plex in Hartford seems to do solid business in an area that isn’t where you’d exsactly expect to find a theater). The company is now out of the business after having sold off sites to Clearview, Bow Tie, Keratoses, Galaxy, and Cobb.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Hollywood actor boycotts IMAX version of Star Trek at AMC on May 16, 2009 at 10:06 am

Some of the “fake I-Max” sites aren’t that bad – City Center in White Plains is pretty good and that was a retrofit of a giant 400-seat auditorium. National Amusements also retrofitted a screen at Buckland Hills which was pretty bad, Buckland Hills was retrofitted into an existing building already. While the theater itself is fine, good projection, seats and customer service – the IMAX screen is tiny in a 250 seat (or so) theater – they should have retrofitted a screen at their Showcase Cinemas West Springfield instead.

The real vs. fake is a great argument – IMAX needs to set some standards here – $5 to see a film on a slightly bigger screen with better sound seems like a major rip-off, I can understand if it was in 3-D. I was at Buckland once and they had shown a 35MM film (Cry Wolf) for the late show, at regular price in IMAX – since there screen was so small the quality of it looked fine.

If people continue to pay 5 extra bucks to see a movie at a mini-IMAX, then its our own damn fault. What I think is horrible is new constructions with mini-IMAX theaters – why not have the balls to build a big, classic style IMAX, if the market is going to be saturated, why not have the biggest and the best in your theater. Can’t digital handle it?

John Fink
John Fink commented about Fabian Theatre on May 16, 2009 at 12:33 am

The new 8-screen cinema at City Center will be called Fabian 8, so the name will live on. I hope Paterson does have a cultural revolution of sorts that would make a comeback for this theater possible, maybe as a live arts venue. We’ll see how City Center plays out and what dining options are around the new theater when it opens, which will be key to its success I think.

The theater’s site is up at fabien8.com – and its advertising that it will have digital 3-D and stadium seating, impressive given the chain is an upstart (Community Theaters) and I can’t seem to locate any additional info on what other cinemas they might manage. No date for the opening yet.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Theater chain on the brain on May 1, 2009 at 5:43 am

It looks like those 17 they were holding on to are up on the block again, with the intention to hopefully selling off all US and UK assets leaving N/A with theaters in Russia and Latin America. Perhaps a name change is in order to International Amusements.

It’s a shame because the theater operations which were the best of every chain were not to blame, the credit markets are.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Showcase Cinemas Orange on Apr 29, 2009 at 2:29 pm

It wasn’t the theater operation that led them into debt, it was financing Redstone’s takeover of Viacom, the theater operation was used as collateral and Redstone doesn’t want to sell control of the Viacom, therefore he sold off Midway and other holdings, the theater chain is the last thing to go. Regal stuck its core – they operate cinemas, they never got involved in the content production as far as I know. They got into trouble because they kept buying chains and some had terrible locations in development during the boom that opened as Regals (see Bergen Plaza in North Bergen, NJ). AMC is owned privately by a holding company that is comprised of investment banks, although they have some publicly held debt. Cinemark, Carmike and Regal are publicly traded.

If Redstone can sell the theatre complexes at a good price he might be able to retire the debt. I hear they plan on keeping 17 sites in the Northeast, no word on what theaters they’ll be. NA has a lot of real estate including property that their abandoned drive ins still stand on, some of which they have flee markets at on weekends. I think it might be nearly impossible for us, the public, to get a read on all of N/A’s assets as they are privately held, but I wonder if a sale/lease back type of agreement might allow them to continue to operate certain sites.

John Fink
John Fink commented about NYIT Auditorium on Apr 27, 2009 at 4:32 am

Or let Clearview’s sibling IFC run it as IFC Center: Uptown. Sure, it’s like bringing back Angelika 57, but this is a pretty nice auditorium and isn’t as awkwardly laid out as Lincoln Plaza Cinemas where going to the bathroom is an adventure. Clearview could never figure out an identity for the place and it seemed like it was completely written off. For a while it couldn’t play day and date with Lincoln Plaza and Lincoln Square, later I think it played some features day and date with Lincoln Square. There are a lot of art theaters in the area including Lincoln Plaza and The Paris, but none do quite what IFC does.

Then again we saw how well Cinema Latino worked out.

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC and Cinemark might merge on Apr 26, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Not always Al – for a while there was a problem at the new AMC Garden State with fire alarms going off elsewhere in the mall, forcing the cinema to be evacuated. To put things in perspective, I go to the movies about 4-5 times a week and have been doing so for the past 9 or so years, I’ve been evacuated from a theater exsactly three times, two of which were at AMC at GSP.

The staff was alright at it, but management and older screw members let the 16 year olds working the snack bars lead the evacuation, security also stood by and did nothing, it was a bit bizarre seeing that.

As for the AMC and Cinemark merger I think it’s a very very bad thing. We will soon be left with two major players – AMC and Regal and a handful or regional chains that are slowly either becoming larger (such as Kerasotes) or selling off theaters to others (National Amusements). I don’t have anything against AMC or Cinemark, I don’t know Cinemark all that well and have only been to a handful of their theaters (some with very tacky lobbies that were dizzying). AMC is alright, aside from dirty bathrooms at some theaters. I just don’t like all the consolidation and control, I’m not anti-free market, I just like having choice and quality run theaters. AMC and Regal are just okay, where as National Amusements and (here in NJ, and only in the last year or so) Clearview Cinemas are the best in terms of cleanliness, customer service and quality of snacks.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Cinepolis West Hartford on Apr 13, 2009 at 8:01 pm

While I personally prefer some form of stadium seating, preferably without any dizzying effect (I liked the large theaters at the now closed National Amusements Showcase East Windsor, which didn’t have the height of a new construction) – I wouldn’t mind sloped floor seating if properly spaced. The best example of this is the IFC Center in New York City.

I can’t comment on Blue Back, but I have been to the Criterion Cinemas in New Haven and found it to be a first rate theater, but did find it a little odd that it didn’t have stadium seating, being that it was a new venue. Perhaps, the best would be a hybrid like Real Art Ways, which has sloped floor seating with a sharper slope towards the back of the auditorium. That’s sort of the best of both worlds – and I still think that’s the best theater in Greater Hartford in terms of sound, projection, film selection and atmosphere.

I suppose with East Hartford now closed the decision was made to keep both this and Cinema City open, with this serving as a smaller downtown type of theater, playing often times day and date with the Palace. Cinema City I haven’t visited in a while, so I don’t know if its been upgraded, Crown certainly never did anything to it (aside from painting the lobby). I suppose I understand Tomas' outrage – I, like him thought this theater was going to be Hartford’s version of the Angelika, and would replace Cinema City. Regardless, the formula for playing more upscale Hollywood films here as the 18-23rd screens of the Palace seems to work for West Hartford in that you can make a night of it here downtown, whereas in Manchester you could make a night of it, but that means you’d have to have dinner at Chatters or at the food court of Cinema De Lux.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Union Theaters on Apr 2, 2009 at 7:35 pm

I was sort of impressed by the size of the screen here – while it wasn’t like a multiplex, it was a good size give the theater I was in the other night to see Fados. Clean and well maintained with a neighborhood feel – it reminded me a bit of the theater the same owners run up in Westwood.

When you walk in there’s one screen to the right, then beyond it a long hallway leading to three screens to the right, and two to the left (2 being the largest I assume), and back in the lobby there is one screen straight ahead. A decent size lobby – no Cineplex Oden-style touches however. The bathroom seemed a bit dated as well (they also had a separate handicap room across the hall from the party room, which is behind the outside box office, to the left when you enter the building). I’d come back if they showed more art house films.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Admissions up, concessions down during recession on Apr 2, 2009 at 7:29 pm

Chains do shoot themselves in the foot, and some have terrible popcorn and concessions (I had the worst pizza ever at Regal Union Square not too long ago for example). Other, non-luxury theaters are leading the way (sadly National Amusements will be broken up and sold soon, which is a shame since they have the best snack bar of any major chain).

While I do agree the prices are high and much less at independent houses (for example I pay around $10.50 for a medium popcorn & soda at Clearview Cinemas, by comparison this combo cost me about $7 the independent Union Theatre). I don’t mind paying if the popcorn is good – personally after a rough day at work, popcorn, soda and a good movie is a great form of therapy. Some chains have good popcorn (National Amusements, Clearview, Reading/City Cinemas/Angelika Film Center, Starplex, and some AMC sites if you catch them on a busy night), others…not so much.

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC Loews Waterfront 22 on Mar 17, 2009 at 5:53 pm

I’m shocked no one commented on the shooting death of a patron in the lobby while the theater was showing 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Trying. The film’s wikkepedia page: ( View link) ) discusses its controversies including incidents at a few theaters. Therefore this theater (which I’ve never been) has had some problems with patron behavior.

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC Rockaway 16 on Mar 17, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Why is this important? We have movietickets.com – we don’t need you to tell us what mainstream films are playing here – if something out of the ordinary played here I could understand – but every time you come here and get the same mediocre (non-digital, non-IMAX) AMC experience you feel the need to write about it.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Christopher Campbell discusses chain loyalty on Mar 16, 2009 at 9:17 pm

I agree with the CT posters – National Amusements is my cinema of choice, I live in NJ but went to school in Hartford, even National’s older theaters were still well run (Showcase East Hartford although dated never was crappy by any means). Here in NJ we have Clearview (which has gotten better over the years), AMC (which took over Loews and General Cinema sites, they do a decent job) and soon Keratoses and Muvico.

As for CT – I’ve been to Bow Tie/Crown, they were okay, even better when they had movie madness at the Palace in Hartford (4 bucks for students!). Cinema City I avoided whenever I had a chance (I’d drive up to Springfield if the movie was playing there). The best theater in the Hartford area though was not a chain, although I wouldn’t mind if they became one – Real Art Ways. But for consistency, my chain of choice is National Amusements, all of their sites are pretty much constant in terms of quality with The Bridge in Philly being my favorite of theirs. (They and along with Reading Entertainment (Angleika Film Center/City Cinemas) also have the best popcorn).

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC Tallahassee Mall 20 on Mar 8, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Located next to Belks department store in what sadly appears to be kind of a dying mall (it lost its anchor). The theater is one large hallway – two box offices are located to the left and right of the entrance. The theater has three theaters to the left when you first walk in, one to the right, the center of the complex houses what I assume may be the largest auditoriums, the back appeared to be a mix of larger and smaller houses (theaters 6-17). The theater has two full sized concession stands and top level access to the largest houses – theaters 4 and 19). I think, although I didn’t confirm, that 1-3 do not offer stadium seating.

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC Starplex Ridgefield Park 12 on Feb 17, 2009 at 1:55 pm

Have you heard its closing or is this your speculation?

John Fink
John Fink commented about Bow-Tie Wayne Preakness Cinemas on Feb 8, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Undergoing an upgrade with “leather” seats. Still has a no masking, so Coraline in 3-D had both ends of the screen with no image. Other than that it still seems to be successful – the lobby recently added a party room. the bathrooms finally got an upgrade and the concession stand appears to be enlarged.

Now they need to upgrade Kinnelon (or close it and start over).

John Fink
John Fink commented about Maveli Twin Cinema 59 on Jan 31, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Venturini would occasionally show an art house movie or two. I know the chain ran the Colonial Theater in Pompton Lakes and the Lafayette, I also think they ran two in Pearl River. Can anybody share some additional info on this operator? (I’m guessing UA abandoned ship when they opened their 10-plex across town at the marketplace, which died with the opening of Palisades Center.)

John Fink
John Fink commented about Parsippany Cinema 12 on Jan 24, 2009 at 10:11 am

Interesting that you say that Meredith – Clearview bought out most of the mom and pop operations in Northern NJ (and in some parts of Long Island) I think the only downtown/independents they didn’t consolidate in the area are Hawthorn, Westwood and the Highway in Fair Lawn.

Some they do a great job with like Ridgewood and Great Neck, Long Island. Others suck (Tenifly, the first Clearview had the most uncomfortable seats of any movie theater, including the former folding chairs at Montclair’s long lost Screening Zone). I suppose you may be part of the reason why their projection has improved vastly in the last two years or so (I’d like to think its all the complaining I did on the message boards, in person and to Clearview – at one point this chain was offering such a poor quality experience it was as if they were practically driving people to stay home and rent a film on demand from their parent company Cablevision – luckily in terms of projection, seating comfort and the concession stand they’ve stepped their game up and amazingly are almost on par with National Amusements in terms of quality). Cinema 12 still has its problems including sound bleeding from theater to theater – it sucks when you go see a quiet drama next to a Sci-Fi action flick, especially in the small theaters directly behind the concession stand. Management changing sound levels of each picture still only does so much and can’t make up for Nelson Firman’s shoddy, cheapo construction.

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC Rockaway 16 on Jan 4, 2009 at 8:08 pm

I seriously doubt they’d combine three screens. The theater’s footprint – in which each side consists of 4 large theaters and 4, shorter smaller theaters would make this undertaking nearly impossible. It’s posable they’d combine 2 theaters but unlikely. Unlike MikeRA I haven’t seen an AMC IMAX conversion – the two National Amusements conversions I’ve seen involved the installation of a wall to wall, floor to ceiling screen, slightly tilted, bottom towards the audience to make it larger, and the removal of the first few rows of seats. Other modifications may include moving the emergency exists, and additional speakers.

The results were mixed at the two conversions I saw – City Center is credible, a large screen without being truly annoyingly overpowering, while Buckland Hills is far too small. What I haven’t seen any of lately is theaters opening with a big-screen IMAX that had been planned for in the design process. Is it cheapening the experience that IMAX has become an afterthought?

John Fink
John Fink commented about Paterson Cinema News on Dec 24, 2008 at 3:27 pm

Maybe in time – I’m curious to see what will happen with this theater and what sort of crowds it will get. Hopefully Paterson will experience a revitization that will make a Fabian restoration possable. In Monclair the restored Welmount reopened in October and they did a beautiful job on that. The Fabian I understand isn’t in the best of neighborhoods. Hopefully this new theater will provide a quality experience. Dining options in the Center City complex are said to include Buffalo Wild Wings.

The cinema complex was said to seat 2,000 people across 10 screens, which would make its average seat count 15 less than that of its competitor at Clifton Commons. The chain was said to be an upstart named Community Theaters, I wonder if that could change.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Regal in the news on Dec 14, 2008 at 4:44 pm

According to this article National is keeping sites in MA and NY: View link

They’ve closed and opened theaters in between in CT, adding screens to Buckland Hills, buying a 12-screen at Enfield Mall, and opening a Cinema De Lux in Millford. I can imagine the CT being an attractive target for AMC which only owns two theaters in the state. As for NJ? It’s anybody guess – Regal used to own a theater that National now runs, Cinemark has a single South Jersey screen, and Kerasotes is attempting to expand into the market. The only theater chain I can think of that actively also deals in real estate is Reading Cinemas (the owners of the Angelika) which would be a good fit as they also run high quality theaters. Should be interesting to see what happens.