Comments from John Fink

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John Fink
John Fink commented about Cineplex Cinemas Yonge-Dundas on Sep 10, 2009 at 9:39 am

Interestingly enough TFF this year is using Theater #7. I might try to catch Cleanflicks (a documentary about the mormons editing Hollywood films to make them more family friendly) in ETX. Sweet.

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC Loews Meadow 6 on Aug 30, 2009 at 9:06 am

It now appears Muvico has walked away from Xanadu as the new site for the project (visitxanadu.com) is calling it “Movie Experience” and promises an IMAX screen. I don’t know if the California chain The Movie Experience is now running Xanadu (when/if it opens), or if they’re looking for another operator.

John Fink
John Fink commented about New operators for NY theaters on Aug 19, 2009 at 4:27 am

Have the theaters actually been leased or are they just being booked / managed by City Cinemas? I assume if this is the case the same programing will remain along with the same site management. While City Cinemas has been closing properties in NYC, it’s parent company has grown significantly acquiring sites in Northern California and Hawaii. If they are smart and book the theaters like they do the Angelika, don’t show the same boring pre-show, keep the same presentation standards (I rarely have complaints about the Angelika and Village East) and keep the same staff, hopefully the only changes will be the popcorn.

The Paris is a real treat of a theater to attend: comfortable, beatiful, well programed with flawless presentation. I don’t think City Cinemas will be booking GI Joe there anytime soon.

John Fink
John Fink commented about "Wizard of Oz" to be shown in over 440 theaters on September 23rd on Aug 15, 2009 at 9:47 pm

I wish they’d do this with more indie, documentary and foreign films. IFC should team up with a content delivery system and create “indie movie night” – one show only, Tuesdays at 7:30 – you show up and we’ll show you a new film that’s currently in release in only major cities. As for classics, I’m conflicted – it’s nice to see them on the big screen… but projected on the “pre-show” projectors? The Wizard of Oz should be seen in full technocolor on a three-strip film. I saw it this way about 10 years ago when it had a wide re-release and it still holds up.

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC Loews Jersey Gardens 20 on Aug 2, 2009 at 8:47 am

Was here yesterday afternoon – there are 20 theaters all on one floor, there is a mezzanine with top access for 8 of the largest theaters. I had been in theater 9 yesterday and sat in one of the seats intended for the VIP experience (or Loews Club as I think the Waterfront theater calls it, some theaters at 34th Street also have the same set-up). Basically they are two rows of the same seats as the rest of the theater, except they’re covered in fake leather and after every two seats there is a small table, the row is also floored with fake wood instead of vinyl tile.

The top access leads to two stair cases and an elevator – the top is somewhat finished (no bathroom in the section I was in which was odd I found). The theater still has a mini-cafe section with ice cream and that sort of thing, I think it was open but closed when I was there (AMC can’t even keep open an ice cream stand, while National Amusements keeps open a whole food court). The lay out is 10 theaters to the left, 10 to the right with a lot of theming. They’re also somewhat cheaper at $10 for a full price adult ticket.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Quad Cinema on Jul 23, 2009 at 4:52 pm

While I don’t think its in danger of closing I’ve noticed they are more frequently (along with IFC Center) playing films that can also be seen on demand. I personally am not a fan of VOD day and date in that I understand it (sadly good art films can’t be seen in most cities), I think it does cheapen the movie going experience. Granted a few have done okay box office using a VOD day and date release (ie: Girlfriend Experience, Summer Hours), others haven’t (the Quad recently showed I Hate Valentine’s Day). So I’m wonder what the impact of this practice will be for a theater like the Quad. The larger chains (AMC, Regal, ect) have adopted a policy of not showing films released this way, whereas companies associated with VOD distributers (IFC, Landmark, and Clearview) have no problem with it.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Happy 10th Anniversary, "Blair Witch Project"!!! on Jul 18, 2009 at 9:18 am

Blair Witch I think was the birth of viral marketing, between the website and the mythology associated wit the film. The film its self is pretty good, but I see why people dislike it, but we haven’t seen anything like it since (maybe that’s a good thing). I think that ended a certain era of indie film (DIY film getting a wider release – Clerks and Blair Witch I think were the golden age so to speak of this type of indie filmmaking). The DIY style films now get online distribution and perhaps a token release at the IFC Center (see Hannah Takes the Stairs), although there have been a few exceptions – I think the current release Humpday which opened to strong numbers last weekend may get a decent art house release, but it not likely it’ll be at your local AMC or Regal.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Favoring the ticket kiosk on Jul 3, 2009 at 9:32 pm

AMC waives the charge for moviewatcher members but the service fee only is applied if you pre-purchase tickets online. You can still use the kiosks to buy tickets with a credit or gift card. I’ve seen some theater modify their lobbies accordingly – for example at Edgewater Multiplex the box office used to be right in front of you as you walked in, they moved it to the left side and now four automated machines stand in its place directly in front of the entrance. It’s not a bad way to beat the line or if your going to see a movie that for whatever reason your embarrassed about, but not all levels of discount pricing are sold at the automated machines (ie: student rate).

John Fink
John Fink commented about Classic Film Theaters in New Jersey and New York? on Jul 1, 2009 at 8:15 pm

IFC Center has reissues and they also regularly show classics on Saturday and Sunday afternoons in conjunction with the Criterion Collection. They (and Landmark’s Sunshine) have midnight programs on Friday and Saturday. The Clearview Classics festivals aren’t running right now, but they also ran at the Clairidge and Chelsea (which gets a lot of eclectic programing). Often times the prints and the soundtracks were beat up – Film Forum is the gold standard in that sprints are often struck just for them (and their membership is a great deal).

John Fink
John Fink commented about Cinema City 4 on Jun 29, 2009 at 4:24 am

I had an allergic reaction and ended up getting sick a few years ago. I got there on a Saturday night just at the 7PM show of Junebug was starting and had to sit in the front of the theater. It was so musty I barely made it through what was a really great movie. Of coarse – that was Crown Theaters' problem. To be fair – Hoyts, Northeast Cinemas and Crown never really made any major improvements. I’m sure Bow Tie corrected the issue with a new air filter and a proper cleaning.

It’s not a bad place to see a movie and Bow Tie to their credit has continued to offer the most talked about art pictures. I’m a little surprised to hear very little has been done to upgrade the theaters – after all this is the closest thing Hartford has to the Angelika (not like the NYC location is that nice either). You’d think given the upscale audience the films attract an upgrade would be in order, they could even turn it into another branch of Criterion Cinemas the way they did at the Plaza in Greenwich.

I’m glad they kept this theater open. I suspect if this theater had closed, like it did for a week a few years ago and Criterion at Blue Back avoided programing these films, the result would have been Real Art Ways becoming more mainstream. The shame in this is they wouldn’t be able to play the smaller documentaries and art films they are known for, instead they’d be be showing Cheri and Whatever Works. An art theater of this caliber is essential in Hartford, but isn’t it time to upgrade this place? Perhaps the problem isn’t with Bow Tie, but the building’s landlord.

John Fink
John Fink commented about "Radical Civility" for movie manners on Jun 25, 2009 at 8:42 pm

My policy is my phone is shut off as soon as the trailers come on, not put on silent mode. I’ve paid $10+ not to be distracted (this is why I hate watching movies at home and am depressed over the recent trend of VOD and token theatrical releases in NYC and LA substituting a platform art house release, art theaters should take notice too). Why don’t audiences realize this. If a call or text is that important to you then you shouldn’t have gone out to the movies in the first place. If I have a matter that can’t be resolved when the film is over in two hours, then you won’t find me at the movies. I’ll be somewhere were I whomever needs to get a hold of me can.

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.