Comments from John Fink

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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 – 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 Cinepolis Parsippany 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.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Redstone to possibly sell NA on Dec 8, 2008 at 4:23 am

Not that I know of – Cinemark I remember did play Brokeback in Salt Lake during that time. Now the gay community I read is boycotting Cinemark over COO Alan Sack’s donation to support Prop 8 in California – I can imagine in Salt Lake you may be out of options to see Milk… Larry Miller won’t show it, and apparently the boycott had led to protestors picketing Cinemark/Century Theaters. Hope there is an independent operator showing it in that region.

The response from above regarding Cinemark was when I had read they wouldn’t show the unrated Passion of the Christ recut (with less violence) because they don’t screen unrated films. I posed a question online to them “surely a chain of your size operates some art theaters where you may occasionally have to show an unrated film if one becomes an art house hit” and got the family friendly reply back. I don’t think they’ve changed since buying Century, which had a whole art house imprint they ran. Cinemark retained it but the choices probably have gotten more bland, and safe – trending towards considering Changeling an art house movie and not something like A Christmas Tale (which is unrated). UA before the Regal take over used to also not show unrated films, this is why distributer Lot 47 released LIE with an NC-17 rating verses going out unrated – they wanted it to play at the UA Union Square in NYC. (LIE also played at several National Amusements sites on Long Island and at Edgewater Multiplex).

John Fink
John Fink commented about Redstone to possibly sell NA on Dec 7, 2008 at 8:06 pm

I wonder if the brands would create a problem – there is also some nice synergy with the National and Viacom – MTV’s Movie House used to be filmed at The Bridge (I think they also do the same thing in Russia at their KinoStar De Lux). I have been to The Bridge in Philly which is a great theater: nice lounge, great atmosphere, well designed with corners to hide in – its what going to movies should be. It’s also extremely popular with the UPENN crowd – people get dressed up like they’re going to a club to see a film. It’s a great vibe (I understand LA’s is the same). There isn’t anyone who’s doing this kind of thing.

National has a loyal customer base: I’ve been to a few of their theaters in different states – in Seekonk, MA the box office attendant addressed regulars by name. There is a sense that National provides a community destination, tailored to each community they serve that I honestly haven’t seen with other operators. Regal is pretty generic aside from some programing differences, from Manhattan to Orlando, same for AMC.

As for a sale: Cinemark would be a very very bad thing. National for one isn’t afraid of the NC-17 rating and has always been progressive in its programing. Cinemark won’t run anything that is unrated or NC-17 rated because they feel those types of films threaten a “family friendly environment”….and Saw V is in 3 screens opening weekend.

Regal wouldn’t be a bad fit, they run some decent theaters, perhaps they could learn from National’s commitment to expanded concession offerings and VIP seating. Regal has played with the concept, and co-owns a view and brew type of theater chain.

AMC…maybe, but I think they’re still dealing with the Loews merger and they have debt. Others that I wonder about: maybe Reading Entertainment – they are a real estate company as well as a theater operator, they bought a good chunk of Pacific’s theaters, and they have a small east coast presence. This wouldn’t be a bad thing – especially down in South Jersey where Showcase at the Ritz Center could morph into an Angelika Film Center if that deal went through. Keratoses also seems hungry to grow, and they have been quickly (soon they’ll have an east coast presence), but I don’t know what shape their in. Who ever it is, I just hope they don’t screw up Edgewater Multiplex…or I might have to drive to New England for the National Amusements experience.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Redstone to possibly sell NA on Dec 6, 2008 at 8:17 am

I imagine National being a tough sell because they along with Muvico have a history for being innovative. I haven’t heard AMC in the fray regarding buying National. I’ve heard that National will retain the New England and Russian locations, and sell off the rest of the chain including its UK operations (where they just launched Showcase: Cinema De Lux).

I agree with longislandmovies – I’m a movie addict and I’ve been to every major chain, although not perfect National is the best, General Cinema was a great chain too. AMC I’ve never really had a problem with aside from the insanity of the new Garden State (something always go wrong there, its never a quiet night at the movies). Often when I’m here I’m cursing myself for not having driven the extra 10-minutes to Edgewater Multiplex.

Where Regal and Cinemark will find challenges I think are operating the theaters to National’s standards. Even their older theaters (such as Showcase Cinemas East Hartford, now closed) were clean, in good repair, and had high standards for projection, service and comfort. NA also owns two drive-ins that operate on a seasonal basis, would Regal or Cinemark (which didn’t take Century’s Drive Ins) run them? It should be interesting, one thing’s for sure: we’ll be loosing one of the best theater chains around.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Digital Projection Not Always Perfect on Dec 1, 2008 at 7:03 pm

To quote Nelson from the Simpsons “ha ha” – its only a matter of time before we start seeing this type of thing at our mainstream multiplex, with clueless managers and staff who will insist there is no problem. As I’ve said film projection has only been around for the last 100+ years and there are theaters that still can’t get it right. It’s simple to flip on a switch, turn on a server and project digital, but when the big problems happen (like the above), it should be interesting to see how they manage. I say this because a certain theater I know of, and sadly still go to because its close just got a digital projector for Bolt 3-D, and while it looked fine, I’m sure its only a matter of time before they screw things up over there.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Fireweed 7 slashes price of movie tickets to $3 on Nov 21, 2008 at 5:03 pm

Not unusual, but unusual for Regal and AMC. I know Cinemark has second run houses and some affiliation with Starplex Cinemas, who are known for running discount houses. Concessions are where the money is. Are there any other known Regal Cinemas with a second run booking policy still operating? I thought most were sold or closed. AMC had a few in the Leigh Valley, PA years ago, but they’ve since closed or were picked up by others. AMC does have a few that have discount pricing structures, and have a few in the Hudson County area in NJ, that are first run with reduced pricing (around $8.50 for an adult verses $10.50).

Danpetitpas is right: theaters either go art house, porn house, second run or start to show Bollywood films. Second run seems like the best of those options for Anchorage.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Art Cinema on Nov 2, 2008 at 8:05 pm

One of the venues for this year’s Hartford International Film Festival. I’ll provide a few notes on the theater after my film Artery screens there, this Saturday at 12:15PM (not to put in a shameless plug or anything).

John Fink
John Fink commented about Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons on Oct 28, 2008 at 4:39 am

This theater is in the news again for banning Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno – meanwhile when the NY Post asked the theater’s manager why they are showing Saw V he replied “no comment”.

I saw Zack and Miri in Toronto where it got major laughs, it’s often too funny to be truly shocking – I suppose the title is what bugged Miller the most: if a family is taking their kids to see the G-rated High School Musical 3 they don’t want to see the word “Porno” also listed at the box office, perhaps. If only Miller would take a stand and proactively ban bad filmmaking, like Disaster Movie, then I’d respect him. Unfortunately he’s banned two films that were good.

John Fink
John Fink commented about NATO calls for equity for independent theaters on Oct 28, 2008 at 4:29 am

CinemarkFan – I never realized that digital had these capabilities. I know of incidents where 35MM prints were censored locally by operators (an explicit shot in Wayne Wang’s Center of the World was removed by a theater operator who felt it violated “community standards”). I’ve often wondered about that, especially with the types of films I can see in New York City – could a film with this content be shown at a theater in say, the Palin-belt of America?

I know certain theaters do have restrictions on their leases, perhaps forbidding them from showing an NC-17 rated film. Perhaps the greatest indication is if people show up: if there is no audience then why bother showing a film like this. But the control factor is scary as hell, especially when we have such groups as Cleanflicks that will censor films for you. My opinion has always been this: if your offended by the artists original work – the sex, the violence, the language – then you shouldn’t watch it, at all. This is why WalMart’s policy of only carrying “clean” CDs always baffled me.

I’m a firm believer in the filmmakers rights to show a film the way it should be shown. Often theaters fail at this by not framing the picture correctly, ect. Digital has its benefits because there is a certain consistency to it, but with that constancy comes artificiality, the image lacks the life of properly projected 35MM. Digital could make things more accessible or at least flexible in regards to the language point: digital films I assume could be more easily “open captioned” to allow for more special screenings for the hearing impaired. But I fully agree there is a slippery slope here, and control needs to reside with the filmmakers, when exhibitors stop trusting the studios and filmmakers that supply their pipeline and take decisions into their own hands, they ought to move into another line of business. With regards to Vicky Christina Barcelona, it should be known that the Rave chain didn’t carry this film at any of their sites, they are all digital. What if instead this had been the new Indiana Jones film? I bet they’d be scrambling to re-install a few 35MM projectors.

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC Garden State 16 on Oct 26, 2008 at 7:41 pm

Actually, MikeRa, if you’d taken the time to look it up on IMDB you’ll find that Beowulf 3D was released on November 17, 2007 – this theater opened in May 2007, if my memory serves me correctly I think I saw it on the Sunday night of its opening weekend. I understand AMC has its policies, perhaps more education is required upfront (maybe a sign informing ticket purchasers that R-rated films require an accompanying parent or adult guardian and that IDs may be checked at the door). As I had said I don’t object to the enforcement of policies for films such as the Saw series, its the tone of their enforcement as a customer, one that is way over 17, that I had objected to – as well as the efficiency in enforcing the policies. Any business should offer quality customer service and on this front they didn’t really deliver. I hope the other theaters mentioned above had better systems than Garden State. (I’ve also seen the check ID at the door system, create long lines at Clifton Commons)

As for the MPAA, I agree with movie534 – without writing an entire essay on the subject the MPAA’s R-rating has become too broad, encompassing films like Slumdog Millionaire (which I saw in Toronto and was shocked to learn it had received an R-rating, because, it may be one that teens may want to see and there is no reason they shouldn’t be able to alone, a PG-13 would have been fair) and Saw. The MPAA system is voluntary, aside from a few states and jurisdictions where it is law (it is a state law in NJ, but I know Cedar Grove’s town laws require its cinema to enforce the guidelines). Without saying too much I’ll point you to Kirby Dick’s This Film is Not Yet Rated – a great example of just how stupid the system is. We do need a system and guidelines, but to me there is a clear distinction between Billy Elliot (also rated R) and Saw V, while Crossroads (a film with a horrible moral for young women: you should loose your virginity to a dangerous looking older dude because he drives a cool car) is PG-13. The R and the PG-13 ratings have become awfully bloated, while the NC-17, a perfectly good rating, goes unused because god forbid someone make a film exclusively for adults – those wackos over at Cinemark won’t show it.

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC Garden State 16 on Oct 25, 2008 at 8:31 am

I was at AMC Garden State 16 for Saw V last night – strange showing and I have a few notes on it: first was the crowds and the ID checks, which created a long than need to be line, they weren’t terribly efficient at this, and for what – an MPAA system that really doesn’t work. Secondly, I don’t know if there was a group making trouble, I didn’t notice them, but at least 5 of their relatively useless security guards came in and kicked them out, gladly they weren’t with little resistance, because if they didn’t I would have complained about this: you can’t ruin a movie experience for 400 other people to kick out 6. I say the security guards there are useless and I’ll cite two incidents: at a certain point in the theater’s history it was the subject of folks in the mall randomly pulling alarms, causing the staff to evacuate the theater. I see 5 films a week, and in 10 years of this habit, I’ve only ever been evacuated from a theater three times: the first at the Sunshine in Manhattan was an actual emergency. The other two were at AMC Garden State. Adult security guards stood by while 16-year olds in red AMC polo shirts lead the evacuation.

The second incident occurred at a 3-D showing of Beowulf, when I got up to complain about a guy on his cell phone and when I turned the corner I found it was a security guard. I stared at him and he said “can I help you” and I said “sure, you mind taking that conversation outside” and he said “I’m on the phone with my boss” – I said “that’s nice, I paid $14 to see this movie, I don’t need to hear you, take the call in the hallway” – the then replied “do you know who your talking to, I’m the security guard”. Stupid wannabe cop. (Meanwhile he had patrons sitting on the stairs, which is a fire hazard)

I complained to the management who offered up a free pass, what I really wanted those was an apology from the guard and an acknowledgment as to why what he did was wrong, AMC’s management said they couldn’t since they outsource security to a private firm, they took my info and I have yet to get a call back from the guy’s boss. I’m still holding that free pass.

I’m not in this targeted group, I consider myself to be a sophisticated movie goer, and I like theaters with good customer service (Edgewater Multiplex still is the gold standard in Northern NJ) – while I understand the company has its policies, its security guards and staff need to start treating their filmgoers like paying customers and not criminals, regardless of their age. If 16 years get fed up and decided to stop showing up, AMC doesn’t have a future. Its more of the tone of their interactions I object to than then their enforcement of policies.

John Fink
John Fink commented about NATO calls for equity for independent theaters on Oct 9, 2008 at 2:49 pm

But Digital still hasn’t been perfected yet? This is a loss for audiences. Smarter chains (like the unmentioned National Amusements) hasn’t opened “all digital” new theaters – their new builds are half digital and half film projection. While there are benefits to digital such as the picture is rock steady, so much quality is lost. I had the displeasure of sitting in the front row to a digital show at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival at AMC Younge-Dundas, and the picture quality compared to a front row showing of a film was lost. While digital film could be good for smaller films, making distribution more affordable (some small films already were sending theaters DVDs and DigiBatas), I think for the big hollywood studio film it’s a major loss, unless the film is computer animated. I understand this is a business but as advocates for the preservation of cinema, the experience of cinema (although on this site filtered through the lens of the actually experience of the buildings), projecting film in its intended form is important. I have given digital a try, and I will search out these independent theaters, with good projection, and support them when I can when the Digital Implementation Partnership starts converting the multiplexes and commercially owned art theaters I attend now.

Thankfully, I live in an area (NYC-metro area) with thriving NFP art theaters like Film Forum, and the Walter Reed Theater that will project a motion picture in the format the filmmaker had intended. So I don’t think 35 and 16MM will be gone altogether.