AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 with IMAX

1998 Broadway,
New York, NY 10023

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Loew's Lincoln Square

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On November 18, 1994, on the site of a demolished post office, the circuit then known by the Sony Theatres moniker introduced what immediately became the nation’s busiest multiplex at Broadway and W. 68th Street.

Construction of the Millennium Partners development known as Lincoln Square began on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in 1992. The $250 million mixed-use project, covering the block from Broadway to Columbus Avenue between W. 67th Street and W. 68th Street, was to rise 545 feet and encompass 800,000-square-feet. The developers took the unusual path of selling and leasing much of the complex’s space before construction had begun. Among the tenants of the 8-story commercial base, to be topped by a 38-story apartment tower, was Loews Theater Management Corporation. Plans for a nine-screen movie theatre with a traditional external box office and no inner lobby or unusual interiors were first conceived by Sony Pictures Entertainment Executive VP Lawrence Ruisi and Chairman Peter Guber. When Jim and Barrie Lawson-Loeks joined Loews/Sony Theatres as co-chairs in 1992, they envisioned a different complex, one that would include a mural-adorned lobby, movie palace ornamentation, indoor ticket selling stations, and more.

Sony Theatres Lincoln Square was designed by the firm of Gensler and Associates. The theatre’s lighting scheme was executed by Gallegos Lighting and the building’s 75' tall by 130' wide lobby mural was produced by EverGreene Painting Studios. (If ever gazing upon the mural, look, among the images from “Lawrence of Arabia”, “It Happened One Night”, and other classic films of Sony [Columbia] Pictures' past, for the embedded names of Sony/Loews executives of the era).

Upon its opening, the theatre totaled 3,046 seats and featured nine traditional exhibition auditoriums, each with a name and plaster/molded-fiberglass entrance paying homage to a grand movie palace of Loews' past. Among these were the Valencia, Kings, State, Capital, Paradise, and Jersey. The entry portals were designed as stylized representations of the old-time movie palaces. (The Paradise, for instance, has an Egyptian theme.) The grandest of the nine theatres bore the name “Loew’s”, since the circuit’s previous designation was, at the time, retired.

This premiere auditorium was modeled after the Thomas Lamb-designed Loew’s 72nd Street theatre (demolished in 1961) and reinterpreted that venue’s Thai-temple inspiration. The theatre featured a red and gold color scheme, handcarved designs atop gilded columns, a chandelier, a proscenium arch featuring elephants and palm trees, a gold show curtain, and a balcony. A two-minutes-long lighting pre-show was created by Patrick Gallegos, using equipment mounted on the balcony rail and footlights, to accompany a commissioned score by Jonathan Brielle. The auditorium housed 876 seats, a 65 feet wide by 26 feet tall screen, was 70mm capable, THX-certified, and opened with state of the art audio. Later, it featured Dolby Digital, SDDS 8-channel, and DTS.

Perhaps the facility’s most attention-grabbing feature was the Sony IMAX Theatre. Billed in advertisements of the time as “The 8-Story Wonder of the World”, the theatre featured 600 seats (not included in the nine-screen total cited above), the United States' largest theatrical screen measuring 100' by 80', and was reached by means of what was claimed to be the world’s largest free-standing escalator. It was the first IMAX theatre in the U.S. to be operated by a major exhibition circuit and also the first to exhibit 3-D films in the large screen format. The debut IMAX features were “The Last Buffalo”, which had previously been exhibited, and the premiere engagement of “Into the Deep”. On April 21, 1995, the theatre presented the first fictional IMAX film, “Wings of Courage”, starring Val Kilmer and Elizabeth McGovern and directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. The film was the earliest to make use of the new IMAX 3-D Personal Sound Environment System. On October 20 of that year, “Across the Sea of Time” was presented, along with the ability for the audience to listen to the film in the language of their choosing via the four audio tracks available in their headsets. The IMAX theatre features a system by which, in a process lasting fewer than 40 minutes, each of the audience headsets is run through a fine mist of water and lens cleaning fluid between shows. Security panels sound alarms should a headset be mistakenly removed from the auditorium. In addition, the auditorium’s porthole glass is intentionally oversized, in order to allow the interested to pear into the projection booth, home to 7.5' wide film platters.

All of the building’s auditoriums, including 3 basement theatres added in early-1995 and originally intended to exhibit art house fare (a plan that was never executed), are reached via a ticket lobby featuring numerous automated ticketing kiosks and a Deco-inspired, 8-station box office at the end of a terrazzo floor with embedded brass stars (intended to be engraved with the names of stars visiting the theatre for premieres of their films). Patrons visiting one of the original 9 auditoriums enter an enormous concession lobby through an entryway replicating the gates of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Culver City studio lot. Floor-to-ceiling structural columns are disguised as palm trees and large screens display trailers for upcoming attractions. A frieze features the names of Hollywood stars and encircles the space. The below-street-level auditoriums, which brought the facility’s total seat count to 4,144 (including IMAX), share a lobby showcasing a black-and-white mural paying homage to 1930’s Hollywood and an auxiliary concession stand. One of these auditoriums was originally equipped with joysticks for the age of interactive movies intended to be ushered in by 1995’s “Mr. Payback”. (The basement space was originally reserved for a neighboring tenant, Barnes & Noble.)

During its opening weekend in 1994, the Lincoln Square drew 33,000 paying customers and grossed more than $202,000 at the box office. The opening features were “Star Trek Generations” (generating $100,000), “The Professional” ($46,000), “Miracle on 34th Street” (1994), “The Lion King” (in the first weekend of a holiday-season re-release), and “The Swan Princess”. In the years since, Sony/Loews/Loews Cineplex Entertainment has striven to maintain the theatre’s technological preeminence. The premiere Loews auditorium is THX-certified. AMC now operates the theatre, having purchased the Loews Cineplex theatres.

Contributed by Damien Farley

Recent comments (view all 915 comments)

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 16, 2017 at 7:56 pm

Or avoid movies with names like “LEGO BATMAN MOVIE IN IMAX 3D” altogether until they really care who they alienate forever.

CHH32 on February 17, 2017 at 10:54 am

Besides the blue lights on the floor, I don’t know if anyone has noticed, they also left a row of the ceiling lights on after the movie started(Not sure if they are lights or holes). They are straightly above the EXIT signs near the two entrances. You could see them when you look up or look at the walls above the EXIT signs, especially during the dark scenes

vertigoman on February 17, 2017 at 12:47 pm

alpinedownhiller – about seeing my own reflection in the lens, let me explain. I’ve sat dead center in my visits to the location, in rows F and G. When I sit there, with the 3D glasses on as the movie is playing, I can see the reflection of my own eyeballs in the glasses – I see everything that’s on the screen and the 3D effect, but the reflection of my eyeball is clearly visible on the lens. When I spoke with the IMAX CQO about this, he said that other people had reported the same thing. It may not affect everyone, and some people may be more sensitive to it than others, but it’s definitely a problem that’s been reported and acknowledged. The lens coating is a highly reflective surface, and instead of just filtering the correct “eye view” for each eye, they also reflect whatever other light is around.

John Fink
John Fink on February 17, 2017 at 1:02 pm

It’s a shame they’re allowing this to continue – I had spoke to the CQO about an issue at their “new” “downgraded” IMAX at Palisades Center where a light above the screen washed out any dark scenes. The rest of this complex is terrible – the last two 2D films I had seen here had the Real D polarizing filters on and the only presentation that was quite good was Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk in 3D because Sony made special accommodations. They should have made special accommodations to present the film in a better theatre…..

alpinedownhiller on February 17, 2017 at 7:44 pm

@ vertigoman – “I can see the reflection of my own eyeballs in the glasses”

hmm that’s weird, you mean as sort of a general reflected blur or sharp details, since the glasses are only like what ½" inch from your pupil and that is way too close to see crisp detail, nobody can focus that close unless they are both very nearsighted and not wearing glasses or contacts (at which point the screen would be a total blur), unless they are doing some weird projection somehow

were those type 1 or type 2 glasses or both?

alpinedownhiller on February 17, 2017 at 7:46 pm

@CHH32 “besides the blue lights on the floor, I don’t know if anyone has noticed, they also left a row of the ceiling lights on after the movie started(Not sure if they are lights or holes). They are straightly above the EXIT signs near the two entrances. You could see them when you look up or look at the walls above the EXIT signs, especially during the dark scenes”

I didn’t quite notice that or at least not note it to remember, but maybe it explains while the blacks, while pretty excellent compared to what you see anywhere today, still didn’t strike as quite the perfection they were in Reading with their Laser system run in a virtually pitch black theater.

alpinedownhiller on February 17, 2017 at 7:53 pm

As far as I was concerned everything about the Reading Laser IMAX theater is perfection other than for the sound being way too loud (incredible quality just way insanely too loud, for sure these volumes will lead to permanent hearing damage if you see movies at any remote regularity without heavy duty ear plugs (at which point you lose all the amazing quality of the speakers) and I’m not really crazy about the butt kickers in the seats, maybe adds to it at times sure, but can also be uncomfortable too and rattle your head and neck and sometimes a little distracting, depending.

(this install also as the same insane volume levels of course, most theaters today do with IMAX ones though always guaranteed to always be uncomfortable and ear damaging and even louder than 85% or more of other super loud theaters; people have used sound meters and found peaks at least 117dB and sustained levels of 100dB and some movies at the louder theaters these days AVERAGING 95dB over two hours, I think someone found a showing that averaged 100dB for like 1hr45m)

vertigoman on February 18, 2017 at 8:21 pm

alpinedownhiller – re: your question “hmm that’s weird, you mean as sort of a general reflected blur or sharp details”

It’s hard to describe – it’s more of a reflected blur, it’s one of those things where if the movie has a very bright scene, like a daytime exterior, it’s not really noticeable, but in any darkly lit scenes, I can start seeing a little bit of my eye and the area around it reflecting back, as if there was a halfway transparent mirror between me in the screen. It’s a hard effect to describe, but I gather that IMAX is aware of it because the CQO instantly understood what I was talking about when I brought it up.

The glasses were the special versions of the Dolby 3D-type glasses with IMAX branding on them, that have larger lenses than the standard Dolby 3D glasses. There wasn’t a designation on them of “type 1” or “type 2” so I’m afraid I can’t offer more detail on that.

I think this problem is due to IMAX choosing to use the Dolby 3D system with their laser install, rather than continuing to use the polarized system that the previous IMAX projectors (both 15/70 film and xenon-lit DLP) had attached. These Dolby lenses are far more reflective than the polarized lenses ever were, and I think the more inherently reflective nature of these lenses, combined with all of the stray light spilling into the auditorium, can make for some problematic presentations.

Because this theater now charges $26.29 for a ticket, I’m having to consider whether its worth having a compromised experience for such a high price. Yes, it is the biggest screen in the area, but if the image doesn’t look good, is it worth that price?

alpinedownhiller on February 19, 2017 at 3:12 pm

With properly made glasses though the laser system can allow for much better 3D with ZERO ghosting. Believe me the Reading install with the type 1 glasses was beyond phenomemonal 3D, miles better than all that polarized stuff. Miles better.

I don’t trust this theater for their type 2 glasses where the right lens doesn’t filter out the left eye signal well, only in a thin band in the middle of the right lenses. Ridiculous.

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