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  1. #1
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Favorite Movie Theaters

    As suggested by topspeed on the Episode III discussion, here's a thread for everyone to list out their favorite movie theaters and tell us what you like about them. I refrain from saying that any theater is the "best" because I've not visited a lot of theaters outside of California. In general, I tend to prefer old single screen theaters that have been appointed with more modern projection and sound equipment, but outside of L.A., I've found that to be an unfortunately rare combination. So, anyway here's my list of personal favorites.

    S.F. Bay Area
    Castro Theatre, San Francisco - Probably the grandest single screen theater left in San Francisco. S.F. has lost 30 neighborhood theaters (most of them single screen) since 1980, and this is the only one that I see with a certain future. Most of my other favorite theaters in the city like the Coronet, Alhambra, and North Point have sadly shut down the last few years, as megaplexes have moved in.

    The Castro itself has very ornate architecture, huge auditorium with a balcony, and generally receptive and knowledgeable audiences. Plus, the theater has a restored Wurlitzer pipe organ that plays before the movies begin -- worth the price of admission by itself. The theater program is a combination of revival, film festivals, first run art house fare, and offbeat stuff -- all of it scheduled on a printed three-month calendar. Drawbacks are bad acoustics and a sound system installed with a huge space behind the screen that creates plenty of echo. Very difficult to follow non-subtitled movies because the dialog is so unintelligible.

    Grand Lake, Oakland - Another old single screen theater that has a loyal enough audience to keep going for at least a little while. To stay viable, the theater's balcony section was converted into a second auditorium, and two smaller auditoriums were added along the side. This theater plays first run features with occasional revival festivals, and has a Wurlitzer pipe organ that plays on weekends, but it also has sound problems. Terrence has worked on this theater and said that the acoustics are to blame because the sound now bounces off of the wall that was constructed when they converted the upper balcony into another auditorium.

    Jack London Theaters, Oakland - generic multiplex, but it uses European high back seats and has a conventional seating configuration to go with a THX certified sound systems. Other newer megaplexes in the area also have THX auditoriums, but the steep stadium seating configuration detracts from the surround effect IMO.

    Century 21, San Jose - Classic wood frame dome built in 1964 with amphitheater-style seating for 800 and a deeply curved Cinerama screen. Served as the prototype for a string of dome-style theaters that Century built across California -- most of which have since been demolished. Decent sound system with weird acoustics. Big screen, but the curved Cinerama screen was replaced by a more conventional flat screen during a renovation, which has its tradeoffs.

    Los Angeles area theaters
    Mann Village, Westwood Village - My personal favorite. No matter how many other theaters I've tried, this seems to always be the one that I go back to. Best combination of grand architecture and state-of-the-art presentation. 1,400 seat auditorium with a balcony, 60'+ wide screen, and one of the first THX installations back when the certification meant something. The management was so proud of the sound system that they used to have lighted sign in the lobby that listed out all of the equipment that they used in their monstrous creation! Projection quality is consistently outstanding (I've read that the Village uses a real silver screen), and bass is powerful and deep without sounding strained like it does at a lot of multiplexes. (The subwoofer uses a custom enclosure that required ripping out the front three seating rows to install) No coincidence that this is where studios frequently have their premieres and screenings.

    Crest Theater, Westwood Village - Westwood is full of top notch single screen theaters that would be star attractions in most towns. The Mann Bruin and Mann National are larger more celebrated theaters, but this single screen gem has more of small town feel, albeit with top notch presentation quality. 600 seat auditorium with fluorescent murals celebrating old Hollywood that glow like neon signs when the lights go down, and classic streamline moderne architectural details. A local movie buff bought this theater when the Pacific Theater chain abandoned it a few years ago. This is one of the few independently owned theaters left in Southern California, and one of only two independent single screen theaters I know of that offer both distinctive buildings and good presentation (the Vista in Los Feliz Village is the other).

    Grauman's Chinese, Hollywood - The most famous theater around, with grandly ornate surroundings, huge 1,100 seat auditorium, 60' wide screen, and very good presentation quality. Despite recent upgrades and renovations, I still think that the Mann Village still has better presentation quality. But, this is THE Chinese Theater!

    Cinerama Dome/Arclight Theaters, Hollywood - Classic dome architecture with the huge curved Cinerama screen. Recent renovations upgraded the sound system, made huge improvements to the acoustics, and added two additional projection booths that now allow the Dome to show three-strip Cinerama movies. Seeing an action pic on a Cinerama screen can give a sensation of motion if you're seated in the middle of the row. The renovation also added a 12-screen multiplex next door along with a new lobby area that has bar service. The multiplex hosts frequent seminars and retrospectives, and the auditoriums are setup like screening rooms with a reputation for outstanding sound and projection quality. The service at this theater is the best I've ever seen and all seating is reserved, but the ticket prices are also the highest I've paid. One side benefit to this though is that the audiences tend to be more serious moviegoers (i.e. no cell phones going of, no audience chatter, fewer rude teenagers, etc.).

    Silent Movie Theatre, Hollywood - Very unique theater in that it predominantly shows silent movies. But, it's also a nice small-scale theater in its own right. The site of an infamous murder a few years ago that killed the former owner. New owner bought the property and renovated the theater. Not sure how well the theater is doing because they only show movies on Monday nights now.

  2. #2
    Forum Regular anamorphic96's Avatar
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    Favorite and Worst Movie Theatres

    Thought I would add my worst theatres as well.


    Metro Theatre - San Francisco

    Since the remodel in 1998 this is one of my favorite places in the city to watch a film. The acoustics where improved using whisper walls down the center of the ceiling with treatments up in the back walls and corners. Also the left and right walls near the screen where treated as well as baffles attached to the screen channels. This theatre is capable of playing all current sound formats. There are a few issues though. The surrounds dont have the impact I would like them to have due to there small size and the sub bass could be a little tighter.

    AMC 1000 Van Ness - San Francisco

    This theatre is a bit spread out with 3 different floors but is kept clean and offers consistent presentation quality. Images are focused and bright with nicely cut aperture plates and respectable well balanced sound.

    Landmark Theatres - Embarcadero Center Cinema

    Clean well run theatre with consistent presentations. On par with the AMC 100 Van Ness. This theatre specializes in art and indy product with some of the smarter Hollywood films playing here as well.

    Landmark Theatres - Opera Plaza

    A unique 4 screen theatre with 2 of the houses being 35 seat screening rooms. Its has a nice intimate charm that I enjoy. The sound is fair and the picture quality is quite good due to the tiny screens and the image not being pulled apart.

    AMC Bay Street - Emeryville Ca.

    Nice new AMC complex with much improved sound and larger screens compared to the Van Ness location.

    Worst Theatres -

    Berkley 7 - Berkley Ca.

    Where do I begin. Half assed sound sytems with dim pictures and each theatre having its own unique smell. I hate this place.

    Jack London Cinema 9 -

    Nice sound systems but the images are always out of focus and poorly aligned with the screen.(Fuzzy edges or image bleed). Poorly focused and uneven light. Its a crap shoot if the film plays in digital sound or not. To be fair though I have heard things are a bit better with the digital sound now that they have new ownership. But are no longer THX certified.

    Presidio Theatre - San Francsico

    This used to be a text book example of film done right. The manager was anal as all hell about his presentations and it truly showed. Pristine clarity and perfectly even light and perfectly cut aperture plates. The sound system was quite good but had a few issues in the surround chains and acoustics. But nothing horrible.

    Now that the place was sold. The owners of the 4 Star theatre have come in and chopped it all up into 4 screens and made the big house into an odd L shape. The screen is the same but the image is now dim and cloudy looking. The other three houses are normal shape if a bit small. The projection quality here is a joke. Badly focused uneven light and pictures that have bad jump and weave. And to top everything off they chose some horrible blue and pink to paint the interior. What a shame.

  3. #3
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    I'll add The Fremont in San Luis Obispo. A beautiful theatre with a retro-cool Art Deco motif both inside and out. The single screen interior is replete with an indirect black light ceiling detail in the shape of paisley curvers. Terrific sound and picture quality. Very likely the best screen on the Central Coast of California.

  4. #4
    Kam
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    nyc theaters

    Ziegfield - yeah it gets a lot of press, but it sure is a nice theater. from when you walk up the escalaters and enter the house, it feels like a nice, old school place, with all the drapes, decor, and single screen, it's a nice place to watch a flick.

    The Angelica - same category as ziegfield for its nostlagia and history, but not as good as the ziegfield as far as screen and sound goes.

    Loews Lincoln Square (theater 1) - all the others in here are pretty lame, but the main theater, with the balcony seating and egyptian-esque style decor is really cool. yeah its all cheesy and fake looking, but its better than a plain wall. always nice to have a sweet environment to watch a movie in. although the non-stadium seating sucks, if you get to the balcony, you're good to go.

    Loews Lincoln Square (imax screen) - kicks ass, as has been discussed in the ep3 thread. but for the two movies i have seen here (Polar Express 3D and Spidey2) the aspect ratio was kept, with the top and bottom of the screen blackened out to preserve the 2.25:1 (or whichever the exact ratio was). both looked and sounded unbelievable. june 15th, batman begins in imax, am SO there.

    AMC25 - this gets a best and worst theater vote. the worst crowds ever to watch a movie with, dont even bother going there on a weekend. but on a weekday... when you can have the theater, let alone the entire building, to yourself, it is a joy. great stadium seats, some giant screens, nice sound, and all the movies you can watch. My greatest headache and pain inducer was watching Finding Nemo, The Hulk, and Matrix Reloaded all in one day. So good, yet so painful. also with the 25 screens, they actually carry some of the smaller movies, which is good since the closing of some smaller arthouse theaters.


    Kip's Bay: if you get into the DLP screen or the main screen, again, huge screen and stadium seating, and clean theater. saw Sin City at this one and loved it, but also was a weekday, so didnt have to deal with a bad crowd, which can really ruin a movie experience, for me at least. but i'm a picky bastiche when i go see a movie, it's like going to church for me.

    Loews Village Cinemas: not really any good, but first place anything of mine played at, so has a place in my heart.

    peace
    k2
    /create

  5. #5
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kam
    Ziegfield - yeah it gets a lot of press, but it sure is a nice theater. from when you walk up the escalaters and enter the house, it feels like a nice, old school place, with all the drapes, decor, and single screen, it's a nice place to watch a flick.
    How does the Ziegfield compare to the Astor Plaza? I read that the Astor closed last year, and at that time it was the largest remaining single screen theater in New York. Never got a chance to take in a movie the couple of times I've visited Manhattan, but I'd always read that the Ziegfield was the one to check out over there. The Ziegfield gets a LOT of press, and I'm always wary of the overhype that accompanies a lot of things out of New York, but it's good to hear that this particular theater lives up to its billing. From the outside, it looks like more of a modernist design than one of the more ornate designs from the 20s and 30s -- similar to the Mann National and the (now demolished) Century Plaza theaters in L.A.

  6. #6
    Kam
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woochifer
    How does the Ziegfield compare to the Astor Plaza? I read that the Astor closed last year, and at that time it was the largest remaining single screen theater in New York. Never got a chance to take in a movie the couple of times I've visited Manhattan, but I'd always read that the Ziegfield was the one to check out over there. The Ziegfield gets a LOT of press, and I'm always wary of the overhype that accompanies a lot of things out of New York, but it's good to hear that this particular theater lives up to its billing. From the outside, it looks like more of a modernist design than one of the more ornate designs from the 20s and 30s -- similar to the Mann National and the (now demolished) Century Plaza theaters in L.A.
    the astor plaza was nice as well, the screen was gigantic, had the curved aspect to it, but unfortunately no stadium seating. the sound was phenomenal as well. the last movie i saw there was Crouching Tiger and was a LOT of fun. unfortunately, it was in times square, so fell under the same auspice as the AMC25, with the worst crowds ever, but that was only on the weekends. but, even without stadium seating, it also had a balcony (if memory serves me correctly) and the floor was incredibly spread out, but not so much that the wings had a bad angle to the screen. now they have a loews in the virgin megastore where they have second run movies and indie stuff for $5. i guess the astor plaza couldnt compete with the sister loews right next door, which itself competes with the AMC25, directly across the street!
    /create

  7. #7
    M.P.S.E /AES/SMPTE member Sir Terrence the Terrible's Avatar
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    Wooch, Mr. Squeeze, thoroughly enjoyed both of your observations. Its nice to hear the opinions of the local crew. I am going to include not only movie theaters, but some great sounding dubbing stages as well.

    Boston AMC Framingham 16.

    This theater is my favorite theater to visit when I am in Boston. I will go out of my way just to see any movie played in this theater, especially No.6 theater which is the houses reference theater. No.6 theater has the finest amps ever used in a movie theater, has the all seats hear stereo technology which allows you to sit outside the sweet spot and still hear full stereo surround. It features the most efficient loudspeaker ever created for theater sound(one watt equals 109dbs from 1 meter), the only fully horn loaded loudspeaker(HPS 4000 XL system) with fully horn loaded bass bins(just needs two to be as powerful as 6 THX certified subs with same power). All HPS system regardless of size(there is three packages for different size theaters) utilize the Allen Array system which caluculates exactly where the surrounds are to be placed so they literally disappear even if you sit directly under a speaker. All theaters in this complex have way above average film presentation, and there are also three THX certified theaters that while above average for a THX theater(in terms of sound) don't sound nearly as good as the houses with the HPS system. I have been in each one of the houses, and have never seen a out of focus film presentation, or a miscalibrated sound system.

    This theater sponsored Industry sponsored shoot out between the HPS system, and the best tuned THX system. . There was no question in my mind they HPS system sounded much more dynamic(the transition between soft and VERY loud and back to soft was exemplary), had deeper cleaner bass, and great imaging(something that is very difficult for a theater system to do), and a far more enveloping surround array than the THX setup

    The Grand Lake Theater in Oakland Ca.

    This theater is known for a meticulous film presentation, and is a very special theater to me. This is the last and only theater in the area with character and charm as it is decorated in a egyption/M. Unfortunately the largest house was cut up in two, and that presented the largest house with some serious bounce back reflection problems. They have tried to attack the problem with the installation of a sound obsorbing compound placed on the wall. It helped a little as the problem is not nearly as bad as it was, but not perfect. I also supervised a B chain upgrade for this theater when Jurassic Park was released back in 1993. We installed about 6 more surrounds than they previously had to get a more even coverage in this large auditorium . The speaker system is a JBL/QSC based system that has great bass(two 18" JBL subs) but rather muffled in the highs, with limited to non existant imaging amoungst the screen channels(this is due to screen spread in the highs, a limitation of the older high frequency horn section). IMO the screen size is too small for this size auditorium, and prevents speaker imaging to all but those who sit in the very center of the theater, and no more than 2/3 of the way back.

    The Cinerama dome and Arclight theater complex in Los Angeles

    Outside of the Framingham theaters, this theater is one of the finest I have ever been in, especially the Dome after referbishment(it wasn't that bad before being refurbished)
    The Arclight theaters were designed with the partnership of THX to exceed even THX standards. The visual and sound from all the Arclight houses is the best that I have seen from any THX installation(including Framinghams THX theaters)
    The Dome is one of my most favorites theaters to visit. I remember attending the premiere of the first movie utilizing the CDS system Dick Tracy. I thought the sound was astonishing compared to even Dolby 6 track stereo format II. The defining moment for this format has to have been Terminator 2. The CDS soundtrack of that movie as played through the Cinerama Dome audio system was breath taking with deep bass coming from all directions with power and impact, and VERY clean mids and highs.
    After refurbishment the Dome has the same custom made sound system that you can find in the Academy of Motion Pictures reference theater.

    The Cary Grant Theater(dubbing stage) Sony Pictures lot Culver City.

    This soundstage was built in 1929 and back then regarded as the best sounding dubbing stage in the world. The acoustics in the room were perfect from day one. The remodel in 1992 updated and perfected the art deco motif, along with installing a 200 channel harrison mixer as part of a 10 year upgrade plan. I have worked on 3 movies using that soundstage and the acoustics are about as good as it gets. It is also one of the most comfortable places I have ever worked.

    Skywalker Stag theater

    In terms of technology implementation and integration, the dubbing stage is the grand-daddy of all dubbing stages. If there is any new sound technology out there, you can find it in this studio. With a quick removal of the mixer, this dubbing stage because a state of the art theater. It feature JBL's state of the art four way screen speakers(took JBL long enough HPS had four way screen speakers twenty years ago!) and also has subs on every channel, and 4 for the LFE. This is the THX laboratory, and it sounds like it too.

    Kim Novak and William Holden dubbing stages Sony Pictures Culver city

    Both of these dubbing stages are pretty much Identical except one is done in red, the other in blue. Both are breathtakingly beautiful for dubbing stages, and look better than 95% of the professional theater I have been in. Both are state of the art digital stages with a skydome that uses the sun to backlight a beautifully crafted sky and cloud background design in the dome

    Here is the link that features all three dubbing stages on Sony's lot

    http://www.sonypictures.com/studio/postprod/feat.htm

    Honorable mentions

    The Lorraine Theater in Hoopersville IlL
    Sony's IMAX in the Metreon(aewsome sound system tuning going on there)
    The Art theater in Champaign ILL
    The Kahala theater in Honolulu Hawii
    http://www.hps4000.com/pages/pix/kahala.jpg
    The Ward 16 theater 7
    http://www.hps4000.com/pages/pix/ward.jpg
    The New AMC 16 in Emeryville Ca. Huge screens great sound.
    Sir Terrence

    Titan Reference 3D 1080p projector
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    9 Onkyo M-508 power amp
    6 custom CAL amps for subs
    3 custom 3 way horn DSP hybrid monitors
    18 custom 3 way horn DSP hybrid surround/ceiling speakers
    2 custom 15" sealed FFEC servo subs
    4 custom 15" H-PAS FFEC servo subs
    THX Style Baffle wall

  8. #8
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    T and Anamorphic -

    Interesting that both of you liked the AMC Bay Street theater. Looks like I'll have to try it out. I've yet to go there because of the generally unimpressive sound I've had at most of the AMC theaters I've visited. (On average, the picture quality at the AMCs is a little better than what you typically get at the Century megaplexes, but the sound quality is a huge step down)

    Locally, the AMC Mercado in Santa Clara for a while was the highest grossing theater in the country (since then, The Grove in Los Angeles has vaulted to the top of the list), but for the life of me, I could not understand the appeal of that place besides its central location. The surround sound was horribly balanced, and the theater had dialog intelligibility issues and not a lot of impact, and the picture was out of focus both times I went there. Other AMC theaters have had similar issues with the dialog intelligibility. Terrence did once point out that a lot of the AMCs used composite screens that were not as acoustically tranparent as other designs. The only AMC theater that I've liked is the big auditorium at the Kabuki, which was one of the first THX installations in S.F. (sound quality I thought was on par with the underappreciated Galaxy on Van Ness, which unfortunately has been maintained horribly since it opened to much fanfare in the mid-80s as San Francisco's first truly modern movie theater).

    I went to a test screening at one of Sony Pictures' dubbing stages several years ago. (I remember passing through an art deco looking hallway with several trophy cases in the walls, so I'm not sure which one it was) It was decorated in basic black, and I saw a mixing console in the middle of the auditorium. The movie being tested was some horrible Richard Gere flick. It didn't even get released until two years after I first saw it (and judging from the reviews I read, it had major reshooting and editing done -- to no avail, it flopped anyway). But, I did remember how great the picture sounded, and this was a rough cut without the final sound mix and music. Dialog intelligibility was as good as I've heard, the surround imaging was strong, and the subs had good impact without sounding strained.

    P.S. Terrence - I just followed your link. It looks like that test screening was at the Cary Grant theater, although I remember the decor looking much starker than what's in the picture. Looking at the specs at that theater, I guess there was a reason why that crappy movie sounded as good as it did!

  9. #9
    Forum Regular anamorphic96's Avatar
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    I agree with you about AMC. Sometimes the sound is great such as Bay Street 16, and sometimes only respectable at other locations. Even downright bad . For example house #6 at the Van Ness 14 uses a Taurus screen which curves the screen from the top and sides to improve brightness and light efficiency. However its not as transparent as most screens therefore they installed the horns above the screen and shoot them down and out towards the audience. This makes makes dialog hard to follow and the sound somewhat weak with poor dynamics and integration with the bass bins. I think they used to use this at other theatres with traditional screens and passed it off as something called HITS. High Impact Theatre System or Sound. It seems they have gotten away from this idea and moved on to more traditional installs. This could also explain some of the sub standard sound you are hearing.

    On the whole AMC seems to put the most into there booths compared to some of the other chains. However the # 1 problem contributing to bad presentations are the operators not being trained properly. Its a shame the theatre companies dont take this position more seriously and pay the operators better. There are exceptions to this rule. Some of the larger complexes have qualified people that get a repectable wage and some locations still have union operators. But even union houes can suck.
    Last edited by anamorphic96; 05-09-2005 at 11:22 PM.

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    Forum Regular anamorphic96's Avatar
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    Sir Terrence,

    No.6 theater has the finest amps ever used in a movie theater.

    Could you elaborate a bit more. Im a big QSC fan for movie theatre installs.

    Some other questions. Who is making four way stage systems. JBL as far as I can tell does not. They inroduced some three way systems a while back but I have not seen four way systems. The Metreon here in SF uses the EV Variplex three ways which are impressive. Who is your pick for theatre speakers.

    Thanks,
    Mr. Squeeze

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    Leister Square, London

    I lived in England for 9 years and while I lived 200 miles north in Leeds, everytime I would venture to London I'd make sure I'd visit the Leister Square Theatre. I saw the Master and Commander and Kill Bill there and it blew me away.

    That theatre is the best combination of old school charm (HUGE screen, balcony, soft cushy seats) and new school technology(incredible sound, digital, THX, etc).

    The only problem is that when their having hi profile releases that's always the theatre
    they the do the big "hot-list" premier parties at. I believe that's also where their doing the 12 hour Star Wars Marathon at next week as well...

    Heaven for the sci-fi geeks!

  12. #12
    BooBs are elitist jerks shokhead's Avatar
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    Pacific Theaters in Lakewood Mall.
    Look & Listen

  13. #13
    Kam
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Terrence the Terrible

    Skywalker Stag theater

    In terms of technology implementation and integration, the dubbing stage is the grand-daddy of all dubbing stages. If there is any new sound technology out there, you can find it in this studio. With a quick removal of the mixer, this dubbing stage because a state of the art theater. It feature JBL's state of the art four way screen speakers(took JBL long enough HPS had four way screen speakers twenty years ago!) and also has subs on every channel, and 4 for the LFE. This is the THX laboratory, and it sounds like it too.
    hey tt,
    have you had a chance to work/play at skywalker ranch? i heard from a long, long ago, talking to a friend of a friend, who had been on some tour of the place, watcher True Lies and Jurassic Park at Stag, and said even after having seen both numerous times, it was like listening to them for the first time. Said the jungle scenes in jurassic were the most enveloped soundstage he'd heard, and the bass was incredible and incredibly audible, not the least bit loose at all. he said in the explosions (true lies) the bass would emanate in waves to match the explosion on the screen. and as he said; 'best ever movie watching and listening experience ever'

    am awaiting my invite from lucas... what the heck is taking him so long???
    /create

  14. #14
    Sgt. At Arms Worf101's Avatar
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    Red face I've only a couple.....

    Being here in 'da sticks" I've only a couple to recommend... and for purely personal reasons...

    1. The Spectrum Threatre - Albany, NY - Converted late 50's movie house in semi-urban setting. It has permutated from single hall to multiplex thru artful expansion and tasteful rennovation. They play mostly "art" films and are as far from a "mall" experience as you can get. After viewing "Gangs of New York" there I told the owners (all of whom I've a strong personal relationship with) that experience was lacking as the room I was in had no DD or DTS. A month later every theatre was set up right and calibrated. It's the only movies theatre I've eve been in where the popcorn is made fresh with REAL, CREAMY, HEART STOPPN' BUTTER!!!! That alone is worth the price of admission not to mention the cute college kids workin dere, and the cheese cake and the lack of mall rats.

    2. Proctor Theatre - Schenectady, NY - An old "movie palace" from the golden age. Rennovated and restored to gilt edged, gold laced magnificence and used for everything from stage plays to second run films. All this and a pipe organ from god...

    Da Worfster

  15. #15
    M.P.S.E /AES/SMPTE member Sir Terrence the Terrible's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by anamorphic96
    Sir Terrence,

    No.6 theater has the finest amps ever used in a movie theater.

    Could you elaborate a bit more. Im a big QSC fan for movie theatre installs.

    Some other questions. Who is making four way stage systems. JBL as far as I can tell does not. They inroduced some three way systems a while back but I have not seen four way systems. The Metreon here in SF uses the EV Variplex three ways which are impressive. Who is your pick for theatre speakers.

    Thanks,
    Mr. Squeeze
    Anamorphic,
    The HPS systems installed now days used BGW amps. These amps sound like high end audio amps on steroids, unlike any professional installation amp I have ever heard. John Allen the designer of the HPS speaker system hipped me to these amps when he was just in the testing phase for implementation in his system. This amp is specially designed for the HPS system and is not sold seperately. When I upgrade a theater, I go through John to get my hands on this amp. While BGW does have a line of amps for professional installation, these are not amoung them.

    Right now HPS is the only marketed 4 way theater loudspeaker system. However a 4 way system can be assembled using JBL 5674 screen speakers coupled with a 4641 subwoofer. I worked on a install at Universal that had a setup like this, except they used Bag End subs on each screen channel, and 4 Bag ends for the LFE.

    As far as my recommendation for theater speakers, I am definately in the HPS camp, but its tough to compete against EV and JBL's marketing machine. HPS loudspeakers are by far the best sounding and economical speakers on the market. One of the subs equals three JBL 4641 subs. Their screen speakers are more efficient, better built, and have about 60% more radiating area the both EV and JBL's largest screen speakers.
    Sir Terrence

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    9 Onkyo M-510 power amp
    9 Onkyo M-508 power amp
    6 custom CAL amps for subs
    3 custom 3 way horn DSP hybrid monitors
    18 custom 3 way horn DSP hybrid surround/ceiling speakers
    2 custom 15" sealed FFEC servo subs
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  16. #16
    Forum Regular anamorphic96's Avatar
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    Interesting. I see whatt youre saying about adding a sub to each screen channel. I was thinking in a more traditional sense.

    I have not heard the HPS system yet so I cant give any input as to the sound. Im definiteley fascinated. However some of the engineers I have spoken with that have heard the system think its nothing special and John Allen is a bit of a quack. However I have noticed that alot of these engineers are not very open minded.

    From what I recollect there use to be some HPS houses in the LA area. But I cant seem to locate these locations. My question is if these systems are so great why dont the studios employ his systems at special venues out on the west coast. I only seem to hear about the east coast locations. Is the cost prohibitive to most companies ? What is the current rate at which he installs these systems ? If the system is so great it just seems like there would be more locations equipped. But I would have to think some of this is politics.

  17. #17
    M.P.S.E /AES/SMPTE member Sir Terrence the Terrible's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by anamorphic96
    Interesting. I see whatt youre saying about adding a sub to each screen channel. I was thinking in a more traditional sense.
    Alot of installs done these days are far from traditional. With sound having a major emphasis in movies, stadium seating, and a theaters owners desire for high quality sound, we have had to be a little more inventive and resourceful.

    I have not heard the HPS system yet so I cant give any input as to the sound. Im definiteley fascinated. However some of the engineers I have spoken with that have heard the system think its nothing special and John Allen is a bit of a quack. However I have noticed that alot of these engineers are not very open minded.
    Alot of narrow minded industry "traditionalist" think John Allen is a quack because of his non industry approach to theater tuning, and system design. Raher than just go by the industry standard, John has taken the time to actually test the standards, see their weaknesses, and then come up with some other approaches that work better. The industry is full of non inventive, business as usual types who think their is only one way to crack a problem. Whether you look at HPS system on paper(technical merit) or by ear, their system sounds more natural, has lower distortion, greater total output, the ability to move more air, is less costly, requires less acoustical treatment, and reveals more detail than any EV or JBL based system I have ever heard. He proved without a doubt in a 1995 industry sponsored shootout with his system against a finely tuned THX system based around JBL components, that his system, and method of tuning was superior to the industry standard. He really created a buzz amoung the 300 people that attended this shootout, as there was no doubt that he was really on to something with his approach. I walked away from the shootout so convinced that he was taking the right approach that I asked him to school me. Been doing it his way on his systems every since. I follow industry standards with JBL, EV and Smart systems, and follow Johns way on HPS systems.

    From what I recollect there use to be some HPS houses in the LA area. But I cant seem to locate these locations
    The houses you refer to were in the Century Plaza theater that has since been torn down.

    . My question is if these systems are so great why dont the studios employ his systems at special venues out on the west coast.
    First Johns business is way smaller than EV, Smart, JBL, Dolby, and most other theater suppliers. He is essentially the business along with a few specially trained freelance people. Second, he doesn't have the marketing budget that the other companies do.

    Showscan theaters(now defunct) used his system, but the west coast is THX territory.


    I only seem to hear about the east coast locations. Is the cost prohibitive to most companies ? What is the current rate at which he installs these systems ? If the system is so great it just seems like there would be more locations equipped. But I would have to think some of this is politics.
    Actually his system is cheaper to install than a THX system. His system requires less acoustical treatment, doesn't need to be biamped, is designed specifically for behind the screen installs, so it doesn't have the screen spread or roll off characteristic of a THX system, requires less eq, fewer subs per acoustical output, has lower distortions, and a flatter response than a THX system. Because you need fewer amps, fewer subs, and less acoustical treatment, the overall cost is a bit lower. The main problem for HPS IMO stems from the fact that they have no infrastructure. John is the main man, and he only hires what he needs instead of keeping a staff of technicians. Would you install a system that only has 10 technicians all over the country, or a system that can be serviced by hundreds? That is the question that most theater owners must ask themselves.

    You are right, politics(and the ole buddy network) place a HUGE role in this. Remember Dolby, JBL, and THX have had an extremely close relationship since 1983 when the THX standards were established. In the begining of THX, only JBL components along with Dolby liscensed products were certified. It has only been in the last 10 years that EV, Smart, and other manufacturers of theater A and B chain products have been able to submit product for certification. THX claims that only direct radiating bass units can acheive their rated specs for certification.
    Sir Terrence

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  18. #18
    Forum Regular anamorphic96's Avatar
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    Must be truly frustrating to have this kind of mentality when you see current standards being exceeded by a cheaper superior system. They probably just dont want to admit there wrong and need to update standards.

    My theatre has four medium houses that run a typical 3 amp configuration. (QSC 1400's) With two JBL subs being driven off one channel of a 1400. I have blown 6 drivers because of this and the technician refuses to see the glaring issue. The subs need more power. The ironic thing is I have about 6 perfectly good amps sitting in a parts room that could solve this problem. I also have all the crossovers needed to bi amp these houses as well. But the mentality is the customers can't here the difference. The other frustrating part is the company has gotten away from using JBL replacements and throwing in some no name sub driver. Truly very frustrating.

    I also see your point in regards to the number of technicians qualified to service an HPS location. Makes perfect sense.

    Thanks for the input.

  19. #19
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    favorite theater

    Quote Originally Posted by Woochifer
    As suggested by topspeed on the Episode III discussion, here's a thread for everyone to list out their favorite movie theaters and tell us what you like about them. I refrain from saying that any theater is the "best" because I've not visited a lot of theaters outside of California. In general, I tend to prefer old single screen theaters that have been appointed with more modern projection and sound equipment, but outside of L.A., I've found that to be an unfortunately rare combination. So, anyway here's my list of personal favorites.

    S.F. Bay Area
    Castro Theatre, San Francisco - Probably the grandest single screen theater left in San Francisco. S.F. has lost 30 neighborhood theaters (most of them single screen) since 1980, and this is the only one that I see with a certain future. Most of my other favorite theaters in the city like the Coronet, Alhambra, and North Point have sadly shut down the last few years, as megaplexes have moved in.

    The Castro itself has very ornate architecture, huge auditorium with a balcony, and generally receptive and knowledgeable audiences. Plus, the theater has a restored Wurlitzer pipe organ that plays before the movies begin -- worth the price of admission by itself. The theater program is a combination of revival, film festivals, first run art house fare, and offbeat stuff -- all of it scheduled on a printed three-month calendar. Drawbacks are bad acoustics and a sound system installed with a huge space behind the screen that creates plenty of echo. Very difficult to follow non-subtitled movies because the dialog is so unintelligible.

    Grand Lake, Oakland - Another old single screen theater that has a loyal enough audience to keep going for at least a little while. To stay viable, the theater's balcony section was converted into a second auditorium, and two smaller auditoriums were added along the side. This theater plays first run features with occasional revival festivals, and has a Wurlitzer pipe organ that plays on weekends, but it also has sound problems. Terrence has worked on this theater and said that the acoustics are to blame because the sound now bounces off of the wall that was constructed when they converted the upper balcony into another auditorium.

    Jack London Theaters, Oakland - generic multiplex, but it uses European high back seats and has a conventional seating configuration to go with a THX certified sound systems. Other newer megaplexes in the area also have THX auditoriums, but the steep stadium seating configuration detracts from the surround effect IMO.

    Century 21, San Jose - Classic wood frame dome built in 1964 with amphitheater-style seating for 800 and a deeply curved Cinerama screen. Served as the prototype for a string of dome-style theaters that Century built across California -- most of which have since been demolished. Decent sound system with weird acoustics. Big screen, but the curved Cinerama screen was replaced by a more conventional flat screen during a renovation, which has its tradeoffs.

    Los Angeles area theaters
    Mann Village, Westwood Village - My personal favorite. No matter how many other theaters I've tried, this seems to always be the one that I go back to. Best combination of grand architecture and state-of-the-art presentation. 1,400 seat auditorium with a balcony, 60'+ wide screen, and one of the first THX installations back when the certification meant something. The management was so proud of the sound system that they used to have lighted sign in the lobby that listed out all of the equipment that they used in their monstrous creation! Projection quality is consistently outstanding (I've read that the Village uses a real silver screen), and bass is powerful and deep without sounding strained like it does at a lot of multiplexes. (The subwoofer uses a custom enclosure that required ripping out the front three seating rows to install) No coincidence that this is where studios frequently have their premieres and screenings.

    Crest Theater, Westwood Village - Westwood is full of top notch single screen theaters that would be star attractions in most towns. The Mann Bruin and Mann National are larger more celebrated theaters, but this single screen gem has more of small town feel, albeit with top notch presentation quality. 600 seat auditorium with fluorescent murals celebrating old Hollywood that glow like neon signs when the lights go down, and classic streamline moderne architectural details. A local movie buff bought this theater when the Pacific Theater chain abandoned it a few years ago. This is one of the few independently owned theaters left in Southern California, and one of only two independent single screen theaters I know of that offer both distinctive buildings and good presentation (the Vista in Los Feliz Village is the other).

    Grauman's Chinese, Hollywood - The most famous theater around, with grandly ornate surroundings, huge 1,100 seat auditorium, 60' wide screen, and very good presentation quality. Despite recent upgrades and renovations, I still think that the Mann Village still has better presentation quality. But, this is THE Chinese Theater!

    Cinerama Dome/Arclight Theaters, Hollywood - Classic dome architecture with the huge curved Cinerama screen. Recent renovations upgraded the sound system, made huge improvements to the acoustics, and added two additional projection booths that now allow the Dome to show three-strip Cinerama movies. Seeing an action pic on a Cinerama screen can give a sensation of motion if you're seated in the middle of the row. The renovation also added a 12-screen multiplex next door along with a new lobby area that has bar service. The multiplex hosts frequent seminars and retrospectives, and the auditoriums are setup like screening rooms with a reputation for outstanding sound and projection quality. The service at this theater is the best I've ever seen and all seating is reserved, but the ticket prices are also the highest I've paid. One side benefit to this though is that the audiences tend to be more serious moviegoers (i.e. no cell phones going of, no audience chatter, fewer rude teenagers, etc.).

    Silent Movie Theatre, Hollywood - Very unique theater in that it predominantly shows silent movies. But, it's also a nice small-scale theater in its own right. The site of an infamous murder a few years ago that killed the former owner. New owner bought the property and renovated the theater. Not sure how well the theater is doing because they only show movies on Monday nights now.
    My favorite movie theater is the RAVE in fort wayne ind, 1st off i like the stadium seating and second it is LOUD

  20. #20
    Feel the Tempo eisforelectronic's Avatar
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    The Dole Cannery Signature theaters are not world class by any standard, but they are the only THX certified theaters in the state of Hawaii and therefore the only real choice available.
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  21. #21
    M.P.S.E /AES/SMPTE member Sir Terrence the Terrible's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eisforelectronic
    The Dole Cannery Signature theaters are not world class by any standard, but they are the only THX certified theaters in the state of Hawaii and therefore the only real choice available.
    Which island do you live on? Hawaii has the only HPS 4000 system in the Western area of the United States, who needs THX.?
    Sir Terrence

    Titan Reference 3D 1080p projector
    200" SI Black Diamond II screen
    Oppo BDP-103D
    Datastat RS20I audio/video processor 12.4 audio setup
    9 Onkyo M-5099 power amp
    9 Onkyo M-510 power amp
    9 Onkyo M-508 power amp
    6 custom CAL amps for subs
    3 custom 3 way horn DSP hybrid monitors
    18 custom 3 way horn DSP hybrid surround/ceiling speakers
    2 custom 15" sealed FFEC servo subs
    4 custom 15" H-PAS FFEC servo subs
    THX Style Baffle wall

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