It is always a pleasure, and more often a rarity, to walk into a clean movie theater. So, the new AMC Burbank 10 was ahead on points for a good review even before it opened its doors to business Friday afternoon.
There were other things to commend it, sight unseen. It had been announced as a 10-screen, 2,500-seat complex--roughly twice the seats in half the theaters as the Beverly Cineplex--with each auditorium equipped with Dolby sound systems and ceiling-mounted surround speakers.
The seat armrests were also to have cut-out beverage holders which, when you consider where most of us rest our drinks, would be both a convenience and preventive medicine.
Those benefits are all there and the Burbank 10, at 1st Street and Palm Avenue, instantly establishes itself as the biggest and best multiplex in Los Angeles County. It is also the only walk-in in Burbank, where many of its featured products are manufactured, and one can quickly come up with a list of reasons why it will dominate moviegoing in the east San Fernando Valley (at least until the $10-million, 5,000-seat complex under construction at Universal Studios opens next year):
--AMC, which introduced the cost-saving multiplex concept more than 20 years ago, has installed comfortable high-backed chairs in each theater and enough room for most people to cross their legs without rattling the teeth of the person sitting in front of them.
--Unlike the early multiplexes, which were made by putting up thin walls to create two or three rooms where there was one, the Burbank 10 theaters are separated by acoustically leak-proof walls.
--The smallest theaters have more than 200 seats and curved seamless screens that fill nearly the entire wall.
--There is a large lobby and an expansive, seemingly efficient con cession stand where prices (popcorn and drinks start from 95 cents) are bargains compared to the rates at the major theaters in Westwood and Hollywood.
--Each theater has ample wheelchair space behind the back row, center, and in the two large 480-seat auditoriums, wheelchair patrons can position themselves in the center of the back row and be next to the people who accompany them.
--There are color television monitors suspended from the ceiling in the lobby, which show trailers and movie videos to keep the people in the concession lines occupied.
That's most of the good news. The Burbank 10 is state-of-the-art multiplexing, efficiently set up and well-equipped. Parking is free and there is plenty of space. Tickets are $5.50 for adults for most shows and $2.95 for seniors (over 65) and children (under 12).
AMC is doing more than most chains to upgrade its old complexes and to look after the concerns of customers in the new ones. But the profit motive prompted the commission of some old sins that will quickly aggravate those patrons who fall victim to them.
As generous as AMC was in setting aside quality room for wheelchair customers, it couldn't resist installing seats that are either so close to the screen, or at such bad angles, that you risk a stiff neck to sit in them. If there have to be seats in those areas, they ought to be at bleacher prices.
Also, in all but the two large auditoriums, there is a single aisle running right down the middle, cutting a five-foot swath through the best sight line. It would have been just as simple to design the rooms with one large seating section with aisles on both sides, but that gesture would have meant fewer total seats.
Finally, the Burbank 10 is running slide advertisements for local merchants (as well as those familiar filmed commercials for The Times) before each show and that is the most bothersome trend in American exhibition. If theaters are going to bombard us with advertising, let's have a discount--a big one--at the box office.