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Universal Complexities

July 18, 1987

I read with some amusement Carrie Yoshimura's glowing account of the grand opening of the new Universal City Cinemas complex, which read less like reportage and more like PR for Cineplex ("Audience Says 'Yes' to New Film Center," July 7).

Allow me to present an alternative view.

I arrived at Universal's old entrance on Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. for a 5:30 showing of "Spaceballs." To handle the late afternoon tour traffic, the traffic to the restaurants, the early arriving Universal Amphitheatre traffic and the traffic going to the 18 screens of the Cineplex complex . . . they had one man taking the $2 fee.

The complex reminds one of a busy airport terminal during Christmas vacation. My first reaction, after wandering around in it, was to ask, "What time does this movie get to Chicago?"

To enter it, you have to buy a ticket, and there were miscellaneous lines and ropes and lots and lots of young, untrained, unaggressive ushers in new uniforms standing idly by as people jumped lines and wandered aimlessly in and out of entry and exit doors. This staff of children was obviously untutored in the fact that ushers must exert some kind of authority. These kids just shrunk back and turned away.

The "cafes" advertised turned out to be snack bars with yogurt and espresso and a few tables and chairs. Hardly the image of a cafe that the advertising might imply.

The auditorium itself was comfortable, modern and well designed. . . . But worst of all, for 18 screens and who knows how many hundred seats, there are three restrooms of each gender in the whole complex.

The men's rooms featured five urinals and three toilets, one of these being a handicapped facility. Thus while several hundred patrons exit or enter the various screens, only 24 at a time can use the facilities for men, and the lines at both gender's conveniences were endless and frustrating for many.

If it sounds like I won't be back to the complex, you're right. Maybe there's a reason why nobody's ever built one this big before. Maybe it's because it doesn't work.


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