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Facing Your Movie Complex : So Many Screens, So Many Choices

February 26, 1993|staff writers Michael Arkush, David Colker, James Fowler and David Wharton, and free-lance writer Maryann Hammers

Going to the movies isn't as simple as it used to be.

Theaters have multiplexed across the suburban horizon.

From Universal City to Lancaster, the night skies flicker with no less than 21 different complexes. Imagine dozens of Sylvester Stallones pulling the trigger all at once.

The result can be dizzying. Which theaters are cheapest? Which ones have THX sound? When are the matinees? So many choices.

But variety is not always the spice of life.

It's no secret that movie houses have lost their soul. No more stylish marquees or grand lobbies. No more panoramic screens. At least not around here.

Instead, modern theaters have transmuted to blend with their tract neighborhood. They stand boxy and stamp-cut with smallish rooms and smaller screens.

And this new breed seems to evolve exponentially. The Pacific 4 begets the Mann 8, which begets the Burbank 14, which begets the Universal City 18. The family resemblance is striking. Flat faces and pale color. The architecture of right angles.

So we ventured forth in search of glimmers, glimpses of originality. Or simply a way to discern one theater from another. The Movies 12 in Lancaster sells pickles for a dollar at the snack bar. The United Artists complex in Granada Hills plays old rock 'n roll tunes before each show.

We hoped for simple comforts and conveniences. Is the parking free? Is the popcorn fresh? Do the chairs have cup holders?

And we discovered more than a few pitfalls. The lobby at the General Cinema Corp. Northridge can turn as noisy and smoky as a high school playground on Friday nights. If you go to the women's room at the Century 7 in North Hollywood, it wouldn't be a bad idea to bring your own toilet paper.

No one promised it would be pretty. Consider this a basic guide to surviving Valley cinemas. Use at your own risk.

Charge It AMC: (310) 289-4AMC Cineplex Odeon: (213) 779-CINE General Cinema: (213) 480-3232 Mann: (310) 289-Mann Pacific: (213) 757-4-PAC

Prime Seats

General Cinema offers preferred seats at some showings for $1 extra. Ushers rope off the middle section of the theater for customers who order in advance over the telephone charge line. *THEATER / SCREENS: AMC Burbank 14 (14), 140 E. Palm Ave., (818) 953-9800 PRICE: $6.75 Adult; $3.50 Child;$3.50 Senior MATINEES: Daily $4.75 before 4 p.m.; $3.50 4-6 p.m. POPCORN: $2-$3.75 freshly popped SOFT DRINKS: $2-$3 CANDY: 75-$2 EXOTICA: Pizza, soft pretzel bits SOUND: All Dolby BEST: Nearby restaurants and night life. WORST: Long snack lines. *THEATER / SCREENS: AMC Media Center 4 (4), 201 E. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, (818) 953-9800 PRICE: $6.75 Adult; $3.50 Child; $3.50 Senior MATINEES: Daily: $4.75 before 4 p.m.; $3.50 4-6 p.m. POPCORN: 2-$3.75 freshly popped SOFT DRINKS: $2-$3 CANDY: 75-$2 EXOTICA: None SOUND: All Ultra BEST: Next door to IKEA WORST: Claustrophobic

Prime Seats

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