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ArcLight's little brother sets up shop in the Valley

December 20, 2007|Lisa Rosen

NEARLY six years ago, the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood established a coterie of devoted followers willing to pay a premium for reserved stadium seats, state-of-the-art theaters, an absence of commercials and such rules of etiquette as no late seating. Now that ethos has set up shop at the Sherman Oaks Galleria, replacing the Pacific Theaters with a modern temple to cinephilia that had its grand opening last week.

The ArcLight's first foray outside Hollywood is smaller than the original -- 84,000 square feet versus 140,000, mostly reflected in the lobby -- but otherwise the owners have taken pains to replicate the experience, complete with bar, cafe, store, poured concrete floors and dark wood accents. So how does the sequel compare to the classic?

Let's start where all L.A. stories start: in the car. The two ArcLights have equally miserable parking lots, but at least the Sherman Oaks lot offers four hours free with validation. In Hollywood, even with validation, you're still paying $2.50 for the right to circle around, as visions of Dante dance in your head.

After parking, the entrance to the ArcLight Hollywood is easy to find. Sherman Oaks' involves a holy grail walk through the mall, a sharp right at El Torito, then up two flights to a nondescript entrance.

No such qualms about the view from inside, though -- in that, unlike in Hollywood, there is one, and it's a prototypical SoCal sight: the 405. Cars whiz by (OK, they crawl by), as patrons enjoy a drink and a welling of schadenfreude. Next to the bar is where 21-plus shows are held -- i.e., booze can be brought inside the theater -- another carry-over from Hollywood.

In most respects, the 16 auditoriums duplicate the Hollywood versions, though there was at least one kink to be worked out in the usher's pre-show announcements. In Hollywood, these are usually supplied by a smooth-talker; on a visit to the Valley, the usher seemed endearingly nervous as he read his notes from a crib sheet. And he received only light applause, as opposed to Hollywood's audience, which is perhaps more primed to applaud everything.

Refreshments cost and taste the same. The ticket prices are lower in Sherman Oaks: 50 cents on weekdays, a full $1.25 on weekends. Yet they are still high enough ($12.75 at peak times) to spark a lively conversation among a group of friends in the women's restroom. Instead of talking about what they'd seen on screen, though, they were discussing what DVD they would rent -- they'd been shut out of their screening for tardiness.

If Sherman Oaks is anything like Hollywood, they'll learn soon enough.

-- Lisa Rosen

theguide@latimes.com

--

ARCLIGHT SHERMAN OAKS

WHERE: 15301 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks

PRICE: $11.50, weekdays, before 6 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; $12.75, Sun., holidays, after 6 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

INFO: (818) 501-7033,

arclightcinemas.com

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