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MOVIES: FEEDBACK

Landmark, meet backlash

June 14, 2007

In the May 24 edition of Calendar Weekend, we offered a preview of the new Landmark theater in West L.A. ("In This Corner ... "). It was several days before the grand opening, and construction was still going on. Though we had concerns, particularly about the layout, it looked promising and we took a couple of good-natured swipes at its chief rival for discriminating movie butts, the ArcLight. The theater has been open two weeks, and we thought it only fair to print some of the criticism offered by customers. (Landmark was contacted for a response but declined to comment.) Consider us enlightened.

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I read your article on how the new Landmark stacked up against the ArcLight. The author said the Landmark won by a nose. And since the ArcLight is the Holy Grail of movie complexes, I figured it must be something special. What with its leather seats, "living room" theaters and imported snacks, I was counting down the days until it opened.

So, on the second day of the theater's working existence, my best friend and I headed off to the 7:40 p.m. showing of "Mr. Brooks," armed with our reserved tickets and high expectations. My grin couldn't have been wider.

That didn't last long.

The biggest problem with the Landmark is the layout. The ticket desk, elevators, escalators, ticket kiosks, concierge desk, bathrooms and concession stand are in the same small area of the lobby. In fact, the lobby isn't really a lobby; it's more like the walkway of an airport terminal. And when it's busy, you're really just trying to get out of people's way. After getting our condiments, we had to circumvent the people heading to the bathrooms, then sidestep the lines of people at the tiny concierge desk in order to head to our theater. "Round your partner, do-si-do."

Inside the doorway to our theater there were two tiles of frosted glass in the floor with about a 3,000-megawatt bulb underneath. When we crossed over them, we were instantly blinded and consequently stumbled up the ridiculously narrow walkway to the main floor of the theater, which was boxy and tall like an AMC, not spacious and airy like the ArcLight.

After the trailers began, we noticed that the fancy digital projection made the images seem oversaturated and oddly pastel in color. The movie looked OK, but about 10 minutes into it, we heard an odd noise that we discovered was a result of the theater's acoustics. It was the sound of everyone chomping on their popcorn and rustling through their bags of imported candy. But by far the most annoying things were the little blue safety lights along the stairs. Combined with the high-gloss paint used on the stairs, it caused such a reflection that I had to hold up my hand to block out the glow.

The next day we went back to try out the "living room" theaters that come equipped with couches and end tables. The couches are a bit silly, because they're styled so that you have to sit up straight instead of lounging, which is what most people want to do in a couch.

The concession stand was decent: cool foods, friendly people. The wine bar looked nice. The leather chairs in the theater were comfy. It isn't the worst theater I've ever been in, and if I was given a choice of the Beverly Center or the Landmark, I'd choose Landmark. But saying that it's giving the ArcLight a run for its money? Not a chance.

KEVIN P. TAFT

West Hollywood

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