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Thursday, August 16, 2007, Boulder, Colorado - For the first time in twenty years, Boulder has a new movie theater!

Exciting and New

Seats are plush, thickly padded, and wide enough
Seats are plush, thickly padded, and wide enough

The new theater is called the Century Boulder, and it’s run by Cinemark, a chain that most Boulder moviegoers won’t be familiar with.

But really, few of us care which chain opens the theater, as long as it’s new. In fact, all but one of the people I asked said only that they hoped the new theater would be “nice,” clean, and comfortable.

And so it is.

The seats are plush, thickly padded, and wide enough for me, which is saying something. The auditoriums all have stadium seating. There are two big auditoriums that seat about 300, plus 14 smaller auditoriums. The one smaller auditorium I saw still felt big, although I forgot to ask if all of the smaller theaters are the same size.

Film Snob

Booth manager Dave Cutler says no commercials will show after the scheduled start time
Booth manager Dave Cutler says no commercials will show after the scheduled start time

I do have one reliable friend — an aficionado (or snob, if you prefer) — who knew not to sweat the small stuff like seating and cleanliness. He wanted to know how many digital projectors they would have, whether there would be commercials, and whether the Century Boulder will show any independent and/or foreign stuff like Landmark used to show.

For him and the other cinephiles in Boulder, I have good news and bad. There will be commercials, along with pre-movie infotainment from sources like National Geographic. Gone are the days of quietly talking to your friends or reading the Boulder Weekly before the show. However, booth manager Dave Cutler assured members of the press that no commercials — only previews — would show after the movie’s scheduled start time. So if you don’t want to see commercials, just don’t come too early.

There are no digital projectors. Cutler — rightly — said that film is still a higher-resolution medium than digital projection, although the day may come when cost, quality, or some killer combination may force the Century Boulder to adapt, and they’re ready to add digital projection when that day comes.

Finally, the question of seeing independent and foreign films at the new theater rests largely in the wallets of Boulder moviegoers, according to Valerie Shortall, Director of Marketing and Promotions for Cinemark. “It mainly depends on how the community responds to the art product. We will do the best we can to provide the moviegoers in Boulder what they want.”

Reading between the lines, I think that means that my friend who wants to see foreign films on the big screen (and I) may have an uphill fight. Any organization that uses the term “art product” to refer to movies like Once, Brand Upon the Brain!, or Away From Her is not likely to bring those movies to town for the good of the community.

Promises, Promises

For the first time in twenty years, Boulder has a new movie theater
For the first time in twenty years, Boulder has a new movie theater

When the 24-plex opened in Westminster, I heard a lot of promises that the management didn’t keep. A concession stand at each wing was supposed to alleviate long lines for concessions. But in the 10 years since it opened, I don’t recall ever seeing a concession stand open on the side wings, leaving long lines in the center section for popcorn and Coke. They promised art-house fare, but after opening weekend, they quickly resorted to blockbusters on multiple screens, and no artsy stuff until after it became mainstream by surviving in true art-house theaters for weeks and weeks.

But that was then, and this is now. That was Westminster, and this is Boulder. That was AMC and this is Cinemark.

I have more confidence in Cinemark for a couple of reasons. For the concessions line, their setup seems better designed. Their concession stand, for example, flows smoothly in from the lobby and out toward the theaters. If you don’t mind serving yourself, you can grab your own popcorn and Sprite, rather than waiting for a teenager to serve you. It’s a smarter design, more likely to solve the problem than simply adding stands that have to be manned, stocked, and cleaned.

Also, I was impressed with Shortall’s answer when I asked her what one thing she thought was the neatest, best thing about the new theater. “I have to say, our staff and customer service. The best thing about our theater is that the patrons and moviegoers are taken care of.”

For me and most of my friends, that’s all we ask.