Thoughtful reviews, the Boulder film scene

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Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde offers an excitingly fresh and strong female lead. —Matt Anderson (review...)

" From now on I’ll get someone else to handle my divorces "
— Hugh Grant, Two Weeks Notice

MRQE Top Critic

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How much is too much? Don’t ask AMC. Although their Westminster Promenade 24 is not the largest picture-palace megaplex in the world (30 screens in one complex is the record, held by 10 AMC theaters in North America, and the Vue Birmingham in England), it is pretty darn big.

Why? Volume business, of course — it is simply more cost-efficient to run as wide a spectrum of viewings under one roof as possible. The chain, in fact, claims that over 2 million tickets are sold there a year, making it one of the top 20 movie theaters (in sales) in America.

The Promenade anchors a thriving entertainment-cum-shopping compound located halfway between Denver and Boulder, Colorado, sharing space with a Dave & Buster’s, a Splitz bowling center, and dozens of other retail spaces and restaurants.

The object is to lure the consumers into parking somewhere in the acres of surrounding asphalt, enter for hours if not days and part them from their disposable income in an efficient and comprehensive a manner as possible. It works. The result for the customer, in the case of this cinema gargantua, is a labyrinthine slog down corridors and around corners in search of the proper venue. It’s bijou as Skinner box.

The exterior setting is pleasant and inoffensive, rigged architecturally to draw the customers in and process them like little sausages at the Jimmy Dean factory. Once you have purchased your tickets and been herded through the velvet rope by one of multiple ticket-takers, your attention is garnered by an immense concession stand right in front of you. (Other, smaller snack bars wait within in case you miss this one. Please note: us old pros have cleverly designed inner rubberized pant legs to hold our smuggled M&Ms, Jujubes, and Cherry Cokes.)

The treats are the standard lot — astronomically overpriced candies, munchables and beverages. Is that real butter? Send a sample to the lab and make sure. Oddly, all multiplexes, no matter how fully staffed they are, seem fundamentally incapable of serving people in a timely manner, so come early if you are wealthy enough to afford this provender.

The décor is meant to appeal to the broadest possible public, so its warm tones of pale yellows and burnt ochre are probably calculated by psychologists to induce a sense of well-being and perhaps to inspire thirst and hunger as well (remember that old nightclub maxim: you don’t make money from the door, you make it from the drinks!).

Once you make your way to your designated auditorium, it gets better (beware, those who would steal extra viewings — AMC employees are stationed throughout the complex to ensure you end up in the right place and, conversely, don’t end up sneaking into another show).

Bathrooms? Large and industrial, and never quite as clean as you might like — although, as a guy, I never got into toilet amenities. I could as well relieve myself in a ditch for all I cared.

One vast improvement for moviegoers at this chain is the wise installation of “stadium seating,” which simply means that the rows are steeply canted enough to prevent even the most gigantic person in front of you (like me, 6’3”) from blocking your view. The self-described “overstuffed high-backed chairs” are really, incredibly comfy, and carry drink holders at the end of each armrest. The leg room is wonderfully spacious.

Our sample viewing took place in auditorium Number Five, for a showing of “Avatar” (3D, but not IMAX). Now, as to the preshow: if you like lots and lots of pre-feature material, you are in hog heaven here, my friend. Counting the obligatory “you’re in an AMC theater!” clip, there were no fewer than TWENTY separate items for our perusal. Now, a buck’s a buck, and this is a new revenue stream for the flagging film industry, but. C’mon. People.

Last but first, how did it look and sound? A bit difficult to testify as to peripheral vision with 3D specs on, but I’d say the image quality is sharp and clean-flowing, with the old stutter, sprocket clatter and reel-change dots a rapidly vanishing memory. From our mid-front seats, we were able to take in all the action without losing many quanta.

My pet peeve? The sound. While image is king, sound always has and mayhap always will lag far behind. To make the experience as intense as possible, the decibel level is cranked up to the limit of sustainability, making action sequences near-painful. Someday, film sound will be presented with an equal level of care, but not here and not yet.

All in all? If you don’t mind being dwarfed by the scale of it all, pretty representative of the contemporary American filmgoing experience — for better and worse.