Today the Magnolia movie theater at West Village opened its newly renovated theaters to audiences. Among the changes is that tickets to all of their shows are now purchased with reserved seating. Your ticket guarantees you a specific seat.
While I generally prefer the flexibility of beating the crowd to get myself my preferred seat at the theater, and to perhaps change my mind about my preferred seat at the last minute, I understand why the Magnolia made this move. On busy nights their upstairs lobby often became a madhouse due to patrons jockeying for position in lines that snaked around and down the stairs, or mobs that swarmed the ticket-taker all at once. There’s not a lot of space up there, and so the reserved seats should allow everyone to relax and not have to get to their seats until just before showtime.
The other part of what the Magnolia has done – converting two of its screens to “VIP experiences” – concerns me. Seats in theaters 2 and 3 (of the 5 screens at the Magnolia) now have “extra-large leather-style seats with tall, wide backs and armrests” and more leg room. That’s all fine, except that’s not all they’re doing. Those theaters also now will have in-seat bar and concessions service. Guessing that the Magnolia is preparing itself for the new rival coming to the area, the Alamo Drafthouse that will open in Richardson next year. Thankfully, though, unlike other theaters (like Studio Movie Grill) that do offer such service, the Magnolia is only going to deliver food and drinks to guests during seating and the trailers. Once the movie starts, the service stops. (Though I suspect the beginnings of movies will be disrupted, as staff finish fulfilling orders.)
I’ve always liked the Magnolia, especially in its earlier days when it was more of a true art-house theater. It’s still the cinema closest to my house, but one aspect of the experience has always detracted from going there: It’s about the bar. I know many of you like to have your cocktail, or your beer or wine with your movie. Its OK if you swing that way. But it’s made it impossible to see a movie at the Magnolia without, at least once during the film, hearing somebody knock over glass bottles, severely disrupting the experience. Now the Magnolia is going to make it even more convenient to enjoy an adult beverage, and so I fear even more noise. In the Magnolia’s small theaters the noise cannot be escaped. Not only that, but they’ve also expanded their concessions offerings, “to include Whoopie Pies from the local bakery Rockstar Bakeshop, plus hummus and naan, steak and cilantro empanadas and sweet potato tater tots.”
Look, I just want to see Denzel Washington play a flawed, alcoholic hero in Flight, not hear you spill your Shiner or have to smell your steak and cilantro empanada. Guess I’m headed to NorthPark.
I realize this sounds like the cranky complaints of a prematurely old man, but I consider movies man’s greatest artform. I wish more people cherished them. And any reminder that some people enjoy the concessions even more than what’s projected on-screen, it saddens me. I’m not saying people aren’t entitled to feel that way. I’m just saying, it’s a shame.