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Remodeled theater hits Universal Citywalk

Universal Cinema unveils redone auditorium and lounges for moviegoers.

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Newly renovated Universal Cinema at Universal CityWalk

Newly renovated Universal Cinema at Universal CityWalk

Newly renovated Universal Cinema at Universal CityWalk

Samantha Diaz, Staff Writer

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Half of the excitement that comes with seeing a new movie is the experience provided by the movie theater itself. Buying your tickets in advance, waiting in line, getting snacks and picking just the right seat are all aspects more enjoyable when you know you’re going to a nice theater.

The Universal Cinema, the movie theater on Universal Citywalk, recently unveiled the renovation of their building in order to enhance the movie going experience. Located in Hollywood, surrounded by Universal Studios’ countless classic movie themed restaurants and stores, I went in with high expectations.

The selling point of the theater, as with any good theater, are the auditoriums themselves. No matter how good the popcorn is, if the actual theater is lacking, then so is the movie watching experience. In this area, Universal Cinema did not disappoint.

Universal Cinema sets the movie-watching standard high with surround sound, reclining seats and the darkest theater auditorium I’ve ever sat in. Seriously, if you’re going to watch a scary movie, do it here.

If you think you’ve experienced surround sound in a theater before, I urge you to visit Universal Cinema. The speakers are placed not only on the walls of the auditorium, but also on the ceiling, the back wall behind all of the seats and even behind the movie screen. You can actually hear the difference in suspenseful and action packed scenes.

While reclining seats are becoming more common in movie theaters, Universal Cinema’s seats are wider and provide more space between the people next to you. There’s a feeling of isolation while watching a movie, rather than the usual overwhelming knowledge that there’s a stranger sitting a few inches from you.

This space helps with the usual problems that come with regular theaters: being able to hear the person next to you chewing – sometimes even breathing – and the always awkward problem of who gets the armrest. However, if you’re the kind of person who likes to whisper to your friend during a movie (and admit it, we all are), this theater makes that a lot harder, if not impossible. In a way, it helped me become more immersed in the movie, but my inner child was still sad that I couldn’t whisper a funny joke to my friend during a serious scene.

The thing that stood out most when I entered the auditorium was how dark it was. While most theaters work to make the auditoriums look just as lavish as the rest of the theater, Universal Cinema went the opposite direction, and it paid off.

The seats, walls, speakers and even the floors are all plain black. Once the lights went out (which are on the ceiling instead of the walls), I was struck by how dark it was. You find yourself totally focused on the movie because there’s literally nothing else to focus on. Even when the movie switched from a dark scene to a brighter one, the light flooding the room didn’t force my attention elsewhere because there was nothing to see but the screen.

The auditoriums at Universal Cinema are also much smaller than your regular cinema. The one I was in had about 60 seats and only half of them filled for a 7 p.m. Friday night showing.

While the auditoriums are all plain and revolve around the movie watching experience, the lounge areas scattered throughout the theater are anything but. Upon entering through the clear glass doors, there are giant LED chandeliers and flatscreens everywhere.

There are couches, sofa chairs and tables on both floors of the two-story theater, surrounding the auditoriums to provide a hangout spot before or after the movie. You can watch TV while you wait or go upstairs to the cocktail lounge on the second floor that allows you to bring your drinks with you into the movie.

The lounge has a modern vibe, with sleek, grey couches and glass tables. As a movie theater in Hollywood, I was hoping for more of a glamorous feel. There were no old movie posters to pay homage to the actors and actresses of the past a there was only one movie prop in the corner of a room: a Fast and Furious jumpsuit that didn’t add much character to the theater. It felt like I was in a hotel lobby more than anything.

One constant Universal Cinema kept with other theaters was the overpriced food and drinks. While they did have more of a variety to their menu with cafe-style coffees, smoothies and snacks like a Fritos chili pie, the prices were a bit high after paying $20 per movie ticket and $5 for parking. Maybe if they brought the food to you, like some other theaters have been doing for years, it would be worth the cost, but the concession stand instead is a self-serve, grab-and-go style.

The movie watching experience itself set Universal Cinema apart and I will probably save it for the next big installment in Marvel or Star Wars movies – sneaking in my own snacks, of course.

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