I was just in L.A. this past weekend and finally was able to fulfill a long-held wish: to see a movie in Graumann's Chinese Theater. The experience was incredible, far surpassing any that I have ever had in a multiplex movie theater. First: I have always felt that the theater, from the box office and concessions to the quality of staff and the decor, all become a part of your cinematic experience and thus will reflect in some way on your opinion of the film you're there to see. All too often in multiplexes do I get the feeling that their whole design and purpose is to get you out of their building as soon as possible in order to get the next herd of people through. Very often the box office and concession stands are understaffed. The theater houses themselves are cookie-cutter clones of every other house in every other theater you've been to. There is no showmanship. At Graumann's Chinese Theater, the entire place is the show. It, of course, starts in the courtyard with the hand- and footprints of movie stars imbedded in concrete from the Golden Age of Hollywood to today. Your ticket is torn by someone wearing a distinctive Oriental-styled jacket. Then you walk into the lobby, complete with ornate decorations, light fixtures and carpet. You can't help but stare up at these ornamentations, awed by the look and feel of this unique theater. The concession stand was clean, organized and well-staffed. The theater itself, though, makes the lobby look simple and bare. Oriental-styled lamps, giant stone pillars, curtains, and an absolutely incredible "carved" ceiling with recessed lighting into it's intricate patterns make waiting for your film a joy. The seating is comfortable and spacious, with ample leg-room. In short: WOW. Second: Screen presentation at a standard multiplex is usually the minimum required. Focus seems to be uniformly soft, volume levels a little low with disappointing bass and surround activity (for the films that utilize these things), and screen light levels somewhat dim and/or poorly focused. This is all on a screen that is, on avarage about 30 feet long by about 20 feet high. If you are one of the handful of people who stay to watch the credits, then you are joined by another handful of ushers who clean behind, around and in front of you while you try to watch the screen. At the Chinese Theater, I was immediately impressed by the sharp focus and even, bright light and the excellent piture stability on a screen that had to have been at least 50 feet in length. Sound was SDDS digital, and though I am not a fan of SDDS in the multiplex world (for a variety of quality control and speaker issues) it was clean, vibrant, and well-executed through what I assume was the full compliment of five speaker channels behind the screen and an impressive array of surround speakers. I can imagine that the job of EQ'ing such a mammoth theater (it seats something on the order of 1,160) was quite a task, but it was accomplished wonderfully. The staff stayed out of the theater for the duration of the credits. I also noticed that the curtains, rarely used in today's theaters thanks to the advent of slide projectors (which make your local multiplex into a glorified billboard), opened after the picture came on and closed before it went off: a detail left over from the era in which the theater was built - never let the audience see a blank screen. In closing, I want to say that I do understand the financial necessity for having multiple screens in a theater in today's cinema marketplace. This having been said, I am not a fan of the modern movie-going experience. I've worked movie theaters for a number of years, so perhaps I am more sensitive to it than most. On the whole (there are exceptions to this, but they are few), I see today's multiplex as being an exercise in getting you in, through the concession stand, into your theater and then out of the building in as short a time as possible. Customer service is practically non-existent, it's only last vestige being the free passes the manager hands you if there was a problem. Screen presentation is minimal, and the staff weak. To cap it all off, the theater itself leaves nothing to fire the imagination or to captivate the senses in it's architecture or decor. It's no longer an escape, it's just a place you go to see a movie. Thanks for letting me rant.