Well before the near extinction of chain book stores—yes even before the obsoleteness of pay telephones left us with so many vandalized, empty sockets; I recall the expulsion of movie theaters from our area shopping malls.
Over time, I assumed this exodus of movie theaters away from their Mall mothers and out to their own complexes by shopping centers to be irreversible.
No longer was there the synonymous excitement of shopping and being seen inside the mall corridors before showing up for one’s appointed movie time. I particularly loved the mystery and excitement of going down escalator stairs to where the refreshment area awaited with the smell of popcorn; before the final carpeted walk to the correct theater number.
But after the 1980’s the curtain closed on this long symbiotic relationship. Fair Oaks Mall transformed their outer mall into an EVENTS building for graduations and wedding receptions. Others simply disappeared or where portioned off into multiple retail stores. The theater and the mall were no longer joined at the hip.
But in the past year I have seen a reversal. A reversal almost as nostalgic and moving as seeing record players and LP’s come back. The malls began to sport theaters again. Tyson’s Corner returned with an enclosed theater.
And my wife and I just went to the new Regal Theater at our nearby Dulles Town Center Mall.
What were our first impressions? The most obvious one was: this ain’t the same kind of mall movie theaters from the old days.
The new theaters, (regardless of whether they are in malls or not) are increasingly asking patrons to select which seats they want to sit by perusing a computer screen at the ticket line.
And the seats are about as luxurious and ergonomically sound as one can imagine. With the press of a button you can lift your legs up in a fully reclining position and tilt your head back. The theater at Dulles Town Center even has swinging counters resembling the old school house desks.
Everyone is pampered now. No doubt every luxury helps in providing some leverage for movie theaters to compete with all the private movie options on line. Folks today need an enticement like this to actually get out of their house and at least consider watching VIRTUAL REALITY as a collective experience.
So there we were, my wife and I, living the good 21st century life. We had a full bar, plenty of dinner options, and every drink and candy we could want, right at our finger tips inside the theater.
In fact the seats are so buffered and padded that even the collective event of a movie theater still tends to feel like a PRIVATE viewing at home (could we come in our pajamas?). No longer do our elbows bump into one of the people to our right or left. Couples on dates have to really work hard at holding hands due to the wide furniture boundaries. I actually feel guilty about not lifting up my legs every time someone passes by in front of me to go to the bathroom.
But I shouldn’t worry. There’s plenty of room. We have our own padded islands. It’s like we have all graduated and moved on to ADA accommodations whenever we go to the theater.
What will be happen next? Pedicures? Aroma therapy? Imagine the joy of sleeping straight through several 2 hour movies while we lay back in our recliners.
All I know is that we’re worth it. The mall and the movie theater are partners once again. We are Kings and Queens of our own theater experience. I just wish the airlines would start taking notice of this fact and try enticing us a bit better too.