Cinema Heaven and Hell

Movie going has always been a passion and escape for me — barricading the terrifying outside world between some quality soundproofing and a 5,000-watt xenon bulb. Not to mention the air conditioning, hard to find in the greater Santa Barbara area.

As a long time resident of Goleta, we always looked to Camino Real Cinemas as the apex of the movie going experience in the south county, and as I broadened my horizons (and by that I mean literally every other city in Southern California), I realized that Metropolitan Theatre Company might have a few shortfalls to answer for.

I’ve lived in Los Angeles since 2012, and to my surprise, patronizing my first theater here required I choose my seats. No lines. No surprises. No showing up to find a sold out sign. No sitting within three feet of a 50-foot screen.

After that I found myself able to order my popcorn and beverage from my cell phone, no line. No added cost. Just an electronic highway to Coke Zero / popcorn / movie.

When I entered the the auditorium I found black leather recliners and an auditorium attendant to assist finding your assigned seat, tablet in hand in case you wanted any additional refreshments delivered directly to your seat.

At first I thought this was an anomaly, I thought to myself I must just have found the best theater. Reality spilled over though, and I soon came to realize all theaters are like this now.

This is why it hurt so much to go back to Santa Barbara and find the same experience I had when I was in college, 10 years ago. No reserved seats. No mobile ordering food. No luxury recliners.

It didn’t bother me until I saw MTC’s most recent press release on its website. The company is building an ultra-high-end luxury movie theater in Orange County. I had always given MTC the benefit of the doubt of being a small family company and that’s why the Santa Barbara theaters are in the state they are. I think this press release indirectly says, “We have the money and the resources to offer the people of Santa Barbara a premium movie going experience, but we have a monopoly so why spend the money.”

I’m not saying boycott MTC. The gist of my rant is to make sure you know what your $12 ticket should afford you. If you’ve never been to Cinemark or AMC, next time you’re in Ventura, Lompoc, or Santa Maria, just check it out.

Goleta Kmart center implodes next month to make way for Target, and AMC wants to build a 14 screen and IMAX. Maybe some competition will show Santa Barbara what movie going is supposed to be like in 2018.