Without hyperbole, I can tell you that my favorite movie experience is the ArcLight, and has been since I first plopped my butt down in one of the theater chain’s cozy seats. And now, this high-quality cinematic milieu is enriching downtown Culver City, home of Sony Pictures and a town rich in film history.
Step one foot into an ArcLight theater and you will immediately feel as though you’re in a train station, about to embark on a journey. You can’t help but notice the big board featuring the show times. Which adventure will you choose?
Adding to the ambience is a dining scene that rivals the better restaurants in this rich culinary neighborhood. Chef-driven fare, including classic bites such as tuna tartare, margherita pizza and spicy wings, are a grown-up alternative to 7-Eleven-style weiners. These meals are meant to be enjoyed in the spacious lobby, so as not to turn the cathedral of the screening room into a mess hall.
The attention to small details is what makes this chain so special. Popcorn is served in small tubs rather than bags so that noisy paper won’t distract movie-watchers, who tend to be serious about their experience and, thus, are not the sort to check their phones or yap during films — a good crowd to see a flick with — the sort with whom you’d like to drink a beer, which brings me to my next point.
ArcLight was ahead of the game by offering 21+over screenings, allowing customers to take their adult beverages into the movie. So good an idea was this that now all screenings are alcohol-friendly. And the offerings are fantastic. Working with a full bar, the on-site mixologists create signature cocktails of the type you’d find in the finer establishments downtown. In addition, local craft beers are on tap and some good California wines are available.
Inside the theater, it’s all about film. Lean back in your comfy chair and absorb the show like a sponge, without distraction. Helpful staff members check in on the situation now and then to make sure your experience is a pleasant one — at least to the extent they can control it. If you choose a dud of a movie, there’s not much that can be done to change that.
Next up, Santa Monica. Let the countdown begin.
Scott Bridges is an L.A.-based journalist who has worked as a police-beat reporter, a community newspaper editor, and a food and travel writer. He currently works as a freelance writer, contributing to The Huffington Post and Bizjournals.com, among other sites. He is a native Californian who lives on the Westside.
All photos courtesy of Scott Bridges.