The art of film is just that: an art. But while movies are very good at telling stories and conveying meaning, they are also very good at making money. As technology advances, theaters are coming up with more and more creative ways to sell more and more expensive tickets to audiences. Some of these gimmicks actually enhance the movie-going experience, while others are a waste of money.
Worth it: recliners
Recliners are the number one “thing” in the theater industry right now. Over the past few years, almost every serious theater location has traded their old seats for recliner chairs, and consumers have come to expect them. I haven’t even been to a theater without them in years. But in my opinion, they really are worth the money. In the old seats, I always got uncomfortable and had to devote attention to finding the best way to stretch my legs without kicking the person in front of me. With recliners, this is no longer an issue and I can devote my full attention to the screen 100 percent of the time.
Waste of money: 3D
There is no reason in today’s film and technological environment that anyone should ever buy a 3D ticket. Most movies just aren’t made for 3D, and even the ones that are could do without it. A good film will be good without 3D, and a bad film will be bad with it. It doesn’t really change the perception of the movie. Plus, 3D is projected onto the screen differently than regular films, and more often than not, the different projection style leaves a movie looking darker than its 2D counterpart. Not only does 3D not add to the movie experience, but it usually detracts from it, fundamentally changing the colors and brightness of the original film.
Worth it: IMAX and other large-screen formats
IMAX is the most widely known large-screen format provider due to their phenomenal marketing techniques, but there are others. Regardless if your theater has IMAX or AVX or one of the other brands, I’d say it’s absolutely worth the more expensive ticket, especially if you’re going to see a big-budget action film. The reason is simple: immersion. I find it far easier to get carried away in a story if that story is 70 feet tall and takes up my entire field of vision. Add to that that large-screen theater houses tend to have higher quality projection and sound equipment as well, and you’re getting an all-around better movie-going experience.
Waste of money: DBOX and “4D”
For those unfamiliar, DBOX seats are special seats (with pricey tickets) that are designed to rumble, tilt and vibrate in ways that correspond to what’s happening on screen. 4D refers to seats that have water and air nozzles attached to them at key locations, and will then spray water or air on you at certain points in the movie. For instance, if a character is running and then jumps off a cliff into the ocean below, a DBOX seat would likely vibrate with every footstep and tilt forward as the character jumped, while a 4D seat might blow air on your neck when the character jumped, then give you a spritz of water as he hit the ocean. Both of these seats add absolutely nothing to the movie experience, and in many cases are so distracting that they take you out of the story. The timing and pattern of vibrations or the 4D stuff doesn’t even come from the creators of the film. It’s added by teams working at DBOX or 4D facilities after the movie’s release.
Worth it: high-quality equipment
The final entry on this list is also the most difficult to define. Not all theaters are created equal. Some have much higher end projection and sound equipment than others. There is no industry standard when it comes to this stuff, so some places may show movies at a much lower quality or even with slightly different colors than the filmmakers originally intended. It’s hard to know which theaters have good equipment without doing a ton of research, but I can tell you a few things to look for when buying a movie ticket. The best theaters will have laser projectors, the highest quality projection equipment in the industry. They will also have DOLBY ATMOS sound, a system that includes overhead speakers and a configuration that allows highly specific and directional sound. Pair these things with a large-format screen and some comfy recliners, and you know you’re getting a quality movie experience.