New Randhurst theater is worth the trip
Update: I have just learned that, yes, alcoholic drinks purchased at the theater bar can be brought into the auditoriums. Also, tickets for ETX shows will cost you an extra $3 to $4 on top of the standard ticket price.
If the new AMC Randhurst 12 is an indicator of things to come, then the Randhurst Village development will be very special indeed.
A marked upgrade over the 16-auditorium facility that still stands across the street, the new Randhurst theater makes up for its smaller size with big-time amenities. It made a great first impression -- I'd put it in a virtual tie with Rosemont's Muvico 18 for the title of the Suburbs' Best Multiplex. (I think the Hollywood Blvd. and Hollywood Palms specialty cinemas in Woodridge and Naperville belong in a class all their own.)
As part of the facility's free movies weekend, I saw J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" Saturday night at 7:45 in one of the 11 standard auditoriums; the 12th is branded as an ETX auditorium (more on that later). The auditorium included the stadium seating that has become de rigeuer, but had a few surprises in store as well.
The lower-level seats are also arranged stadium-style on a sunken floor. The chairs on the lower level all recline, and the very first row offers a perk to those unfortunate moviegoers who get stuck there: deluxe recliners that I'd call "big and puffy" for lack of better words. The last row at the top of the theater contains similar chairs and extra leg room.
I was most surprised, though, by the three seating areas with tables along the side of the upper level. Four theater seats are arranged around a wedge-shaped table with a foot rest along the bottom. According to the theater employee I spoke to, these booths or mini-suites or whatever you want to call them will be available to all ticket buyers on a first-come, first-served basis, which is great; at first glance, I assumed you would have to pay extra to sit there.
(Of course, I wouldn't rule that out as something that could happen in the future. The rows and seats in the theater are numbered, which means the theater could sell assigned seats at some point. We'll see how that shakes out.)
One of the two problems that plague the Randhurst 16 (and most theaters, for that matter) has been solved at the Randhurst 12: poor projection. Every auditorium in the new theater has a digital projector, which is sadly necessary these days. More and more films are being shot digitally, and even those that are shot on film are edited digitally. Add in the typically shoddy quality of film projection in theaters across the country, and I must conclude that today's movies just plain look better when projected in high definition. The old guard will scoff at that statement, but it's true.
The other problem that plagues theaters, of course, is rude patrons. There's not much a multiplex can do short of posting a security guard in every auditorium, but hopefully the prominent placing of one such guard -- one was on duty Saturday night -- will deter the rowdier behavior. (Not much we can do about those cell phones, sadly.)
The lobby and concession area is bright, open and friendly in appearance. The cafeteria-style service stations reminded me most of the kind of food court you might find at a Disney World resort; in fact, the whole lobby kind of exudes this Epcot vibe. (A good thing in my book, as regular readers know.) The hallways are short and wide compared to similar theaters, and there are Coke Freestyle machines in the hallways that allow for easy drink refills. Patrons are greeted by a fully-stocked bar (cleverly named MacGuffin's) as soon as they walk in; I'm not sure if you're allowed to bring your drink into the theater, however.
Now, about that ETX auditorium: It is hyped as having "a 20-percent larger screen, 3D technology, digital projection and an upgraded sound system," much like the IMAX Experience screen at AMC's South Barrington location, and the sound system is indeed powerful -- it rattled the adjacent bathroom I was in! I ducked into the ETX auditorium to take in a few minutes of "Avatar," and it didn't appear to be significantly larger than the room where I watched "Star Trek." But I was only in there for a minute ... during a relatively quiet part of the film ... and I didn't have 3D glasses on. So I'll withhold judgment on ETX for now.
If you want to check out the theater for free, you have two more chances this Monday and Wednesday; click here for shows and times. The theater has its grand opening this Friday, just in time for "Fast Five."