One of my favorite sites that I visit every day is /Film, which is an entertainment blog that talks about movies but more from the perspective of a film geek. They’ve often talked about the Alamo Drafthouse theaters in Texas, which is a venue that caters specifically to that type of crowd.
The Alamo Drafthouse shows a number of new releases, but they are also more or less a club for the film geek. They have nice restaurants with menus you can order from during the movie, but also have a number of great events. They have theme nights for new releases, and also have a number of classic movie screenings throughout the year. Additionally, they have a number of themed free play arcade games, have nights for the audience to bring their own home made films, have 45 minutes of (non-ad) pre-show entertainment, it goes on and on.
While Huntsville has some passable movie theaters with modern equipment, we do not have a venue that cares this much about their audience. In fact, our theaters pretty much suck if you think about the things they could be doing that they aren’t. Considering that Huntsville is always trying to be the peer of larger cities in terms of economics and culture, it’s embarrassing that we’re this far behind in this context. And we mainly have the following venues to blame:
Rave Motion Pictures probably has the most up to date equipment and provides the most pristine digital presentation. They architecture and lighting of the place feels a bit late 90’s / early 2000’s, but still looks very cool. The Rave also has a nice arcade room, which many theaters are unfortunately omitting from their experience lately. While these points provide a nice number of pro’s for the theater, the con’s you aren’t considering are what makes Rave a waste.
Given that they have up to date digital projectors and screens, they’re failing to provide the extensive screening they could be giving. The location has a very limited selection of live sports events and concerts, but these seem to be limited to MMA fighting and classical music. No live viewings of big TV events like the finale of Lost, and certainly no classic movie screenings. And as for pre-screening entertainment? They have that if you consider the same Coca-Cola ad over and over again as entertainment.
Monaco Pictures has many of the same faults as Rave. However, they do offer upgraded seating at a premium price that is worth the splurge if you’re going to see a movie you’ve really been looking forward to. Also, the premium seating upstairs also has access to a full bar, which no other theater in Huntsville offers. The location at Bridge Street is also a huge plus, which helps the experience feel much less industrial and commercialized. Once your movie is finished, the crowd spills out onto the Bridge Street plaza, which always has a cool buzz.
However, Monaco is still very much a commercialized venue that seemingly cares little for the lively and profitable crowd it could cater very well to. There is no arcade available, but instead a very stale and very limited lounge which is horrifically targeted. The film geeks which would become loyal to a place that would cater to them will not find much for them there. It’s a perfect example of how Monaco comes close to being a luxury venue, but just isn’t there yet. They seem too concerned with cultivating the vibe of a club instead of a movie theater. It celebrates glam instead of film.
There are many other theaters in Huntsville, but honestly they aren’t even worth mentioning. They’re the equivalent of chain restaurants that all look alike. They may look nice, but they all serve the same overgreased slop. But on the positive side, if you expand the range out to the rest of North Alabama, there are some great places. Two that come to mind are the Cinemagic Theater in Athens, and the King Drive In in Russellville. Both are small family owned establishments which aren’t exactly luxurious, but they provide far better community and film experiences than their over-commercialized competition.
I’m not saying that Rave and Monaco are bad theaters. In fact, they’re they best in town. It’s just severely disappointing that they aren’t using the capital they’ve earned by being as progressive as independently owned theaters and local chains such as the Alamo Drafthouse in Texas. There’s a great film loving community in North Alabama that would bring a lot of enthusiasm and revenue to these places if they were to broaden what they do a bit more.