The more things change, the more they stay the same. That’s my takeaway from a preview I attended of the new theater that’s been built at Randhurst Village in Mount Prospect, Illinois. Randhurst itself has gone from a traditional indoor mall to its own “village” style facility with streets winding their way through stores large and small. Just as the mall has been upgraded to something new and twenty first century and yet remains a place to go and buy things, so too has the conversion from the old AMC Randhurst 16 to the new AMC Randhurst 12 gone. The new facility has a number of new features and improvements that one might expect, and a couple you might not, for a 2011 theater, but in the end it’s still a place where you watch a movie in the dark.
So what have they done? Well, for one thing, they’ve added a cocktail bar. “MacGuffin’s Lounge,” so named for the goal of any number of Hitchcock movies, which is definitely a new concept. Considering the degree to which movie theaters have become teenager hangouts, the inclusion of a facility that can only be used by those aged twenty one or more was a bit of surprise. Since I am older than that, it’s all to the good as far as I’m concerned. The seats do seem to be pretty comfortable and I could see myself waiting there for friends either before or after catching a film.
The second major change is involved in the concession stands. Getting your popcorn and a drink was always a bottleneck because the servers had to handle the money and then get your snacks, leading to a long line and the risk of missing the start of your movie. When combined with the typically ridiculous prices, it led me to skip the snacks more often than not. Randhurst 12 tries to alleviate the hassle, at the very least. Rather than have one server try to do it all, they have all the drinks and popcorn mostly self served along one wall with six manned check-out stations along the opposite wall. You go in, pour your own drink, grab a box of popcorn, and then go pay the man. I expect it will help the flow and make getting your snacks a lot simpler. The prices are still high, though.
Once you make it into the theater, you can see the other new developments. First of all, it’s all stadium seating, and every seat is high backed and padded. There’s an aisle at the top row as well as at the bottom to make it easier to get around, and the very front row has full recliners to make it easier to see for those people stuck there. The real innovation, however, was the addition of tables for the sides of the theater. Six tables with four seats apiece are spaced around the sides of the theater, two on one side, four on the other. The seats around the tables are in a small arc and have a nice footrest, making them more comfortable than the usual seats, and perfect for those of us who get a lot of the snacks. However, as there only 24 of these seats, I expect they’ll be the first to fill up for most shows, so you might want to get to the theater early if you want to take advantage of them.
All is not perfect, however. The sight lines for the top row are close to being obscured by the row below it, and the person in the farthest table seat is actually facing into the theater and not at the screen and will have to spend the whole movie looking to his or her side. Still, for most seats, the view is excellent and comfortable.
The theatrical experience itself has been enhanced at Randhurst 12 with the very latest in digital projectors and ETX sound. As with most of the recent sight and sound upgrades, the difference between the new stuff and what you’re used to is more of an evolutionary rather than revolutionary change. Nevertheless, the picture is clear and the sounds appropriately bone shaking.
Overall, then, I do find the improvements at AMC Randhurst 12 to be well done. Depending on where you live it might not be worth it to drive too far to experience them, both for people in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago, it’s easily the nicest place to watch a movie in the area.