Lots of Special October Theater Screenings

Wow! I love special screenings and there are a remarkable number of them this month. Sadly, I won’t be able to attend most of them due to work and family obligations but YOU, you could go!.

Fathom Events, your source for special if overpriced movies, is showing the RiffTrax version of Miami Connection tonight at 7:30. For those not familiar with RiffTrax, it is very similar to Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) in execution (people onscreen mocking the events in the movie). Tomorrow night (10/7 at 7:30), Fathom presents the extended version of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The extended version of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies concludes the trilogy on 10/13, also at 7:30.

Dracula

Turner Classic Movies presents a Dracula double feature on October 25th and 28th at 2 and 7. The original Bela Lugosi version of Dracula will be shown followed by the Spanish version that was filmed at night on the same sets. Finally on October 29th at 7:30, Fathom and SpectiCast are bringing back John Carpenter’s Halloween.

Not movie related but Fathom Events is bringing a filmed live version of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet to theaters on 10/15. It is four hours long but I’m going to that with a couple of dear friends.

Back to the Future

Regal Cinemas is presenting the entire Back to the Future trilogy on the big screen one day only, 10/21/15 (naturally, for those who are familiar with the timeline). Strangely, it appears to currently be priced as a single matinee ticket. AMC and other theater chains are also participating so check your local listings. Unfortunately for me, this embarrassment of riches conflicts with a local showing of The Exorcist at Carolina Cinemas, 10/21 at 8.

My Fair Lady

Epic Cinemas is also getting into the trend of bringing back classic cinema to the big screen. On 10/18 at 2 and 10/21 at 7, they will be showing My Fair Lady.

I love that the theaters are doing all of this. My only complaint is that they usually do a terrible job of advertising and the screenings are often close to empty. This of course leads to a cancellation of future showings. Regal used to have a classic cinema series but abandoned it due to poor attendance.

 

Epic Cinema Tables at Epic Theatres of course!

On my last movie day, I spent the whole day at my local Epic Theatre. I got a nice jumbo hard plastic Ant-Man cup to add to my already overburgeoning collection and my waistline thanks them for having unsweet tea. I don’t care for water and hate diet cola.

Pirates Table

 

Normally they, like most theaters, have too much lobby space. Normally I like to peruse the neat displays for upcoming movies (my favorite was Regal’s whack-a-mole featuring the Minions for Despicable Me 2), but this time I was really impressed with the new tables they got.

Hunger Games Table

 

The tables and chairs seemed very sturdy and the table easy to clean off. The table was a little lower than I would like but now I think I need one in my movie room.

Toy Story 3

 

They had four styles but I imagine these would be quickly customizable to any movie poster. Now should I get Alien or The Thing or something from classic Hollywood?

Spider-Man

Regal, Regal, Regal, and FREE Movie Tickets

Regal Cinemas

Normally, I’m not fond of big chains but this summer Regal has really won my business. Neither my local Epic nor my beloved Carolina opted to do summer kids movies. Let me tell you the Regal Biltmore Grande is absolutely packed on Tuesday and Wednesday morning for their $1 movie. They have obviously reached out to various groups as children arrive by the busload for the Regal Summer Movie Express.

Regal Summer Movie

 

Regal also gives points for concession purchases on their card (though only a ridiculous few) which is something my Epic does not. The big chain does have other advantages. My wife is able to exchange credit card points for Regal gift cards and Blue Cross Blue Shield also had a program that allowed me to redeem a Regal card through them.

Regal Crown Club

 

Combining Regal gift cards, the Regal Crown Club, and the numerous FREE movie ticket promotions has allowed me to spend very little on movies this summer.

There are currently FREE movie ticket offers at Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Target on various DVDs and Blu-Rays for current movies Terminator Genisys, Max, Magic Mike XXL, Minions, and upcoming movies Fantastic Four, Mission Impossible Rogue Nation, Hitman: Agent 47, Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Pixels. Most of the stores have one or more endcaps devoted to those offers.

Hormel Pepperoni, Totino’s Pizza Rolls, and Orange Crush all have FREE movie ticket offers as well.

So Many Rewards Programs, So Few Rewards

I love rewards programs. Well okay, I love rewards programs that actually reward you. Companies love to change them claiming that they will serve you better when what they mean is “we just figured out that we are giving you too much”.

Coke Rewards

 

Best Buy completely neutered their program a few years ago. It’s still worth using IF you are going to buy at Best Buy anyway but it’s not worthwhile as a selling point. Coke Rewards was barely worthwhile to begin with and then they went and made you jump through a ton of social media hoops to get the ‘good’ stuff.

Cinemark

I have rewards program cards for three separate movie chains locally (Epic, Regal, and Carolina Cinemas). Cinemark, which we do not have, sent me a FREE popcorn for my birthday. None of our local ones even wished me a happy birthday. I sure hope Regal rolls out their revamped program soon, even though it does nerf some of the usual rewards. Fandango wished me a happy birthday and wanted me to pick out a movie to see but was happy to charge me full price to do so.

Disney Movie Rewards

Disney Movie Rewards I find to be very worthwhile. They give a tiny amount of FREE points out with their newsletter each month. They give you a nice bonus of FREE points on your anniversary date and for your birthday. Submitting movie ticket stubs is fairly easy on a smartphone (up to four per Disney movie). I get merchandise from them all the time. Most recently I got Funko Pop figures of Anger and Joy from Inside Out for my granddaughter (I didn’t have enough points left for Sadness).

A Little Local Theater Frustration

This is going to be an absolutely whiny post so feel free to skip past. My favorite local theater is Carolina Cinemas. They have a great combination of mainstream and arthouse films, fantastic food, good customer service.

Lately though I haven’t had a clear cut winner. This is a shame as I go to a ton of movies during the summer. I would love to have a theater that had all the things I look for.

Epic Cinemas

EPIC: My closest theater is great as it is only fifteen minutes away. They have nice screens and sound systems. Their prepared food is almost exclusively microwaved and they have the world’s worst pretzels. They often have nice promotional plastic cups. They accept DealFlicks but not Fandango and have a $6 Tuesday special (Sony and Warner excluded).

Carolina Cinemas

CAROLINA: Their screens and sound are quite good but just a touch below Regal and Epic. Their fresh, locally sourced food is a mixed bag but even a mixed bag easily beats the microwaved food of the other two. Soda refills are FREE for all sizes and are located outside the counter. They are about to accept Dealflicks but do not accept Fandango and they have a $5 Wednesday promotion (Sony excluded).

Regal Cinemas

REGAL: State of the art stadium theater seating equals Epic. Their upcharged RPX theater is the best in the area. The upcharge is annoying but also means that it is less crowded. They also have the only Coke Icee available. They accept Fandango but not DealFlicks. They also have a children’s movie program in summer where the other two do not.

 

Epic Cinemas – Hendersonville, NC

Epic HendersonvilleThis is my local big screen theater. I rarely attend it – preferring instead to drive forty-five minutes into Asheville to go to the Carolina (bypassing Flat Rock Cinema, Epic Hendersonville, and Biltmore Grande). Unfortunately every once in a while, I just don’t feel like driving.

Dark Shadows Marc

Epic cinema does live up to its name. The building is huge, the lobby is wide open, there is more than ample seating, and the screens are as big as you could ask for without Imax. Their digital projection is sharp and the sound is good and does not bleed through from the other auditoriums. For visual and aural presentation, Epic and Regal Biltmore can’t be beat in this area. Epic, thanks to the large lobby, often has great displays.

Monsters, Inc

What is wrong with Epic? Let’s begin with their reward program. Like most others it is FREE, you get a point for every dollar spent, and at every forty points you get a reward rotating through large soda, large popcorn, and movie ticket. Sounds good?

To start with, their large is generally equivalent to a medium elsewhere, sometimes a small. Their FREE ticket is not usable on new releases, special events, or 3D movies. Most importantly, you can only earn 12 points per day. Who goes to the theater and only spends $12? It says see refreshment menu for additional points but I’ve never seen any on our board and several of the clerks have not been trained in use of the card.

My other reason is personal. It may not apply to most people but I use various FREE movie tickets found on food and Blu-Ray purchases to get my movie fix. Typically clerks have to be shown how to ring these in, either by me or a member of management. I almost always get the same lady ringing me up. She is almost comically rude, harrumphing her way through the entire process, and never thanking us for our patronage nor welcoming us after I have thanked her for the tickets. She always acts like we are a complete burden to her existence.

I had actually turned this into a comedy routine to amuse myself. After about the eighth time this happened (over several years – like I said we avoid Epic since they don’t care for our business), my wife complained to management inside. They apologized and encouraged us to write Epic about our experience. She did a month ago and NEVER heard back from them. That is how much customer service is valued at Epic. To be fair, the concession staff are always polite but the ticket takers are uneven – sometimes sweet, sometimes sour.

Ice Age Bucket

Concessions are typical. Selection of candy is okay but lacks good chocolate options. A single refill on large popcorn or soda is FREE but their large is Carolina’s medium (and Regal’s small :P). They typically have wonderful promotional plastic cups and popcorn buckets (currently Iron Man 3). Their soft pretzels are the worst I have ever had.

Spider-Man CupsEpic does not have special showings but, on Tuesday, all shows (except Sony and Warner, who declined to participate) are $5. 3D showings only have a $2 upcharge which is really low for our area ($3 is standard).

Still waiting to hear back from management.

p.s. This is precisely why you don’t tell customers to file a complaint online – always handle complaints immediately and with courtesy.

Epic Cinema Displays – Burt Wonderstone and Jack

While I may occasionally complain about our local Epic cinemas (their large soda and popcorn are equivalent to the medium size at my beloved Carolina, their customer service is uneven at the best of times – the counter help is polite but the ticket sellers are flat out rude, their rewards program is a joke), I have to grant that they set up the best movie displays.

Here’s one for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (I am in the middle being skewered by the marvelous Steves, Carell and Buscemi). My wife and I enjoyed the trailer so I’m sure we’ll catch this one.

Jack the Giant Slayer has a great display but I didn’t care for the trailer. On the other hand, the director is Bryan Singer whose work can be fantastic – The Usual Suspects, X-Men, X-Men 2, Apt Pupil.

A Tale of Two Cinemas – Epic vs. Carolina

I have extolled the virtues of Carolina Cinemas may times before but once again this week I was reminded of how exceptional they are. The Carolina is about a forty-five minute drive into Asheville for me whereas our local Epic cinema is only ten minutes away.

The Epic has fantastic large screens, stadium seating, and reasonable prices ($6.50-$8.75) with a $2 surcharge for 3D. They even have $5 Tuesdays. You would think that shaving over an hour off a roundtrip and the high tech presentation would have me going local every time.

Unfortunately customer service and follow through are things Epic has apparently not heard of. The last time my wife and daughter went to the Epic, they arrived early for the feature. Because the theater had yet to be cleaned (twenty minutes before feature start), they were not allowed in. The Epic has a series of benches between each of the screens but NONE in the huge lobby. The benches are behind the ticket taker but not only would the ticket taker not take their tickets (since the theater had not been cleaned), he would not allow my ladies to sit on the benches (since it was past his ticket booth).

In case you think this a fluke, my latest visit was to see Monsters, Inc. 3D with my daughter and granddaughter. We used our FREE tickets at the counter. I always apologize out of courtesy when I use one as they have to handpunch the number (other than that they are used just like a credit card for payment). At the Carolina, my customary apology would be responded to with “oh no problem” or even “no worries, Marc” if it is one of the managers. At the Epic, I said “I’m sorry. I know these are a pain to enter.” to which the cashier actually harrumphed at me and said, “they sure are.”

We got inside and ordered a soda and popcorn. The counter staff were very polite and complimented my granddaughter. I got to the ticket taker and gave him our tickets. He informed us with a shrug that they didn’t have any more kids 3D glasses. Are you kidding me? Who did they think would attend Monsters, Inc. 3D? Why wouldn’t the person selling the tickets be made aware of this (especially as once used, the movie vouchers cannot be reused)?

These are only the most recent attempts at the Epic – I would guess that half of all my visits there end in frustration.

In contrast, many of Carolina Cinemas personnel have made the effort to learn my name, one of them even knows my usual food order. They are unfailingly polite, soda refills (any size) are FREE (the machine is self-serve), popcorn refills (any size) are FREE (with an Asheville Film Society membership), and they serve a pretty decent chicken tomato basil pizza. Add to that the rewards program (Epic has one but it is sub-par), FREE movies Tuesday and Thursday evening in the cinema lounge, and $5 Wednesday and you have a superlative cinema experience. They also serve wine and beer for those who partake.

Peter Jackson is Hobbit-Forming

Thankfully my flu had abated by this past weekend so I could go see The Hobbit. I still have the bronchial cough but I kept that at bay with a steady stream of Coca-Cola and throat lozenges. I’m regaining my strength and concentration slowly but the cough just won’t quit.

Just as thankfully, I had a surfeit of FREE tickets from World Market’s Black Friday promotion (first 100 customers on Black Friday, Saturday and Sunday got FREE movie tickets and a Life of Pi totebag). My wife and I went on Saturday and I took my daughter on Sunday.

My daughter was driving us in to my favorite theater, the Carolina, when my car broke down again (second time this month). After I arranged for a tow, my ever-patient wife took us all out to my favorite hamburger joint, French Fryz for lunch. Dining on a juicy cheeseburger and french fries and washing it down with a nice chocolate banana shake (my wife prefers the chocolate peanut butter), I counted my blessings.

After that she dropped us off at our local Epic theater. They had a nice hard plastic Hobbit cup with Thorin Oakenshield on one side and Gandalf on the other. Dropping six dollars to get one was almost a necessity as we have the same type of cups for Amazing Spider-Man, Ice Age, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Men in Black. They make great popcorn cups for the movie room.

The screens at our local Epic theater are newer and bigger than those at the Carolina but the Carolina has a great rewards program, FREE refills on soda, friendly staff, better food, etc. Actually Epic has no food – just candy and popcorn. Nothing like this delicious tray of mini-dogs.

I digress of course (this is a blog after all) but The Hobbit was quite wonderful. Yes, the story is very padded – the book would have more appropriately made two movies. I wonder how much extra padding there will be for the inevitable extended edition home release.

The actors are all wonderful. Martin Freeman is wonderful as Bilbo. Richard Armitage has a lot of gravitas as Thorin, though they do try to make him too Aragorn-esque. Sylvester McCoy is fun as Radagast the Brown, tailor-made to appeal to a younger audience. Ian McKellan is marvelous as always though it should be noted that he plays the humorous Gandalf the Gray here and not the serious Gandalf the White.

The movie is filled with LOTR cameos – Christopher Lee as Saruman, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Andy Serkis as Gollum, and Cate Blanchett as Galadriel. They are worked in quite well but a prologue of sorts featuring old Bilbo (Ian Holm) and Frodo (Elijah Wood) is really shoehorned in.

The movie is not nearly as epic as the Lord of the Rings movies but neither is the source material. This is more in the vein of an adventure than an apocalyptic scenario. The sound design is amazing. Special effects are much better and far more prevalent – there are things to watch on the edge in almost every scene.

I did not get to sample the new 48 FPS rate because that is only in 3D and my prescription is bad enough that I can’t do 3D (at least on televisions). One of these days, I’ll have to splurge and try a 3D presentation in the theater but since 3D televisions don’t work for me, I’m reluctant to try the theater.