The AMC 84th Street 6 on the Upper West Side had for years been pretty obviously the worst movie theater in Manhattan. Everything was grimy as hell and the seats were all broken, with the theaters mostly empty except for the occasional pack of participatory teenage viewers with nothing better to do than annoy whoever else dared try to see a movie between West 68th Street and West 125th Street. But then this spring, Team AMC started renovating the place, screen by screen, floor by floor, and finally finished things about mid-July. The result is a classic Worst-to-First transformation—here are some observations:
The seats are nuts! Every seat in the house, all six theaters' worth, is a fat, cushy, butt-and-half wide, freaking MOTORIZED recliner. You can keep going back and back, the footrest lifting up and up, until you're nearly flat, which isn't really ideal for movie watching, but would make for an excellent "nap hotel" option. And there's yards of legroom to spare! Even fully extended there's enough space for people to squeeze by you on their way to the bathroom.
Reserved seating! These plush puppies are all reserve-only; you choose your exact seat on a little diagram when you use the kiosk or Fandango or whatever, and your ticket has your aisle and seat number printed on it. Now you can cruise in right before the trailers—heck skip the trailers!—and plop yourself down into the best seat in the house. No more getting to the theater 30 minutes early only to find 800 people already in line (hello: Regal Union Square). And if you don't plan ahead, and show up right before start time, you can see which seats are left before you make the decision to buy.
Thirsty? Choose from more than 100 different sodas at the Coca-Cola Freestyle Machine!This bad boy is here. Peach-flavored Mello Yello Zero? Cherry Mr. Pibb with a shot of 7-Up? Sure, why not. Refills are free, and there are stations on every floor, so you can pop out of your theater for a quick 64oz re-up, no problem. Play it right, and you can easily consume a week's worth of calories during a single screening of The Hobbit Part 2: Everyone Manages To Walk Another Four Miles.
These aren't dinky screening rooms, either. Seating between 110 and 183 fully reclined and hydrated patrons, all six theaters boast big, spanking new digital screens and blast whatever's the coolest surround sound these days.
Friendly staff! Even if your job is "ticket taker" or "clean-up person", or "Hello-Kitty-Cotton-Candy-in-a-box-selling guy", you're just in better mood if you work in a cool place that makes people happy rather than in a crappy dump. Which AMC 84th Street no longer is.
Another note: When I was chatting with the proud teenage manager about the specifics of the renovation, I said something like, "because this used to be the worst theater in Manhattan!", and she came back with, "I know, that's what GOTHAMIST said too!" Well-played, AMC. Well-played.