In the 1920s in America, movie theaters, mostly owned by Hollywood studios, were known as “palaces” featuring massive architecture, luxurious appointments, highly uncommon air conditioning systems and the first reclining seats – making movie-watching not only about the film but about the experience as a whole.
These days, most multiplexes are cookie-cutter caverns without much individualization. However, there are a few highly unique theaters out there that it is worth traveling to see – no matter which film is on the marquee.
The Orange Cinema Club – Beijing
This opulent establishment is a staple of Beijing nightlife, but offers the comforts of home: sofa seating, pillows, blankets, and even butlers who deliver your drinks and snacks of choice. However, you’ll need to lay out the membership fee of between $200 and $800 a year in order to catch a flick here.
Electric Cinemas Portobello – London
This refurbished Edwardian-age theater, now 105 years old, features opulent seating and floor-to-ceiling elegance.
The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater – Walt Disney World, Hollywood
Designed to look like an outdoor drive-in in the 1950s, this retro theater’s seats are 1957 Chevy automobiles, parked underneath a simulated night sky, to which you can order classic American fast food and snacks.
Hot Tub Cinemas – London and New York
You can combine two of mankind’s favorite activities into one night at the Hot Tub Cinemas, where – as the name suggests – guests can watch films while relaxing in one of many congregated rooftop hot tubs facing the massive outdoor screen. Ticket prices of $55 include a soak, a movie and the service of waiters and a full bar.
The Oriental Theater – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
This masterpiece of cinematic architecture hearkens back to the golden age of films. Built in 1927, this theater still operates normally, with its built-in Kimball Theatre Pipe Organ (the largest of its kind in America) opening for the 7 PM show on weekends.
The Blitz Megaplex, Indonesia
Each one of the Blitz chain of theaters is a massive compound, housing restaurants, billiard halls, karaoke bars and more.
The Castro Theater – San Francisco, California
This historic movie theater, opened in 1910, is located in the San Francisco neighborhood famous for the gay rights movement, as depicted in the Oscar-winning 2008 film, “Milk.” These days, its 1,400 seats host a dozen film festivals among its opulent Spanish Colonial Baroque design, the work of Timothy L. Pflueger.
Le Grand Rex – Paris
Europe’s largest movie theater since 1931 features 2,800 seats and lavish art deco design. During WWII, the theater was curiously reserved by Nazi authorities for the sole use of German soldiers.
The Orinda Theater – Orinda, California
The Orinda, built in 1941, is a jewel of art deco architecture. At one point marked for demolition, the theater was saved by local activists and eventually refurbished.