If you’re a big fan of the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens, at this point you’ve most likely seen it seven-plus times. I’ve only seen it three times — all while sporting my cozy Tauntaun hoodie of course — but made sure to watch it in different theaters: on a huge screen in 3D, in a cozy living room-esque setting, and regular 2D. If you haven’t seen it yet or have and wondered what it was like at these other theaters, here is my impression of each movie-going experience and which ultimately was the best. Warning: spoilers ahead. Not really but I’d rather say there are than risk angering those who haven’t even seen the movie trailer yet.
IMAX 3D at AMC Universal CityWalk: This is where I saw the movie for the first time, on the Wednesday following opening weekend. For a first-time experience it’s the way to go. After all, even though director J.J. Abrams said he used an IMAX camera on only one sequence in the film, it’s, as he said, a really good sequence. Still IMAX works for the entire movie, too. With a 70-foot screen you’re totally immersed in the film. AMC Universal CityWalk is one of only two theaters in L.A. — the other is the Chinese Theater in Hollywood — that boasts laser projection where it has blacker blacks and the highest resolution. It was awesome. Those other worlds stretched on to horizons and the action was all-encompassing. Endless ooohing. That first airfight took my breath away, and don’t get me started on that escape from Jakku when the Millenium Falcon tries to get away from a TIE fighter.
Now, my usual gripe with watching a movie in 3D, besides having to wear those stupid glasses, is that the colors aren’t as vivid. That wasn’t the case here. Like I said, true blacks. However, there really is no need to see it in 3D as this movie wasn’t filmed in 3D but rather 70mm. Unfortunately there are only 18 theaters that show 70mm IMAX; AMC Universal CityWalk WAS the last one to do so in L.A. Now San Jose’s Hackworth Dome in the Tech Museum is the closest theater showing it in 70mm IMAX. So 3D IMAX is you’re only choice here.
2D at Arclight Cinemas Hollywood: This Arclight theater is the movie-goer’s theater with its strict rules about not coming en costume or even facepaint, and I don’t doubt the ushers will kick you out if you’re caught texting. Arclight is currently showing Star Wars in the Dome in 3D but I opted for regular. I have to say, this was the least interesting experience of the three screenings. Not as awe-inspiring as IMAX 3D or indulgent as iPic. The movie is still good but you’d do yourself a disservice to see it in this regular way, even at the Arclight. It’s sorta like drinking a well-crafted cocktail by Julian Cox in a red SOLO cup. OK, maybe not THAT bad. But you’d get the basics down instead of the full, beautiful experience and why screw yourself over like that?
iPic Theater in Westwood: This was my third screening, so at this point I was willing to trade a large screen for a cushy reclining chair and table service. At $18 (if you have a free membership) it’s definitely a splurge, so why see it in what is essentially a supersized living room? Because you should treat yourself. I loved reclining my plush armchair, tucking myself in a throw, and drinking Black Butte Porter while noshing on some fish tacos and watching Star Wars. All the seats are spaced far away enough from each other so there was no one kicking my chair.
They don’t have those iPads for ordering anymore but rather you press the call button to summon your server. The food is a bit pricey with $16 burgers, but not offensively so and it was actually tasty and substantial. I recommend those fish tacos which are conveniently rolled up for spill-free dining.
Verdict: So which version was the best? Definitely IMAX 3D at AMC Universal CityWalk. I’d follow that up with the iPic experience. And no, I haven’t seen it in 4DX in L.A. Live but frankly I find all that mist, motion, and scents distracting. But if you’re into that go for it. The 4DX theater at L.A. Live is the first one in the U.S.