The brand-spanking new Sundance Cinemas will be hosting a benefit event for the Museum of Fine Arts Houston tonight before officially opening on Wednesday, November 23rd. A few weeks ago, the theater invited the press to tour its facilities while the workers are tirelessly putting the theater together. As you can see in the pictures, everything is essentially a premium upgrade from the site’s former occupant, Angelika Film Center. The loveseat-style chairs are roomy and cushioned with fine fabrics, paired with a Maplewood armrest that can hold your drinks (alcoholic or otherwise) and the fancy food you can order at the bar. Patrons will also be able to reserve their selected seats when they purchase tickets online. In addition to digital projection, which is sadly becoming the norm these days, the new theater will also have a few 35mm projectors in its setup. The Sundance staff has repeatedly stated their aim to be the best movie theater in Houston, which I am sure they will be since the commercial cinemas in Houston have been mediocre at best.
All that comes with a price. An evening show costs $7.50 dollars, but there will be an additional amenity fee that ranges from $1.00 to $3.00 (depending on the day of the week and time of the day). Although the top-notch facility is a nice change of scene, the whole system seems to make it deliberately complicated for potential patrons to figure out the exact cost of their tickets. Sundance is clearly positioning itself to be a high-end movie experience— an audacious attempt to lure moviegoers as many has opted to spend the evening in front of their Blu-ray equipped flats-screen televisions. Clearly, convenience has trumped over the cinema experience for most audiences and theaters today are in dire needs to find more reasons for potential customers to pay them a visit.
Regardless of all the peripheral service the theater can provide, a movie theater is only as good as the movies it shows. So far, looking from its opening lineup, Sundance seems to have much to offer— Werner Herzog’s death row documentary (filmed in nearby Huntsville) Into the Abyss is a must-see and Lars von Trier’s cosmic endgame Melancholia is arguably the most anticipated film of the season. Clint Eastwood (J.Edgar) and Martin Scorsese (Hugo 3D) are also on the schedule. For those who are into the more mainstream fares, there will be teenaged vampires and Muppets at your service.