The motion-picture gurus at Mom and Pop's Westside Cinemas have been relaying Hollywood's latest films for eager cinephiles for more than a decade. Artifacts salvaged from 1985, the theater's old-school 33-millimeter projectors cast images onto three screens as crisp Dolby surround sound heightens movies' audio, allowing viewers to hear the cameraman's knees buckle in the presence of Clint Eastwood's glare. Films soon to grace the silver screen include the Justin Timberlake sci-fi thriller In Time, the comedic feature Tower Heist with Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller, and Puss in Boots, featuring a swashbuckling feline voiced by Antonio Banderas. After sliding into their seats for matinee or evening showtimes, visitors devour a mountainous washtub of popcorn that doubles as a toboggan when emptied. Though not included with today's Groupon, Mom and Pop's Westside Cinemas dispenses a variety of additional concessions, such as 44 oz. sodas ($4.75) and juicy franks from Nathan's Hot Dogs, and adorns its lobby with seven arcade games, including Ms. Pac Man.
The Sun-Ray Cinema at 5 Points, formerly known as Riverside Theater and 5 Points Theatre, is a historic single-screen movie theater in the Riverside section of Jacksonville. Originally opened in 1927, the large room was specifically designed to accommodate live theater as well, in the event that talking movies didn’t take off as expected. Over the years, the theater was opened and closed numerous times as a performance center, a night club and general cinema house, until the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission approved it as a Jacksonville landmark and remodeled the space several years ago. Colorful murals give vibrancy to the updated space, while comfortable seating and long wooden tables in front of each row act as wonderfully modern touches, allowing each guest to set down food and drinks easily. P, pulled pork sandwiches and a host of not-seen-everywhere snacks make for a unique experience inside.
Since 2003, the Jacksonville Film Festival has annually served as one of the city's most anticipated cultural events, screening international and independent films and hosting some of Hollywood's most accomplished names. The first deal plunks cinephiles squarely on the red carpet with access to Saturday's special event, a screening of The Six Wives of Henry Lefay, starring Tim Allen, Elisha Cuthbert, and Andie MacDowell. Young film critics that already possess Roger Ebert's critical eye and Gene Shalit's bushy mustache can attend the kids' red-carpet event, which will screen the zany kid-friendly comedy Finn on the Fly. The third options gets you into the world premiere of Thespians, which documents the theater programs at two Duval County high schools as they prepare for the Florida State Thespians theater festival. Afterward, stay for a Q&A with the filmmakers and special guests.
In the center of Jacksonville’s southside neighborhood lies Cinemark Tinseltown, a twenty-screen megaplex movie house that is widely considered one of the best places in town to take in a flick. With outdoor walk-up ticket windows, an electronic ticket kiosk inside and large lobby area to welcome visitors, the sprawling complex makes every attempt to attend to their guests. A plentiful parking lot helps in that regard, as does the main concession stand, outfitted with all manner of movietime snacks or heartier fast meals. Every theater offers stadium seating and offered in supple leather, meaning even spots close to the screen are a luxury. Movie posters and the typical red hallway carpeting give off a luxe theater experience, rounding out the large, stately feel at Cinemark Tinseltown.
Spotlight Theatres screens enrapture audiences with first-run movies. In each movie house, digital sounds and visual projections of fresh Hollywood films alight inner emotions of audiences resting in plush, high-backed stadium seats—each outfitted with a coin-operated mustache comb—or thrown directly into the action through 3-D technology. As eyes and ears relish motion-picture pursuits, soda, candy, and bounties of salty, crunchy popcorn emerge from the concession stand to occupy chatty mouths or catapult towards the screen to feed the hungry actors.
In 2012, Park Plaza Cinema made the conversion from reel to digital projectors, which WTOC chronicled locally. "It's a sad day. It's a historical day," Lucie Mann, who owns the theater with her husband, Larry, told WTOC. The digital conversion has not been the only upgrade at Park Plaza. The new Parlez-Vous Lounge and Ciné-Café invites guests to relax on its cushy benches or barstools for housemade ice cream or gourmet pizza or wings. Select beers and wines are also available. Along with its regular rotation of Hollywood blockbusters, family films, and arthouse cinema, the theater also organizes movie clubs and hosts a weekly movie-discussion group with a film critic.