Beneath the night sky's smattering of stars, Keno Drive In projects double features of the latest first-run films. Customers tune car radios to 88.5 FM or attach celebrity impersonators to their car windows to hear audio synchronized to the narratives unfurling onscreen. Throughout the evening, moviegoers can chow down on Keno Drive-in's concessions or dump their own charcoal into the theater's onsite grill to simmer feasts for friends gathered in the picnic area.
Watching a movie should be a magical experience, one that transports the mind to places it wouldn't otherwise go. Nothing undercuts that faster than traipsing down a sticky aisle to squeeze into a creaky seat and watch a movie where some guy just staples paper for an hour. The experience couldn't be more opposite at Hollywood Blvd. and Hollywood Palms Cinemas, where people might start an action-packed new release or cult classic by meeting the film's stars. Fans of the theater have written tons of appreciative letters, recalling their experiences hobnobbing with Tippi Hedren before a showing of The Birds, or seeing a cast reunion of Back to the Future, which one mega-fan wrote was "one of the best experiences of [their] life."
But it's not just these meet-and-greets that elevate the experience at Hollywood's theaters. Instead of cramped row seating, there are high-backed swivel chairs encircling tables, and instead of concession stands, there're servers ferrying food and beverages to tables throughout the show. The extensive menu is mostly upscale casual dishes, including the Whoopi Goldburger with Angus beef, bacon, and barbecue sauce. From the bar, guests can order Rat Pack?inspired martinis, craft beers, or specialty cocktails such as the Tequila Mockingbird margarita with raspberry liqueur.
At each location, the architecture and decor rivals that of a film set. The lobby at Hollywood Blvd. is a replica of Grauman's Chinese Theater, and at Hollywood Palms, individual screening rooms pay homage to Marilyn Monroe and The Wizard of Oz. Not surprisingly, the Hollywood Blvd. theater has an on-site museum with real movie artifacts, including costumes worn by the Munchkins, whom the theater successfully petitioned to receive their own star on the Walk of Fame.
Within Studio Movie Grill's expansive auditoriums, towering screens enrapture audiences seated in plush leather recliners and at dining tables. As the familiar celebrity faces in blockbuster and cult-classic features deliver Oscar-worthy lines, sneakily quiet waiters deliver meals from a full menu decorated with more than 100 items, including gourmet pizzas, smoked ribs, and cocktails infused with the spirit of Daniel Day-Lewis. Bartenders at the lobby bar dole out glasses of premium liquors, wines, and draft beer before and after shows.
“3D you see, 4D you feel, 5D you move.” This apt description in the video on PIX 5D Cinema’s website only hints at the multidimensional surface of the experience at the Midwest’s first 5-D theater. Each showing includes two short films that spring from the screen, thrusting 3-D-glasses-wearing viewers into the action via moving seats and special effects, which range from snow to fog to an actor’s tears when they flub a line. In addition to regular showings throughout the week, the cinema offers party packages for birthdays and private events.
Following the aroma of freshly popped corn through Sundae’s Too Ice Cream Shop, guests find themselves standing in front of Bensenville Theatre’s two intimately sized, 130-person theaters. The twin screens flicker to life two to three times daily, showing a selection of recent Hollywood blockbusters during weekday matinees or nightly showings. A concession stand helps supply guests with popcorn for staving off hunger or stuffing shirts in an effort to emulate the muscular physique of Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Built in 1925, the newly refurbished and richly historic LaGrange Theatre has shown captivating entertainment on both the stage and the screen. Upcoming features include The Social Network, a Facebook biopic, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, the latest installment of the popular wizard series. Walk past the theater's signature marquee and renovated murals, then relax with a snack from the concession stand, such as buttery popcorn, an ice-cold soda, or a seared ginger duck breast with peach-chili aioli personally served by a tuxedoed Martin Scorsese.