Seattle is a great city for independent movie theaters. If there is a better city, I am not aware of it (and it must be a much larger city than Seattle). “Independent movie theater” has two meanings and Seattle represents well in both categories. There are great venues for all sorts of foreign and independent American movies, but there are also a good number of independently owned theaters showing Hollywood movies. People here may not realize how rare this has become, as in most cities large national chains such as Regal run the vast majority of Hollywood movie screens.
I had an outrageously miserable experience with AMC Theaters and have sworn to never patronize them again. Their corporate customer service is severely lacking. Luckily, Seattle makes it easy to avoid them completely. Regal is nice, for a big corporate chain, but I prefer to support local businesses when possible. I have so far been to Central Cinema, the Egyptian Theater, and the Northwest Film Forum. I plan to visit all of the rest of the many theaters too, as I love films. I also plan to write about the local film theater scene, but last weekend I went to the Majestic Bay Theaters and I was impressed. Too many independent theaters seem to only be able to compete by providing only the bare bones in service, environment, and comfort. Majestic Bay has the technology, comfortable seats, high seat-backs, and even cupholders of the large chains. Unlike the chains, they offer freshly popped popcorn with real butter.
I just got a good feeling about this place walking up on Market street in Ballard and standing in line on the sidewalk in front of the theater. This was a bit of a nostalgic feeling, not being in a mall or megaplex parking lot. I assumed that this was an old theater, but in fact it is only about thirteen years old. It was built upon the site of the old Bay Theater. That theater closed in 1997 after 82 years in business. At the time it was the oldest movie theater in continuous use on the West coast. Bay was bought by a local family interested in preserving a neighborhood theater, but the old theater was not suitable for remodeling and modernizing. So they just built a new building on the site.
The decor inside is funky, but very nice. I heard someone criticize its lack of cohesiveness, but I think it works. It is definitely not corporate. The nautical accents seem appropriate to the old fishing town of Ballard. The lighting fixtures in the lobbies are more modern and fun, and if you watch, they change colors. The building has three theaters, one large one downstairs and two smaller on the third floor. The second floor holds the restrooms. The theater seems modern, but has a nice aura of classic cinemas. I enjoyed watching 50/50 there, and I plan to write about the movie, later. I cannot wait to return to Majestic Bay, though I have a bunch of other theaters to try. This is coming into high season for movies, so I will just have to get to it.