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As French director Jean-Luc Godard once said, “Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world.” But unfortunately, this is a fraud less and less people fall for nowadays. Going to the cinema surely doesn’t hold the same magical power it did some years ago, partly because movies, as a whole, don’t hold the same power they once did years ago. The Internet has made movies more accessible, and TV series’ massive surge in popularity has made them more replaceable.

Surely, the timeless act of going to the cinema isn’t going to die, and the industry has taken some steps toward maintaining it special status, mostly through technological advances like IMAX. But what about the actual cinemas where we see movies – their role in the whole scenario becomes more and more secondary, in fact, going to the cinema nowadays usually means going to the mall. The actual cinema is no more important than a faceless extra in a movie.

“Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world.”

Before, cinemas used to be regarded as a place of magic. What mise-en-scene is for a movie, cinemas used to be for the whole film experience, setting the tone of the night from the moment their doors opened, unlike now when the journey doesn’t start before the lights in the auditorium go down.

So, if lately you’ve been only watching films on your laptop, and the whole act of going to the cinema doesn’t stir up the same sense of anticipation and make your inner kid jump around in your belly, maybe it’s time for a road trip to some of America’s most thematic, luxurious, and wondrous cinemas.

Tampa Theatre

Seeing a Disney movie in the Tampa Theatre is arguably one of the closest things to a real-life fairytale you can get. Built in 1926, this astonishing cinema has been a Tampa landmark and a testament to its renowned architect, John Eberson’s talent for nearly a whole decade.

…the imposing gargoyles and statues in the haunting Mediterranean courtyard add a touch of goth and mystery…

It’s hard to pick one particular feature that makes the Tampa Theatre so special, especially because they all come together in perfect, fairytale-like harmony. But for starters, the ceiling is actually a mural of a night sky, generously sprinkled with twinkling stars. If for some reason that seems too conventional or even cheesy, the imposing gargoyles and statues in the haunting Mediterranean courtyard add a touch of goth and mystery that makes everything really come together and sink deeper into the senses, like a dash of that special spice which leaves an unforgettable aftertaste.

The theatre today operates as a non-profit and shows classics, new, and independent movies.

TCL Chinese Theatre


This theatre is for those who want to almost literally walk in the steps of famous filmmakers as not only does the Walk of Fame pass right by it, but the theatre has hosted a number of historic Hollywood premieres and three Oscars ceremonies.

The theatre itself is a work of art and can make you feel like you’re on a proper film set. It has been masterfully renovated and now intersects the best of two not easily compatible worlds – a rich history of nearly 100 years and digital innovations. While its mesmerizing Chinese décor accents have been retouched without damaging their authenticity, the TCL is now one of the largest IMAX theatres in the world with 932 seats, in addition to being the third largest commercial movie screen in the U.S.

…intersects the best of two not easily compatible worlds – a rich history of nearly 100 years and digital innovations.

It has been renovated and is now up-to-date technologically in order to still be able to offer a complete movie experience on all levels without damaging its authenticity which is interlaced with nearly 100 years of history, dating back to 1927.

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre

For those who like to indulge in some heartwarming nostalgia, this is almost like traveling back in time while still getting to enjoy the modern conveniences, making the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre located at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, a unique intersection of past and future.

The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre is actually a restaurant that mimics the classic 1950s drive-ins, with the booths resembling classic sports cars, but it also adds a futuristic dash of modern luxury to the whole experience.

…heartwarming nostalgia, this is almost like traveling back in time while still getting to enjoy the modern conveniences…

Even though it’s actually indoors and inside in a theme park, you don’t get a vibe of cheap imitation. Rather, there’s a special charm to it, something like a loved one’s endearingly clumsy attempt at being romantic.

The theatre doesn’t play actual movies, but film clips of classic 1950s films, which is actually much better since it’s primarily a restaurant. A must-do experience for classic film and cinema lovers who also enjoy a bite to eat in unusual places.

The Castro Theatre


Built in 1910, relocated in 1922, in glamorous Art Deco fashion, the Castro Theatre somehow manages to blend a very cinema-esque neon sign with the style of Mexican cathedrals and Spanish colonialism into a beautiful work of art which can be appreciated by both film fans and architecture lovers alike.

…manages to blend a very cinema-esque neon sign with the style of Mexican cathedrals and Spanish colonialism…

With its towering chandelier from 1937, gold-framed mirrors, and imposing staircases, the Castro Theatre itself feels like an actual movie set of some historic drama.

But the Castro Theatre isn’t all looks – the theatre offers interactive sing-alongs to musicals and Disney films, and new releases, in addition to hosting various films festivals and special events.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema at the Ritz

This theatre is a wonderland for film fans who seek off-beat, yet tastefully done experimentations.

The classic Ritz Theater in Austin, Texas dates as far back as 1929, but the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema moved to the Ritz in 2007. It is now a wonderland for film geeks who can spend the night away enveloped in whimsical film themes like Weird Wednesdays and Girlie Nights. That being said, the theatre caters to films fans with more traditional tastes who want to see first-run movies.

…you might even run into Quentin Tarantino if he happens to be in town.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema owes part of its popularity to its truly eclectic selection of food and drinks which can be enjoyed from the comfort of your seats without missing a second of the film as servers come to take orders.

The balcony seats are particularly coveted for the unmatched view and comfort they offer. And get this – you might even run into Quentin Tarantino if he happens to be in town.

Those are just some of the spectacular and quaint luxury cinemas out there which can remind you that just like food is only part (be it central) of the eating-out experience, going to the cinema doesn’t begin and end with the actual film.

 

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