I love going to the movies. There’s something about the atmosphere- the popcorn, the dim lighting, the Coke products that flow like wine- that worms itself into my brain’s naughty bits and sets up shop. As my wife and I were sitting in the Harkins Theater on Saturday evening, sitting in our primo mid-center seats waiting for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2.0 to start, I couldn’t help but compare the experience I’d had just the day before.
The Royale had its grand opening on Friday night, so I drove out there by my lonesome (Who needs friends? Fuck you, Michael!) to get my first taste of this place I’ve been anticipating for months. It’s very nondescript, sitting there across the street from Evermore Nevermore and the Nile Theater, like that serial killer who ends up being that neighbor of yours with the immaculate rose bushes. The first thing you see upon entering the building is the glassed in display cases in the front, which The Royale crew dolled up with movie posters on one side and cult classics-inspired paintings on the other side (including a pretty goddamned awesome Clockwork Orange canvas). The whole thing had an indescribable charm, like you were about to walk into someone’s house rather than someone’s business. It was obvious, even before walking through the door, that this place was loved.
That charm didn’t dissipate once inside the lobby, either. On the one side, you had the place where you buy tickets and snacks (soda in glass bottles and retro movie candy), and on the other you had retro arcade games. It was as if I stepped out of twenty-eleven and into nineteenfuckingawesome. Unfortunately for me, I had no quarters; I will not make that mistake twice. I wasn’t totally out of luck, though, as I waited for my movie to start. In the lobby, there’s a television that constantly plays VHS tapes. At the time, Star Wars was on, and, while that franchise isn’t my cup of tea, it was fitting. This place was like another world. I took advantage of the comfortable seating and waited for the movie to start.
There’s only one screen at The Royale, so you have to wait until your movie’s right about to start before you can go in. This sounds like a pain in the ass, but, I assure you, it is not. What better way to set the mood for the evening than seeing the happy, animated faces of the folks from the previous showing? I bought my Coke, cheesy popcorn, and m&ms and made my way into the theater, then plopped down and watched the place fill up.
The theater itself is something that needs to be experienced. It is an intimate area that really makes you feel like you’re sitting in the private viewing room of an eccentric millionaire. It’s comfortable, but minimalist at the same time. You’re there to see a movie and the theater seems to respect that. It is the kind of place that would be perfect for a grindhouse double feature, though, oddly enough, nothing in there was the slightest bit gross. My feet didn’t even stick to the floor, for crying out loud!
The first movie I watched was Trollhunter, a Norwegian horror/fantasy/adventure film that followed a film crew as they proved the existence of trolls. I highly recommend taking the time to see this one even if you can’t do it at The Royale. It’s fun and clever and there are a bunch of giant fucking trolls.
I stayed for a second movie that night- Army of Darkness. How could I not? It was the first time I was able to see it on the big screen and it was an experience. It was so much different than what I’m used to. Typically, I have to force people to watch the Evil Dead series with me (What can I say? People are fucktards.), but that night, I was in a theater packed full of people who wanted to watch it -again. They laughed at all the right parts, they knew all the lines. I found my people.
When the credits finally rolled and it was time to bid The Royale adieu, I felt good. Not because I wanted to leave, but because I was right about the place. I will always enjoy my trips to Harkins for the occasional blockbuster movie I have to see, but for a truly enjoyable experience, I have a new go-to venue.
Do yourself a favor. Take a trip to The Royale. Take a moment to let Andrea know how awesome it is. Then just sit back and enjoy the trolls…or 70s exploitation films…or killer clowns…or Robocop (August 26 @ 9pm).