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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

Spokane movie theaters aren’t that bad, pal

Of all the 3-D movies that have opened over the past few years, two — count them — two have been worth seeing in anything other than standard 2-D format. The first was James Cameron's "Avatar." And the second is Alfonso Cuarón's "Gravity."

"Avatar," in fact, was the first time 3-D ever actually worked for me. And as I grew up during the era when paper glasses were the tools you were supposed to use, that covers a lot of films. And "Avatar" left me breathless, even if the story was fairly lame. Cuarón's "Gravity" screenplay isn't exactly Tolstoyesque either. But its slim script is perfectly serviceable to the impression the Mexican filmmaker wants to make on his audiences.

My point is that 3-D, and its attendant higher price, is largely avoidable. The corollary, then, is that you want to make sure that the 2-D movies that you watch are rendered in the best format possible.

That necessity hit home over the weekend when my wife and I paid to see "Ender's Game" at what turned out to be a third-rate first-run theater. Located in York, Pa. — which is where my wife's family lives — the Frank Theatres outlet Queensgate Stadium 13 sits at the edge of a shopping mall. And, to be fair, it offers an average experience not that different from what you're likely to get in Spokane.

But that's the trouble with averages. For every high point, an equally low point is bound to follow. And we knew we'd reached it when "Ender's Game" screened, with digital format worse than you're likely to experience on your average PC laptop. Not only that, but we noticed a bright light shining down the right portion of the screen that was obvious even during the trailers.

I went out and complained. But the guy taking tickets couldn't see what the problem was. And afterward, my wife went over his head to complain to the manager on duty. That manager gave her a phone number, supposedly of the general manager, but turned out to be the number you get when you call the theater. So we got zilch for our efforts.

Maybe similar issues have spoiled your Spokane moviegoing experience. I remember one time, during the opening-weekend screening of "Shakespeare in Love," Regal Cinemas' Spokane Valley Mall site played the reels out of order. But at least the manager on duty admitted to the problem and offered us tickets to another show.

The folks at Frank Theatres — a company serving eight East Coast states — could have cared less. Or they simply didn't know any better. Either way, I won't be doing business with them again. And for the first time in a long time, I — the habitual moviegoer — considered myself lucky to call Spokane home.