One of the things I love about living in Los Angeles is that people are generally pretty serious about going to the movies. I’m from the east coast, where moviegoers seem to perceive theaters as living rooms that happen not to be attached to their homes, and are thus happy to spend two hours texting, chatting on cell phones, changing diapers, making salads, and so on an so forth, instead of watching 13 Going on 30 or whatever. Here in LA, I can watch in peace, and I don’t have to spend any time wondering how long I should wait before telling the jackass in the seat in front of me to stop playing Tetris on his phone.
Most of my contemporaries place the Arclight at the top of their list of favorite moviehouses — a respectable choice, to be sure — but I’ll take the Vista any day. Sitting on the hazy border of Los Feliz and Silverlake, the Vista only has one screen, but reserves that screen mostly for movies that demand to be seen in theaters — big popcorn movies and Oscar bait. Because every other row has been removed, the Vista has more legroom than any other theater. And of course the manager dresses up in full costume for every big opening. I’ve seen him as Wolverine and Jack Sparrow.
But this week the Vista went above and beyond the call of duty when my girlfriend and I stopped by for a 4:15 showing of Crazy Heart. Outside the theater was a small team of contractors and a large section of carpeting — the place was undergoing renovations, and we couldn’t get in. Crap.
But then a manager rushed — seriously, rushed — up to us with a book of free passes, signed one of them, and gave it to us with an apology. The renovations had gone past schedule, so the Vista had to cancel its 4:15 show. But in return, everyone who was turned away got free tickets, without having to ask or complain. By the time we got our passes, a small crowd had gathered, and the manager handed out passes to everyone; some could have simply been passersby who had no intention of going to the movies but who knew a good opportunity when they saw it. That’s a risk the Vista was willing to take. Oh, and the tickets were good for any showing of any movie, not just the next showing of Crazy Heart (which is the one we went to; Crazy Heart itself was good-not-great).
As the bumper sticker says: Shit happens. Sometimes problems crop up and customers can’t get what they want. But the Vista management was right on top of damage control yesterday, and clearly cared more about retaining customer loyalty than anything else. I can’t imagine this happening at an AMC or Pacific theater. Kudos, Vista.