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Friday, March 25, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Review

At Alderwood, shop til you plop into new cinema

Special to The Seattle Times

To accompany the Alderwood mall's upscale expansion, the 4,000-seat Loews Alderwood Theaters opens today, instantly qualifying as the region's finest multiplex with 16 screens, roomy stadium-seating theater design, wall-to-wall screens and the most advanced Dolby Digital sound systems.

It's still a standard multiplex in format: 35 millimeter film is the medium of choice (70mm is no longer considered commercially viable and is not an option here), but all 16 cinemas have been rigged for eventual transition to all-digital exhibition.

Loews has thrived for a century as the nation's first and foremost theater chain. (Until now, the chain has been locally represented by nine Loews-owned Cineplex Odeon cinemas.) In keeping with grandiose traditions of theater design, the cinema's exterior facade is attractively ornate and the expansive lobby leads to a 200-foot bank of elaborate concession stands offering everything from Sour Patch candy (the chain's top seller) to deluxe pastries and Starbucks coffee.

The lobby includes two party rooms and forks left and right into mirror-image groups of eight cinemas per side. Screen sizes range from an impressive 67 feet in the largest 500-seat houses to 30 feet wide in the smallest 150-seaters. (That sounds small until you consider that stadium seating allows for a more intimate filmgoing experience; the 808-seat Cinerama uses a 68-foot screen for its 35mm exhibition, with a 90-foot screen reserved for occasional Cinerama presentations.)

As deluxe as the Alderwood Theaters are, disability and/or wheelchair accommodations are good but less than ideal. The stadium design necessitates ramped entry to each auditorium, and the wheelchair sections are fully access-code compliant but fairly close to the screens (roughly five rows back). That's great for fully immersive filmgoing, but there's no other option for mobility-impaired patrons who prefer to sit farther back.

Disabled parking is also excellent in the adjoining garage, but there are no automatic doors to the elevator bays and the doors themselves are not the required width of 36 inches.

Families get a break: A "Reel Moms" program begins April 12 (babies get in free every Tuesday for 11 a.m. shows), and kids under 12 enjoy free admission for 11 a.m. shows on Wednesdays from June 29 to August 17.

Regular admissions are $9.50 after 5 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and holidays; $9.25 after 5 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; all showtimes $6.50 for kids 12 and under and seniors over 62; and $6.50 for all shows and patrons daily before 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.enjoytheshow.com/alderwood.

Jeff Shannon: j.sh@verizon.net

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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