May 26th, 2013 by Mike Fulton

You’re doing your grocery shopping, and you’re in the aisle with all the frozen foods when you notice that there are like a billion different choices for frozen pizza.  Different varieties, different brands, different sizes, they all have one thing in common.  They’re not as good as fresh pizza.

But, sometimes, they’re good enough.  Sometimes, you don’t want to wait 30 minutes to an hour for delivery.  Or you don’t want to get dressed and leave the house.  Or maybe you just don’t want to pay Dominos $15.00 or more for a medium pizza.  Sometimes, that $4.00 frozen pizza you picked up at the supermarket frozen foods aisle is going to do the trick.  Even if it’s not quite as good as fresh pizza, it can still be fairly decent.

How I Learned To Cook Pizza

Way back in my school days, I worked at three different pizza places within a few years of each other.  The first one was “Big Daddy’s Pizza”, which was within a few hundred yards of my house. My mother, my sister, and I were on our way home from the DMV when I got my driver’s license, and we stopped there to celebrate.  The window had a “help wanted” sign so I asked the owner about the job, which turned out to be for delivery driver.  About 90 minutes later I was taking out my first delivery.

While I started as a delivery boy, it wasn’t long before I started learning how to make pizza. One of the perks of the job was getting a meal at some point in the shift, and one day the boss told me to go ahead and make my own pizza ‘cos he didn’t want to get up from his comfortable position in the back booth with his girlfriend. He was about 60 and she was maybe 3-4 years older than my own 16. I would have wanted to stay in the booth too, I guess.

Anyway, I had been watching him make pizzas for a few weeks at that point and I figured I could handle it, so I went to it.  Making a pizza isn’t brain surgery, but it’s not easy if you’ve never done it before.  The dough was already made, of course, and had already been given time to rise, so the first step was to roll it out into the proper size and shape.  We had a machine that was sort of an automated rolling pin.  You’d put the dough in one side and it would flatten it out and push it out the other side.  Then you’d stretch it into a more or less circular shape and push it through again.  This process would repeat until the dough was reasonably close to the desired size.  Then you’d stretch it out again.

For experienced pizza cooks, this last part is where you’d throw it spinning into the air, although that’s not all really necessary.  It’s really just showing off.  The ultimate goal is to get the dough into a circle and have it be reasonably uniform thickness.  If you’ve got thick dough in one place, it won’t cook through, and if it’s too thin somewhere else, it might not support the weight of the toppings.

Once you’ve got the dough shaped and on a sheet of cooking paper, the next step is adding the sauce.  You might like a lot of sauce on your pizza, but what looks like just the right amount of sauce at first can turn out to be entirely too much later.  The amount of sauce can affect how the dough cooks, so it’s best to take it easy until you have a little experience in what works.

Certain toppings like ground beef or Italian sausage can go on the pizza before the cheese, if you prefer.  You might like the way they cook when they’re under the cheese instead of on top.  It’s a matter of personal preference.

Next comes the cheese.  Mostly you use grated Mozzarella, or maybe a blend with Cheddar, and another variety or two like Provolone or Monterey Jack.  One thing to consider is that cheese made from skim milk will release less grease during the cooking process. This is the main source of grease on a pizza so if you don’t like it, definitely use cheese made from skim milk. But on the other hand, the flavor isn’t quite as rich. I don’t personally find it to be a very noticeable difference but you may be different.

Now you put your toppings like pepperoni, ham, onions, etc. on top of the cheese.  Again, be careful about loading too many toppings on the pizza until you have a little experience.  Note also that the more different toppings you use, the less you use of each.  If you like a “supreme” style pizza with a lot of different toppings put together, it may take a bit of practice to get the mix down right.

Just before placing the pizza in the oven, you might want to put a last sprinkle of cheese over the toppings.  Another thing that comes down to personal preference.

I worked at Big Daddy Pizza for about a year, and over that time I gradually shifted from making deliveries to cooking and running the counter.  By the end I was essentially filling an “assistant manager” role, which I always had mixed feelings about because delivery drivers can make some pretty good money with tips and all.  I usually made at least $50 and sometimes as much as $100 a night, and for a 16-year old in 1980 that was awfully good!

Over the next few years I would work at two other places as a pizza cook, learning a somewhat different style of pizza cooking each time.

Making Pizza At Home

I’ve occasionally made pizza from scratch at home. Cheese and toppings are pretty easy, but the challenge has often been scaling down the recipes for dough and sauce from restaurant scale. I learned to make dough in a big restaurant mixer where one batch would be enough for 50 pizzas. When making sauce, we’d use three gallon-sized cans of tomato sauce and three of tomato paste. Spices were measured by the cup, not tablespoons. At that scale, it’s relatively easy to tweak the mix. Sauce needs more salt? Add half a cup and you might barely taste the difference. When making smaller amounts, adding half a tablespoon can be too much.

If you want to simply use a pre-made pasta sauce on your home-baked pizza, that can work out fairly well. Just be aware that what works OK with pasta might be a bit different when you taste it on a pizza. Some experimenting may be helpful.

Figuring out how to make the crust was a bit easier. Pizza dough is basically a kind of bread dough, and even before the web was around, you could easily find all sorts of recipes for bread or pizza crust that are pretty easy to make at whatever scale is needed.  I made dough from scratch ingredients at home a few times, and while the results were good, it can be a lot of work if you’re only making one or two pizzas.

Back in the early 80’s there was another option. I don’t think it’s still available, but back then someone made a pizza dough mix that was basically a powder where you’d add water and stir. I think it was from Chef Boyardee but it’s been 25 years at least since I last saw it. Right out of the can, the results were close, but not quite right. After I’d tried it a couple of times following the instructions on the can, I experimented a bit and discovered that by adding an egg and just a touch of baking powder to the mix, and by letting it rise for an hour or so, it came out pretty decent.

These days, probably the most popular option for homemade pizza is using a pre-cooked crust. While there are other brands out there, Boboli is perhaps the best known, and they have several different varieties available.  They also have a lot of recipes for different kinds of pizza on their website.

Pre-Made Uncooked Pizza

In recent years, many supermarkets have started selling pizzas which are freshly made, not frozen, and uncooked.  My experience is that these are often pretty good.  They are usually made from fresher, higher-quality ingredients and the ones I see are attractively priced.

These can be a great option. The store usually sells basic varieties like cheese, pepperoni, and italian sausage but they’ll also occasionally have a BBQ-Chicken pizza too.  The cheese variety is popular because if you like if you like other toppings like onions, olives, peppers, etc., it’s really easy to simply add your own.

The one problem seems to be that they are available in limited quantity. It’s not unusual for the store to be out of stock if you do your shopping later in the day.  Also, be aware that for best results, you will want to cook the pizza within a day or two of buying it.

While these pizzas can be pretty good right out of the box, you can also apply some of the tips in the next section.

Improving Frozen Pizza

A few easy extra steps can make a big difference in the quality of frozen pizza.

I think the most important part of selecting a brand of frozen pizza is the crust. Find a brand that has a crust you like, or at least which you dislike the least, and the battle is halfway won. That’s not to say the sauce, cheese, and toppings aren’t important too, but they’re usually not as far off the mark as the crust can be.

I find that most frozen pizza is a bit light on sauce. With some brands, I think they paint it on with a brush and then wipe it down with a paper towel so that the dough is just kind of stained.  So one of the things I like to do is add a little extra sauce before the pizza goes into the oven. I usually keep a jar of basic red pasta sauce in the fridge, so I take a spoon and dab a little across the top. Not a lot but maybe like 3-4 tablespoons’ worth. Then I take the spoon and spread it around more or less evenly.

Some frozen pizza brands put a decent amount of toppings on, but not all. I usually go for pepperoni or a combo with pepperoni, so I keep a small bag of sliced pepperoni on hand and when I cook a frozen pizza, I’ll sometimes add a few extra slices.  You can do the same with other toppings, if you like.  Note that some fresh, unfrozen toppings may want to be added partway through the cooking process, rather than at the beginning.

Lastly, I always try keep a bag of grated mozzarella cheese in the fridge.  I use it for making garlic bread and it also comes in handy to give frozen pizza a little boost. I’ll sprinkle a little bit on after adding extra sauce, and again after any extra toppings. Again, not a lot. It doesn’t take a whole lot to make a decent improvement.

Other than some varieties having a sucky crust, the biggest problem with frozen pizza is that they sometimes tend to be kind of greasy, and if you’ve added extra cheese that’s even more likely. You may want to pull the pizza out of the oven once or twice while cooking and use a paper towel to blot some of the grease off the top.  Be careful not to squish the toppings around too much… just dab at it gently.

Put It In The Oven!

If you’re cooking a frozen pizza in the microwave using one of those little goofy cardboard cooking sheets that they come with, you’re best off just following the instructions on the box. If you’re cooking using a regular, non-microwave oven, those instructions are a good starting point but may need some tweaking.

The cooking temperature and time for pizza varies quite a bit. Most frozen pizza boxes say you should set your oven to 400 degrees or so, but a typical pizza oven at a restaurant is usually set to 600 or even 700 degrees! Why the difference? Can you cook your frozen pizza at home for 12 minutes at 600 degrees instead of 18 minutes at 400?

Maybe. It depends on your oven. A home oven’s 600 degrees may not be the same as a restaurant oven’s 600 degrees. When you’ve cooked a lot of pizzas in a variety of different ovens, you come to realize that there are several factors of oven design that affect pizza cooking.

When you cook something like a roast, selecting the proper cooking temperature is important.  Too high, and the outside of the roast may sear and burn before the inside is cooked. Too low, and there’s too much time for the juice to leak out and and it turns out dry.  The trick is finding the right balance.

With pizza, all other things being equal, boosting the temperature will simply reduce cooking time. Because of the flat topology, there really isn’t any issue with “inside” cooking at a different rate from “outside”.  But in a typical home oven, all other things aren’t always equal when you boost the temperature.

A home oven typically has two or three large wireframe shelves raised up at intervals between the main burners at the bottom and the broiler burners at the top. When the oven is set to 400 degrees, the heat may be obtained solely through the bottom burners, but if you crank things up to 600 degrees, if it even goes that high, it may require that the broiler burners at the top be used, at least part of the time.

At higher temperatures when the top burners are used, the top of the pizza is receiving more direct heat than it does at lower temperatures with just the bottom burners. So maybe the bottom cooks 135% faster at the higher temperature, but the top cooks 175% faster. This means the top could burn before the bottom is completely cooked.

In comparison, a big restaurant pizza oven usually has either a large fixed metal shelf with the burners underneath, and vents around the perimeter, or else there’s a large circular rotating shelf.  The position of the heat source relative to the food doesn’t change when the temperature changes, so when you crank things up to 600 degrees, the food cooks faster, but the top and bottom still cook at the same rate relative to each other.

You can mitigate this problem with a home oven by placing a cookie sheet or some aluminum foil on another shelf above the pizza.  This will block some of the direct heat from the top burners and hopefully even things out a bit.  If your oven has a convection feature, that can also help. This is the process of circulating hot air throughout the oven.  It makes the heat more even, less directional.

Almost Ready To Eat

Regardless of what kind of oven you’re using, other than microwave, you have to pay attention while cooking your pizza! This is especially true if you’ve cranked up the cooking temperature to get shorter cooking times. At least the first time or two, you should babysit the entire process. Once you have a good idea of how long it takes, then you can slack off for all but the last few minutes.

One exception to that “slack off” idea is if you’re using fresh dough, because you need to be on the lookout for bubbles forming while cooking. You don’t need to watch the oven like it was a TV set, but every few minutes you may need to open the oven door and pop a bubble with a fork.

It depends on the thickness and type of dough, but as a general rule, the bottom of the pizza is done when the perimeter has become bread-like and has browned just a bit. Use a knife or fork to lift up the edge so you can peek at the bottom. If it’s still uniformly the same color as the dough started out, it’s not quite done yet. Start looking at how the top of the pizza is doing. You want the cheese to have browned at least a little bit. Check any exposed toppings. You may not be able to tell much with something like black olives, but onions or peppers should be browning a bit.

Hopefully, the top and bottom will cook at the same rate, but you have to be ready to take action towards the end if that’s not the case. If it seems like the bottom is done but the top still has a bit to go, take out that cookie sheet or foil, move the pizza to the top shelf, and crank up those top burners for a minute or two.

If it seems like the bottom still needs more time but the top is pretty much done or getting close, move the pizza down a shelf if you can, and change the temperature to make sure the top burners remain off.  You might also put a sheet of aluminum foil directly over the top of the pizza.

Ultimately, after you’ve moved things around, added foil, etc., if the top and bottom aren’t quite in sync, you just need to eyeball it and pull the pizza out when it seems like there’s a reasonable compromise.

Once the pizza is ready, take it out of the oven and let it sit on the counter or other safe, flat surface for a minute or two before cutting it. If you’re using a pizza slicer, I recommend cutting firmly and slowly, making sure that the toppings don’t get pulled out of place during the process.  Make sure you cut all the way through and that the pieces separate properly.

If you’re using a knife, then carefully put it down, find your car keys, drive to the store, and buy yourself a real pizza cutter. Seriously. They are not that expensive.

Sigh. OK, if you must use a knife, make it the biggest one you can, and try to cut the pizza by pressing the knife into it, rather than using a sawing action or trying to slice across the top.

Once you’ve sliced the pizza, you probably want to let it cool off for at least another few minutes before eating.

To eat the pizza… aw, never mind.  You got it from here!

January 20th, 2012 by Mike Fulton

The subtitle of this website has always been “Welcome Inside My Head” or something along similar lines, but this post may be the first time that has applied quite so appropriately, because it’s about dreams.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been able to do lucid dreaming.  That’s what they call it when someone becomes aware they are dreaming while it’s happening. In many cases, after that realization hits, they can influence what happens, at least to some degree.

Most of the time, my dreams are some sort of wild episode featuring myself and my friends or family.  Sometimes it’s like we’ve been inserted into some weird combination of TV shows, movies, and real life, and other times it’s just some mundane scene.  Sometimes they’re more or less realistic, other times obviously not. While they sometimes feature some things that are obviously unreal, my dreams don’t usually contain too much in the way of stereotypical dream imagery.  Usually anything that’s too far out of the ordinary triggers the realization that I’m dreaming.

However, once in awhile, I have a dream that later makes me wonder if I’m not receiving someone else’s broadcast.  I’m not in it, and neither is anybody I know.  While they sometimes flow from scene to scene like a movie, they feel more like reality.  They can be deadly serious and it often feels like I’m just watching something happen through someone else’s eyes, or from over their shoulder.  There’s never any lucid dreaming on these, either, and they’re usually pretty realistic, without any stereotypical dream imagery.

I woke up from a dream like this just awhile ago.  It featured two brothers who were in the hospital, one already down a path of serious treatment and the other still awaiting diagnosis.  My guess would be some sort of inoperable cancer for the older brother, but it wasn’t clear what was wrong with either of them.  Oddly, there were a few scenes with a lot of medical technobabble which I didn’t understand even in the dream.  A lot of the dream had to do with the younger brother wandering around the hospital with his girlfriend while they waited for important test results.

The dream had several doctors, family members, nurses, but there was nobody I knew at all.  It was like a really depressing reality TV show or something.  The only point of familiarity was that one of the doctors who appeared briefly right before the end looked like Kelsey Grammer (Frazier Crane of “Cheers”).

Very odd.

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June 4th, 2011 by Mike Fulton

I’ve been a big movie fan most of my life.  I can remember sitting with my dad on Sunday afternoons when I was a little kid, watching whatever the special movie presentation of the day might be.  It wasn’t a regular thing, but it was a way to spend time with my dad, and I didn’t get to see him that much during the week.  He’d typically get home from work right before dinner was served and would be off to bed fairly soon afterwards.

The first memories I have of going out to see a movie in a theatre are from when my family spent summers at Lake Mead, in Nevada.  Initially we had a big mobile home on the southwest shore of the lake, pretty much as close to Las Vegas as it gets.  But the spring following my 8th birthday, my parents bought a house up on the northern arm of the lake.  Stewart’s Point was pretty isolated.  Nothing but houses, mostly widely spaced on plots of half an acre to an acre or so.  No stores.  No gas stations.  There were a few retirees who lived there year-round, but most of the houses were owned by people who were only there for the occasional weekend.  In the 8 years we owned that house, I think we saw our closest neighbor perhaps 4 or 5 times.

Las Vegas was now a good 75 mile drive away, so our closest taste of civilization was 15 miles away at the small town of Overton.  It was just past the northernmost tip of the lake, at the south end of Moapa Valley, a small green spot in the desert filled with farms and ranches.

During the summer, we would go into Overton once or twice a week, mostly in order to buy groceries.  There were really only a few places we’d go regularily, but each trip was still a treat.  We’d go to the Ace Hardware store occasionally.  That’s where I’d buy ammo for target shooting with my .22 rifle.  We’d go to the drugstore, where my mom would buy us comic books that had the covers torn off because it was past the cover date.  The store got credit for returning unsold magazines by just sending back the front cover, so they always had a big shopping cart full of comics & magazines, minus the cover, for a nickle each!  Reading those comics was the beginning of my comic book obsession.  The “super” market wasn’t really all that super, but it was a standard stop.  Once in a great while we’d get lunch at the hamburger place across the street from the drugstore.  And once in awhile, we’d go to the Pioneer Theatre to see a movie.

I just took a trip through Overton on Google Street View.  As you might expect, things have changed tremendously from what I remember as a kid.  Many of the buildings are gone, and of those that remain, most are home to some other kind of business.  When I was a kid, the only sort of national-level businesses were the Western Hardware and a small Sears catalog office, but the town even has a McDonald’s now!  As I stepped through town, I was amazed to see that the Pioneer Theatre was still there, in the same place, and even looking pretty much the same as it had 35 years ago.

I have to admit, in my memory, it’s bigger.  I would have sworn it was two stories tall.  But since I was probably about 12 years old the last time I went there, that’s really no surprise.

It’s not a big theatre, as you would expect in a small community of just a few thousand people, but to a kid without a lot of movie-going experience, it was still quite magical.

I could not tell you if they normally played first run movies or not, but once or twice a month they would have some sort of “family” movie and my sister and I would try pretty hard to talk our mom into taking us to see it. Usually it would be a Disney movie of some kind. I remember seeing The Aristocats and Bedknobs & Broomsticks. My first movie crush was Kim Richards in Escape To Witch Mountain.

The thing I remember most about going to the movies here was the ambiance of the theatre and just the magic of the moviegoing experience.  Even though it’s essentially the same activity as watching TV in most respects, it’s just not the same, you know?

Why The Trip Down Memory Lane?

Recently, there’s been some talk about a proposal whereby DirecTV would offer a new service called Home Premiere, which is essentially a special $30 pay-per-view for movies just about two months after their original release date.

Considering most movies don’t come out on DVD or BluRay or whatever for at least 5-6 months, this is a big change, and it’s got theatre owners and many moviemakers up in arms.  Directors like Jon Favreau, M. Knight Shyamalan, Christopher Nolan, and Quentin Tarantino are making the argument that this will cause a lot of people to skip seeing the movie in theatres, thus hastening the end of the “moviegoing experience”.

I can see where they’re coming from, but the problem is, I’m not quite sure it’s not already too late.

There are basically two sets of reality here… there’s the home-video reality, and the movie-going reality.  They are coming from opposite sides and are on a collision course.  Or maybe they’ve already passed each other by.  Anyway, the whole thing has me thinking about what “the moviegoing experience” means to me.

The Reality Of Home Video

The current home-video reality is that watching movies at home today is an experience that is simply light years ahead of where it was even just a few years ago.  When my mom took us to the tiny little Pioneer Theatre in Overton, Nevada, the concept of home video was science fiction.  Even a few years later when Sony released the Betamax and VHS players hit the market, watching a video tape on your 19″ or 25″ standard-definition TV was still a pale imitation of seeing a movie in a theatre.

Today, however, it’s a different story. If you have a 50″ or 60″ high-definition television and a BluRay player, you’re probably seeing image quality that is far superior to what you get in a typical movie theatre.  The picture will probably be much sharper, the colors are going to be brighter, the blacks blacker.  And the image isn’t not going to be contaminated by whatever random light sources may be around.  And depending on how close you sit to the screen in either case, the relative screen size may not even be any smaller.

As regards sound quality, the theatre probably still has the advantage.  But if you’ve got a modern surround-sound setup in your home theatre setup, maybe not. But what you probably DON’T have at home is a random selection of crying babies, people coughing their heads off, carrying on conversations, supplying their own dialogue, etc.  Or maybe you do, but at least at home you might have some control over it. Not to mention, you have control over the volume level.

The Reality Of Moviegoing

The movie-going reality is that the experience of going to see a movie isn’t what it used to be.  Remember when a big blockbuster movie like Raiders Of The Lost Ark or Terminator 2 came out and you had to make sure you saw it in 70mm because that was going to be best picture you could get?

Do you remember that it didn’t cost any more to see it in 70mm?

Today, instead of 70mm we have the IMAX Digital Theatre System, which is a 4 megapixel digital projection method offering significantly lower resolution than a 70mm movie print.  Seeing a movie in IMAX Digital typically adds 30-40% more to the ticket price at the box office.  That doesn’t strike me as an improvement.

Oddly, there are other 4 megapixel digital projection systems out there, and it doesn’t cost any more for a ticket when those are being used.  Maybe that’s because the IMAX setup is actually using two separate 2-megapixel projectors that are aligned to provide an integrated image.  I don’t know why they do it that way but maybe it works better for 3D?  Anyway, it’s undoubtedly more expensive even if the projectors are individually lower resolution.

Theatres have been looking to 3D movies to bring in crowds and improved revenue, but there are huge problems with the image quality with some theatres.  And if you’ve got a 3D-capable television and BluRay player, the home 3D experience is MUCH better than what you see in a theatre.  How many 3D movies have you seen in the theatre where the image was dim, dull, unsaturated, and often bordering on soft-focus?   Those problems generally don’t exist with 3D television setups, and while the image is certainly dimmer when you’re wearing 3D glasses, the television image is that much brighter in the first place.

And what about the recent news stories we’ve heard about theatres where they don’t bother removing the 3D adapter lens from the projector when showing 2D movies, even though it reduces the image brightness by over 80%?  As soon as I read about that, I realized it probably explained the crappy image quality I’d seen on several occasions at the movies.

What about the rest of the moviegoing experience? When I was a kid, a trip to the snackbar didn’t require a second mortgage. Today, it’s getting close. The only place you see comparable prices are the refreshment stands at a tradeshow.

At my local theatre, a large soda costs me $5.75. That’s 385% more than the equivalent size costs at most convenience stores, or what I’d spend on a 2-liter bottle at the supermarket. A hot dog costs me $4.50, also much, much more than the non-movie snack bar equivalent. It’s not a bad hot dog, assuming you don’t mind being limited to ketchup, mustard, and maybe relish as toppings. However, I have to admit, one hot dog isn’t going to cut it. I’m either going to need two or three, or maybe some popcorn or candy. By the time I’m out of there, I’ve spent $15-$20.

And that’s just for me! What about a young couple out on date night? Going to the movies used to be a cheap date, but now you could easily spend $25 on tickets and $20-$40 at the snack bar. Not quite so cheap any more.

And what about parents taking their kids to the movie?  Can you imagine what you’d spend taking 5 or 6 people to the movies?

I have to admit, when I first heard about DirecTV’s Home Premiere idea, I thought it was kind of pricey.  And it is, compared to traditional home video rentals or buying your own DVD or BluRay.  But compared to a trip to the theatre, as long as you’ve got at least two people watching, it starts to be competitive.  For a family with 2-3 kids, it’s far, far cheaper.

Out Of Touch With The Moviegoing Reality Of The Rest Of Us?

Moviemakers like Jon Favreau, M. Knight Shyamalan, Christopher Nolan, and Quentin Tarantino say they want to preserve the moviegoing experience, but do they really have the same experience as the rest of us? They probably see most of their movies in studio screening rooms, or at big premieres where they’ve taken meticulous care to ensure everything goes just right.  And do these guys worry about spending $20 at the snackbar for $3.00 worth of food?  Not so much.

If these guys really want to preserve the moviegoing experience, they need to start by fixing what’s broken.  The biggest threat to the moviegoing experience is not home video.

Fixing Theatres

A lot of the issues regarding pricing and costs are going to be really hard to address.  One of the big reasons why theatres charge so freakin’ much at the snack bar is because movie studios have taken increasingly bigger cuts from the box office take, so the theatre has to make things up somewhere else.  Realistically, I don’t see that changing.

Theatre operators can change things in other areas that will improve the customer experience and hopefully improve their own profitability in the bargain.

I would suggest they make the individual theatres smaller.  The switch to digital projection over the last few years has provided a lot of advantages, but the one big disadvantage is that most digital projectors are somewhat less bright than the film projectors they replaced.  Shrinking the theatre size would increase the screen brightness and image quality.

Since digital projection means you don’t have a physical print to shuffle around, having two or three smaller theatres showing a movie, instead of one big one, means you can stagger starting times better, offering your customers more flexibility and less reason to select another theatre on the basis of showtimes.  It probably also helps spread out traffic at the snack bar and box office.  It also means that you can more easily expand well-performing movies into more theatres and push less-performing ones into fewer.

Smaller theatres would also make it easier to do things like hosting private events.  Renting out a 400 seat theatre for a birthday party would be out of reach of most people, but suppose there were some 60 or 100 seat theatres available?

And whatever happened to midnight movies?  When I was younger, there were always theatres showing midnight shows of Rocky Horror Picture Show, or Wizards, Heavy Metal, or some other off-beat film that appealed to younger audiences.  These days it seems those are pretty rare.

Maybe it’s a by-product of the corporate environment behind most movie theatres these days, but it seems like there’s just not much imagination at play with regards to theatres trying to improve their business.  A lot of shiny marketing, but not much imagination. We need more imagination.  Don’t be so afraid to fail that you never try something new.

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