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AMC Portage Street 10

December 18, 2017

  • 180 Portage Street
  • Kalamazoo, MI 49007
  • (269) 743-3764
  • Website
  • Menu

It’s time for my annual trek to the movie theater.  When I was in college I would sometimes go to two or three movies a day.  I loved the theater.  I loved movies.  I still enjoy the experience and I still enjoy movies but it’s not something I have much time for anymore, but I still make sure to hit the new Star Wars movie on opening weekend….something I’ve done since the Phantom Menace came out almost twenty years ago.

The last two movies, The Force Awakens and Rogue One, I’ve gone to the Alamo Drafthouse.  Well…that’s not an option anymore.  The landlords kicked Alamo out of their downtown space because another much larger theater chain wanted the space and offered more money to rent it.  If you live in Kalamazoo, you know how unpopular of a decision that was.  People (including me) loved the Alamo Drafthouse.  It just wasn’t a typical movie theater.

The chain that moved into the space at the corner of Portage and South Street in downtown Kalamazoo is AMC.  The theater is now known as Portage Street 10 after initially launching in the market as Kalamazoo 10.  Goodrich Quality Theaters sued AMC over the name because they’ve been the Kalamazoo 10 in town for many years and it was causing marketplace confusion.

The theater underwent major renovations before opening in early November.  AMC is a more traditional movie theater than Alamo Drafthouse is.  The old ticket center just inside the door from the Rave days is put back in to use with touch screen kiosks where you can either buy or pick up online orders.  They do have it staffed as well, but three kiosks make it easy to pick up or buy tickets.  You have to select your seats in advance so seeing what’s available on a screen and picking them is easier than trying to do it with someone else pushing buttons.  I ordered mine online several weeks ago so I just had to print out the actual ticket.

AMC missed a big opportunity by not making this a Dine-In Theater.  The thing I loved about Alamo was the large menu of real food and full service.  AMC has this option in some of the big cities but they chose to go with a traditional concession stand at the entrance with popcorn and candy.  I ordered myself a large popcorn and a large pop.  The cost was $15 and I actually had to wait about ten minutes for the popcorn to be made.  There were two showings of Star Wars starting in about a half hour and both auditoriums were sold out…yet the concession staff had no popcorn.

Another thing that Alamo brought to this market was alcohol at movie theaters.  They had a great craft beer selection and a full menu of cocktails.  When Portage Street 10 opened, they didn’t have alcohol.  Big mistake.  I know a lot of people that have already written this place off because they couldn’t get a beer in the first couple weeks of operation.  I even went in thinking that was the case but they do have a bar now right next to the concession stand.  There are a few craft drafts as well as a decently sized collection of craft and domestic bottles as well as a full bar.  I passed on this night because I wasn’t expecting it and was just in the mood for a pop, but it’s good to know that it will be an option the next time and hopefully those people that wrote this place off already realize they NOW have a bar…but they really shouldn’t have opened without it.

After about ten minutes, I was handed a big bucket of popcorn.  There are butter dispensers at the end of the counter and a line formed pretty quickly as several people were getting their popcorn at one time.  There are two butter dispensers and one was broken so we all had to use the same one.  I quickly spread on some butter and some salt then got out of the way so the next person could get in and keep the line moving.   The large popcorn proved to be too much for me so I took about half of the container home.  My kids really appreciated waking up to find movie theater popcorn on the table for them.

Pop machines are also self serve.  They have the Coke Freestyle machines that business love to make a big deal about.  There are three of those.  I filled up my large drink with Coke then headed to my seat.

AMC continues the traditional theater route with having a ticket taker about halfway down the hallway between the lobby and the auditoriums.  He looked bored out of his mind just sitting there and I always hate this approach because I feel like I can’t go back to the lobby to get more food.  I know I can, but I almost never do and I really wanted more Coke…but I also didn’t want to miss any of the movie.

There are ten auditoriums at Portage Street 10.  My movie was in Auditorium 1.  There has been a complete overhaul of the look of the hallway to match the standard AMC design.  The auditoriums are labeled 1-10 with the central hallway from the lobby dividing the hallway with five on either side.

Each of the theaters has a TV monitor with the movie information on it.

The auditoriums needed a complete overhaul once AMC took over.  Gone are the rows of stadium seats with a table in front of them from Alamo.  In now are rows of recliners.  There are probably just as many seats in these auditoriums as there were when Alamo was in this building and about half the amount as when Rave was.  The extra room is now for the recliners to stretch out instead of being used for the the table and room for servers.

The recliners have gotten mixed reviews so far.  For the most part, each recliner is part of a set of two so you really have to pay attention when buying tickets if you’re going with someone else.  Each pair of recliners has a big arm rest on the outside and a smaller, shared one in the middle.  If you’re with a loved one, it’s fine, but if you’re alone, it can be a little awkward….although really no more awkward than any other scenario where you share an arm rest with a stranger.  There are some single recliners on the edge of some rows that have the big arm rests on both sides and aren’t shared.  I picked one of those since I was going to the show by myself.  The recliners have heated seats and the buttons to recline are on the inside of the big arm rest.  I hit mine a couple of times during the movie and couldn’t figure out why my seat was moving on it’s own.

As for comfort, I thought mine was alright.  I didn’t have any problems although it was a little weird eating popcorn in this position.  I had the bucket angled on my lap.  J went to a movie a few weeks ago with some friends and she found them uncomfortable.  She said the seats felt too narrow and she had a hard time getting comfortable.  I’ve heard that from other people as well.  My experience was different because I got that end seat that I didn’t have to share.

So, quick review of The Last Jedi?  I really liked it.  I have a lot of questions that weren’t answered, as do a lot of people, but it’s a trilogy and I’m expecting a lot of those questions to be answered in the next movie and through some “A Star Wars Story” movies.

Back to the theater.  The biggest thing AMC’s Portage Street 10 has against it is that it’s not the Alamo Drafthouse.  Everyone in town knows how this played out.  AMC wanted to get into the Kalamazoo market, but the market is likely not big enough for four movie theaters.  AMC wanted that downtown space and they found a way to take it from a widely popular boutique theater chain.

I want this theater to be successful because having a successful theater in this location downtown is great for the city.  They still have some things they have to work out.  There’s broken equipment that affects the theater going experience, they opened without alcohol, and they don’t have the food menu or service that made Alamo so popular despite, as a company, having the structure in place to make this a Dine-In Theater.  I enjoyed my in-movie experience but the overall experience isn’t much different than any other movie theater in town.  I’ll likely continue to see the Star Wars movie here. Family movies we will likely go to Kalamazoo 10 just because it’s closer to where we live.  There’s a lot of good about this theater, but they have so much to overcome about the way this whole thing played out.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Madison permalink
    January 15, 2018 2:40 am

    I hope you get to go back sometime soon. I can speak as someone who has worked at a theater for 4 years and we run out of popcorn occasionally due to the huge crowds of people (especially when a new Star Wars comes out). I loved the Alamo, I really did. When the played Pride and Prejudice it made my month. Amc seems like the big corporate bad guy, but honestly the people who work there didn’t ask for the hate that they get on a daily basis. I’m a minimum wage worker and I know what it’s like to be yelled at for something completely beyond your control and it happens SO OFTEN at theater chains like amc because they bought theater chains or moved into a new space. I know the management at the new amc though and I hope people get the chance to meet the staff because they are all really great people, just like I’m sure the staff at Alamo was. Try it again, there are so many movies that are worth making the trip for.

    • SW Michigan Dining permalink*
      January 15, 2018 9:06 pm

      I absolutely agree with you. The staff does not deserve getting yelled for the way things played out with AMC and Alamo. Like I said, I hope the theater survives…but, unfortunately, I think this is the nicest “review” I’ve seen of the theater. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback saying Im “in ACM’s pocket” which is so not true. It’s going to be really hard to overcome what AMC did to The Alamo. The only reason I ever went to Alamo was because of the service. If all I’m buying is popcorn and a pop (AMC has Coke…..Goodrich has Pepsi…I prefer Pepsi), I’ll go closer to home. Like I said, I think AMC blew a huge opportunity by not making this a DIne-In. Unlike a lot of people, I don’t want AMC to fail…I know that even if they do, Alamo is not coming back, but it’s a uphill battle.

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