The one thing that’s not new at Universal Studios Hollywood is the phrase, “There’s something new at Universal Studios Hollywood.” It’s true. Every time I go to this park, I see something under construction or something new and exciting. This trip brought the dual surprises of a completely reimagined AMC Theater complex with state of the art projection, sound and seating, as well as a new restaurant in CityWalk. In this update, I’ll take you to the AMC Theater and we’ll chat with Universal Creative about it. Plus, we’ll dine at the BRAND NEW Margaritaville and meet the General Manager and Chef. Then I’ll take you on a whirlwind trip through the park. And read all the way through for your chance to win two free tickets to the new AMC Universal CityWalk.




Universal Cinema CityWalk

Universal CityWalk’s AMC Theatre has received a multi-million dollar renovation which really does make it one of the finest movie-going experiences in the LA area. The 18 theaters each now incorporate state-of-the-art Christie laser projection, Christie Vive audio sound system and Dolby ATMOS, as well as super comfortable leather recliner seating.

They were setting up some sort of event or premiere for “The Arrangement”

The box office and guest services has been redesigned and relocated. Tickets were previously located outside. A more comfortable looking area has been created in the lobby of the theater. Automated box office machines are located outside. Cinema seating is reserved, with real-time seating charts, which allows you to pick a specific seat. I LOVE this. Rather than having to line up for a movie in advance to try and find the best seat, you can take your time getting concessions and make your way to your assigned seat closer to show time. $5 movie parking is available with the purchase of a theatre ticket.

Automated ticket machines replace the old exterior ticket windows.
The new box office is just inside the lobby.

 

The concession stand has also been reimagined. The new Market Place offers grab-n-go self-service including the expected concession favorites, with specialty popcorn, gourmet foods, real fruit smoothies and cafe style coffees.

There are 6 Coke Freestyle machines and a self-service icee machine.

One thing that really stood out to me are the hotel-like lounge areas now available throughout the facility. Many of these areas also feature movie props and costumes.

They currently have the costumes from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (which I saw in preview this weekend and LOVED).

A beautiful theatre like this needs a lounge, and they’ve now got one. The Director’s Lounge Cocktail Bar is an all-new venue located on the second level. The lounge echos imagery of the iconic Universal Pictures globe logo on the back wall with a giant LED starburst chandelier exploding above the bar.

The full service bar also invites movie-goers to bring their beverages into the second level theatres.

There are two giant starburst shaped LED chandeliers. One in the Director’s Lounge and another over the ticket booths downstairs.
The seating areas in the bar are like little living rooms.

The real wizardry happens behind the scenes. I’m so thankful to the fine folks at Uni for allowing me to show you what the new projection booths look like. All 18 auditoriums are now equipped with Christie 4K RGB laser projection. I’m told they deliver the best color reproduction of any display system in the world with incredibly bright on-screen images. 11 of the 18 theatres are also equipped with 3D technology.

On the really big screens, they double up the Christie projectors to provide extra brightness!

The theaters themselves have gone the ultimate comfort route with deluxe and loveseat recliner seats and leg rests. Careful, the seats recline so far back that you can easily fall asleep. These recliners are more comfortable than my bed! I might just move into one of these theaters.  😉

The new Cinema features more than 700 brand new speakers (each auditorium has approximately 40). There are also three sub-woofers located behind the screens. The Universal Cinema is the first laser-multiplex in the United States to utilize the Christie Vive Audio system for precise audio fine-tuning of each auditorium. The sound was just awesome!

After visiting the theater, I had some followup questions for the good folks at Universal Creative regarding the theater redo (with a couple bonus questions about the park). Here are the responses from Fernando Pa, Sr. Director Design and Planning, Universal Creative.

What prompted the decision to update the theater? It wasn’t that long ago that the perforated metal skin was added to the exterior.

Universal Cinema’s renovation is an extension of Universal Studios Hollywood’s epic transformation that has been happening over the last five years.  The full upgrade on the theatre is a reflection of the continued investment we continue to make in the overall destination to provide a more immersive Hollywood movie going experience for our guests.

How would you describe the old look of the theater and what it represented?

Today’s Cinema has a very sleek and contemporary feel and is reflective of our continued investment in our destination.

The new look is a complete change in tone. What is the inspiration for the new luxurious design?  

It is the romance of old Hollywood meets the design sensibilities of a timeless aesthetic.  Universal Creative wanted to deliver high-tech elegance in a sophisticated and stylish environment to provide the ultimate movie-going experience with premium amenities. The new design is sleek and contemporary. From a more modern entrance, to doubling the height of the lobby, we’ve created a more inviting space for guests. We’ve also upgraded our interior to include comfortable and luxurious seating in all communal areas, including our new Director’s Lounge, which provides a welcoming area for guests to hang out pre and post-movie. Once inside the theatre, the comfort and luxury is extended as we’ve included deluxe, loveseat recliner seats and leg rests.

Are there any hidden Easter eggs in the design that we should make note of?

We do pay homage to Universal Studios with a mural of constellations as our main background for the Cinema, while our one-of-a-kind starburst chandeliers are a reminder of the Universal Pictures’ opening title sequence.

The lavish reclining leather seats and state of the art laser projectors make the theater one of the finest in all of LA. Is the hope that you’ll get a lot of movie premieres and events?

With the proximity to our production backlot and soundstages, Universal Cinema is a great venue for premieres, screenings, filming locations and other special events.

Does the change in the look of the theater hint at any other changes in atmosphere at CityWalk? 

Our epic transformation is ongoing, and we have lots to come for Universal CityWalk, including Margaritaville – which is now open – and Voodoo Doughnut opening soon.

Inside the park, the old Cartooniversal building has been torn down and much of that area, including Water World, are now off limits. What’s the scoop on what’s going into this spot?

Stay tuned…

Can anything be said about the construction on the Star Way and why an expansion is needed?

It’s a continuation of our epic transformation.

Margaritaville Now Open

Upon leaving the theater, I was tipped off that Margaritaville would be soft opening later that day. I popped in to take a few photos for you and to try the fish and chips and their signature Margarita!

As Jimmy Buffet likes to say, “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.” So that’s the perfect name for the bar!

The entire establishment has a beach/tiki feel to it. You’ll find boats, surfboards, diving equipment, palm trees, and a party vibe.

 

There’s even an outdoor fire pit (with a shark fin shape).  

Cheers

 

These guys have a lot of reason to be proud. They’ve created a really fun space and great bar with a menu sure to be popular with guests. Meet General Manager Craig Patton (on the right below) and Chef Marco Marquez (on the left below).

Cheers gents, it was great to meet you!

More on the Way to CityWalk

Also coming soon to CityWalk is Menchie’s frozen yogurt and Voodoo Doughnuts.

Welcome to Universal Studios Hollywood

We’ll wrap up today’s update with a few photos from the park. As soon as I entered security, Access Hollywood was taping their show in front of the Unisphere. Mario Lopez is such a hunk.

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The right side of the entry street is under reconstruction. The old Cartooniversal building has been removed.

It exposes a huge amount of space.  

Because he’s too awesome for just one shot . . .

11:30 on a Friday morning and the Forbidden Journey in the Wizarding World is already a 65 minute wait. I’m going to skip the crowds of the upper lot and head straight down to the lower lot where it’s much less busy.

There’s an expansion of the Star Way in progress. There’s still no official confirmation on why, but they certainly wouldn’t be undertaking this expense for nothing.

  

I went live from the park for about an hour. You can watch the tour here:

Following the Lower Lot, which had half the crowd of the Upper Lot, I headed to the Studio Tour to see if there was anything new.

We drove right by the Star Way construction.

There was quite a bit of filming going on.

The JAWS scene has completed refurb work. The lagoon has been filled and all the effects are working.

I was on the wrong side of the tram to capture JAWS up close, but you get the idea.

It’s really fun to be at the park when so much filming is going on!

Win 2 Tickets To Universal Hollywood Cinemas

Here’s your chance to enter folks. Tickets must be used by the end of March. You have several chances to enter, so please review all of your options.  Cheers and good luck. We’ll select the winner and notify them on Wednesday evening.

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Dusty is the founder and CEO of MiceChat.com. When he's not visiting theme parks and writing, editing or speaking about Disney and theme parks worldwide, Dusty stays busy as the Executive Director of both the Walt Disney Birthplace AND the Dick Van Dyke Foundation. He also runs O-Zell Soda (the company originally operated by Walt Disney's father and at which Walt once worked). If you've got news or photos to share with the MiceChat community, or would like to book Dusty for an upcoming event, please contact [email protected]