The Roxy Theater will soon have newer, more comfortable seats and improved sound. First, however, it will have will have to close for two weeks starting Friday for installation.
The old seats, some of which have decades of wear, are "the No. 1 complaint we get. It's not a nightly complaint, thank you," said Mike Steinberg, the executive director.
They've ordered brand-new seats from Irwin Seating Co., a legacy provider in the business. "This is the company that has been making movie theater seats for 100 years," he said.
The seats, custom-designed and manufactured in Grand Rapids, Michigan, are modern, adjustable and reclining models that have cupholders on the armrests (which can move up).
They're larger, too, which will come with a sacrifice regarding capacity in the three theaters, dropping from 126 to 98, 116 to 98, and one increasing from 70 to 80.
"We gain some in one room and lose some in another," he said, adding that "what we gain is comfort," including more space in the aisles to get in and out.
They weighed the loss in revenue but believe the improvements will be worthwhile overall. The theater's sell-out events are typically during the film festivals (the Montana Film Festival and International Wildlife Film Festival), nationwide popular films ("Free Solo," "RBG," "BlacKkKlansman"), and live events such as comedy, music and theater. They hope the slight decrease in seats will encourage the Missoula's notorious last-minute crowds to show up earlier or buy advance tickets online.
They're paying for the seats with money from the Bill and Rosemary Gallagher Foundation, and the E.L. Wiegand Foundation.
Through grants and fundraising during Missoula Gives, the Roxy is also replacing all of its speakers, which should improve the clarity of dialogue.
The Roxy will close starting on Friday, July 5, and won't reopen for movies until July 19. Most of the old chairs have been claimed already. If there are any extras, or if people don't pick them up, they'll go to Home ReSource.
To compensate for the closure, the Roxy is having trivia night and outdoor cinema on Saturday, July 13, with "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," (see box) at the Missoula Senior Center.
Then, starting on Friday, July 19, they "come back full speed with some of everybody's favorite movies ever," he said.
That means "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Titanic," A River Runs Through It," "Tombstone," "Jaws, "Stand By Me," "The Wizard of Oz," and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" They'll kick off a retrospective of Wes Anderson, screening all of his meticulously designed films from "Bottle Rocket" to "Isle of Dogs."
They'll show the original "Star Wars" trilogy, with each entry getting a full week instead of one night. "We just know they'll sell out," he said.
"We're inviting everybody back to the theater in grand fashion after we've closed," he said.
The theater, owned by the nonprofit International Wildlife Film Festival, opened for year-round independent film programming in 2013. Four years later, it screens first-release digital cinema and 35mm classic films, and a bustling monthly calendar of new releases, classic films, documentaries, one-off screenings hosted with local organizations or nonprofits and more.
Last year, it hosted many of its top-selling movies in its history: "Free Solo," "BlacKkKlansman," and "RBG."