When going to the movies, a huge part of the movie-going experience is the quality of the cinema itself. A great movie in a crappy cinema can make for a horrible experience, which tends to sway a person's opinion on the movie itself. That's why if you're serious about having the absolute best experience (or close to it), you should totally read on.
Having been to multiple cinemas in Metro Manila and having a really particular taste in them, I have been able to put together a list of the 5 movie cinemas you should go to if you absolutely want the best experience.
Here's the criteria:
Ambiance - overall feel of the cinema
Seating - how seats are arranged and designed
Sensory experience - quality of both the audio and video
Crowd - who else will you be watching the movie with? Unless you like hanging out with noisy kids and large groups of friends, then this should matter to you.
Price - bang for the buck
Alright, let's get started.
Resorts World Manila - What's not to love about this cinema? It's open 24 hours. Saved my ass once when I desperately needed to see Guardians of the Galaxy and I was a moron and booked tickets for a different day in another cinema. My wife and I rushed to RWM just to watch it.
Everything about the cinema is premium, from the lounge outside to the seats inside. It's as luxurious as cinemas go. The room itself is small compared to how cinemas used to be (looking at you, Megamall), which is GOOD. A smaller room means smaller crowd, which means less noise. The screen itself isn't huge but since you're not seated so far, it's perfectly fine. And with the arrangement of the seats, even if someone comically tall sits in front of you, you would still have the perfect view of the screen.
At Php320, it's a steal. The Ultra cinema, the one with two huge seats per division, are priced at Php520, but with the privacy and space that you get, it's not too much to pay for date night.
Bonifacio High Street Cinemas - One of the newer cinemas in the list, BGC's cinema is proof that cinema-goers are now demanding better experiences and are willing to pay for it. First thing you're going to notice as soon as you step into theater is that they're puny. And that is fantastic. Smaller rooms means smaller crowd, which also means less potential for noise. Of course, given the small size, you'll have to pony up some extra cash for the cinema to remain profitable. Php 300 for ATMOS cinemas, and Php 500 for 3D/ 4DX.
While we're on the topic of 4DX, let me just go on record and say it's nothing but a gimmick. It adds absolutely nothing to the experience of the movie. It's distracting and annoying. You're better off paying for those recliner seats.
Shang Cineplex - From the one of the newest to the oldest cinema on the list. Thankfully, this cinema is aging VERY well. I absolutely love watching movies in Shang Cineplex. I would do it way more often if it was closer to where I lived. The viewing experience isn't as advanced as the newer cinemas, but it still pretty much holds its own. Equipped with digital sound systems and huge screens, it does the job well. It won't leave you wanting.
But the best thing about this cinema despite its size, is the ideal sight line from every seat in the house to the screen. Look at the images below. See how angled the rows are? It doesn't matter if Yao Ming sits in front of you, you'll still see the screen perfectly. Plus, the leg room! Oh man the leg room. I love the leg room!
Sometimes, large rowdy crowds or a bunch of noisy kids do gather to watch there, but it doesn't happen as often as other cinemas. And if it does, the seats are far apart away from each other for small quiet chitchat to go unheard.
Also, best part about the Shang Cineplex is the price. At Php245 to Php 250 for a ticket, it's an absolute steal.
Eastwood Cinema - To my mind, the Eastwood Cinemas were the first to start the trend of giving their cinema-going customers a luxurious experience. I mean, it's probably wasn't actually them but when I think back, Eastwood Cinemas stand out as one of the first, if not the first (I mean, if I don't count Louie's THX, which has been closed for quite a while now).
The fact that you get unlimited popcorn and drinks throughout the movie when watching in their premium Cinema 7 theater is just icing on the cake. The full experience is just all-around fantastic, from the service to the seating to the audio/video quality. For about Php 270 for the regular cinemas, expect the regular amenities. Be willing to plop down Php 520 if you want to go for their best experience.
SM Cinema Director's Club - This is my go-to cinema of choice for movies I really want to enjoy. It's easy to book tickets online and there are five of these in Metro Manila - SM Aura, SM BF Parañaque, SM Mall of Asia, SM Megamall, and SM Seaside. Just the fact that no matter where you live, there should be a Director's Club fairly near to you is a big plus.
For Php 400 (Php 420 if you book online), you get a bowl of popcorn (and a softdrink I think), a fully reclining chair, and enough space to not be bothered by anyone around you. This is just the perfect cinematic experience for me. The audio is fantastic, and the screen is amazing.
My only problem here, and it's a pretty major one at that, is that during mid-credits and post-credit scenes, the BRIGHT ASS LIGHTS are ON! Seriously, for the price moviegoers pay for a premium experience, FUCKING TURN THE FUCKING LIGHTS OFF during the mid and post-credits scene. Does anyone know people who work at SM? Let them know please.
I haven't seen anything from Uptown Mall or Century Mall so there's that. Once I have, maybe it'll make the list someday. Oh, and shoutout to Podium cinemas - they didn't quite make the cut, but the experience there is very similar to watching a movie at a state-of-the art cinema in a friend's house - very cozy.
I know my list is going to be different from yours. Let us know what your top five cinemas are in the comments!