Here in the San Jose/Santa Clara area, there has been a monopoly on theatres where the first run and big name films are shown. Usually this causes long lines, bad seats, and turned away moviegoers. If AMC plays its cards right, they will prosper and the moviegoers of the San Jose/Santa Clara area will benefit.
September 26, 1997 marked the grand opening of AMC’s megaplex theatre complex the Mercado 20. This is now the largest theatre complex in this area, and AMC is showing that it wants the movie going crowd to put their money with AMC and not with their main competitor.
AMC’s main competitor, here in this area, is Century. Century has a strangle hold on the big first-run films because of their huge presence in this area. This presence includes their many multiplexes: Century 22 (3 screens), Century 23 (2 screens), Century 25 (3 screens), Mountain View 16s (16 screens), Berryessa 10s (10 screens), and Capitol 16s (16 screens). They also have one of the largest screens in this area, equipped with the latest in sound equipment, the Century 21 (single screen).
AMC, till now, ran three considerably smaller multiplexes: AMC Oakridge 6 (6 screens), AMC Milpitas 10 (10 screens), and AMC Sunnyvale 6 (6 screens). The AMC Milpitas 10 was their largest multiplexes, in terms of both number of screens and size of the screens. The AMC Milpitas 10 is large, but not enough to compete with Century. Now, with the grand opening of the AMC Mercado 20, AMC has the bidding power to get the big first-run films. Not only does the Mercado have the most screens; it has the best seating around. This is on top of having large screens, great sound systems (only SDDS at this point), and great customer service. They also reward consistent moviegoers with their MovieWatcher card. This is a frequent movie going card that rewards us with free popcorn, drinks, and movie tickets. Centurys has no such program.
The selling point of the Mercado is not the 20 screens, but the seating. The Mercado has introduced to this area “stadium seating.” What this means is that the seats in front of you are down about four feet. This is a great benefit because if a very tall guy, like myself, sits in front of you, you can still have an unobstructed view of the screen. The seats are tremendously high backed. To give you an idea how high the backs are, I’m 6'3" tall and the seats still give me two or three inches above my head when I sit up straight. The one drawback is that the seats do not recline, but this is only a small annoyance when the movie starts.
The big flagship Century theatres, the 21 and 22 are notorious for their curved screens, doors that leak light, and till now deteriorating interiors. In preparation for the opening of the Mercado, Century has gone through both the 21 and 22 and renovated the interiors, putting in better seats and generally fixing things up. But these are small upgrades. These theatres still have curved screens that when you sit off to the side you cannot see a thing. They still have exit doors that leak sunlight into the theatres. And the worst thing is that they have a strangle hold on big new releases which cause long lines, overly crowded theatres, and long waits due to the need to arrive early to get good seats.
The Mercado, as with all the other AMC theatres, have square rooms and super flat screens. This makes it easy to get a seat anywhere in the theatre and still get a good view. Along with this, the exit doors are well sealed and do not leak any sunlight into the theatre.
If AMC plays its cards right both they and us, the moviegoers, will benefit. AMC is already planning another multiplex that will be located in Saratoga, the AMC Saratoga 14s. The addition of the AMC Saratoga 14s and the Mercado will get AMC a lot more presence in the San Jose/Santa Clara area. Along with this AMC will also get more power in getting the big first-run films, which will help alleviate the long lines and waits at Century. AMC has done the right thing by expanding and putting in these new theatres.
I for one, if given a choice to see a movie at either the flagship Century’s or the Mercado will go to the AMC Mercado 20. AMC has provided the best theatres with the best seats in town, and on top of this they also have great customer service and a frequent moviegoer card. AMC has just given Century a long hard run for my movie going dollars. And I will not be surprised that I’m not the only one that will be switching from Century to AMC. I will still visit Century’s flagship 21 theatre because I enjoy the large screen (curved as it may be) and thunderous sound system.
Visit the AMC Mercado 20s and see for yourself why it is now my most favourite movie theatre. AMC Mercado 20 is located at highway 101 and Great America Parkway. It is located right next to Mission College. Visit AMC’s website at http://www.amctheatres.com/ or you can reach them by phone at (408) 919-0248.
A small footnote. I’m not employed, affiliated, or sponsored by AMC. The new AMC Mercado 20 is so well done that I think this praise is worthwhile. - Steve Kong, October 3, 1997 (revised November 4, 1997 - added website information)