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What is a Multiplex?

Amy Pollick
Updated May 23, 2024
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In the earlier days of movie-going, audiences were accustomed to sitting in lavish “movie palaces,” complete with velvet plush chairs and an in-house organist. In the late 1970s, the multiplex concept came into being. Theater owners realized they could reap more profit from a single building showing several movies at one time than from one building showing one movie. Movies were not released as often as in previous decades either, so showing several different movies kept audiences from becoming bored.

The first multiplexes showed perhaps four movies at once, and were considered quite innovative. Then, the six, eight and ten-theater businesses became more common. The single-movie theaters were often forced to close, or reinvent themselves as performing arts centers or classic/independent movie houses. This did have the added benefit of making independent movies more widely available, but was still hard on the proprietors, since their profit margins are smaller.

As time went on, this type of theater was often considered a major anchor at large strip malls with “big box” stores. Large chain restaurants are also often recruited for these kinds of shopping centers, along with other retailers, creating a one-stop shopping experience.

The multiplex has also moved far beyond the classic popcorn and candy concessions. Some theaters now serve full meals and have open bars in VIP lounges. They have installed stadium seating so every customer has an unobstructed view of the screen. The new theaters are also likely to have a state-of-the-art surround sound system, digital projection, and a host of other technological goodies designed to enhance the viewing experience. Customers can often buy their tickets at an outside kiosk, using credit or debit cards, without ever having to stand in line. Online ticket sales are even available, so customers can either print out their tickets for a particular show time, or pick them up at the counter or kiosk. The idea has blossomed into the megaplex as well, which may involved theaters with over 20 screens in one building.

While the multiple screen idea has essentially taken over modern movie-going, the drawback is that most of these theaters are part of large corporations that have contracts with the major studios to run certain films. Independent films are not usually on the marquee. Sometimes, an independent film with some “A” list stars will generate enough attention to be picked up by one of the major distributors, or the film will win a few awards, which will also guarantee wider distribution, but these are rare cases.

The multiplex is a good place to see a popular movie on the big screen. They make the most of technological advances in filmmaking and film projection and usually allow the audience to see the films under the ideal circumstances.

WiseTour is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Amy Pollick
By Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at WiseTour. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.
Discussion Comments
By cloudel — On Aug 20, 2012

@kylee07drg – I realize that multiplexes offer more bells and whistles, as well as more comfort to their customers. However, don't you think it's sad that the old theaters have to suffer when these come to town?

We got a huge multiplex in our town last year, and the old theater suffered because of it. My friends and I decided to visit the old one several times a month to show our support.

It still gets good movies, but it doesn't get them as soon as the new multiplex does. After they have been running for a few weeks, they end up at this theater, and even though we have to wait, we go to the old one only.

By orangey03 — On Aug 20, 2012

I have never heard of a multiplex having a bar inside! Most of the ones around here are more geared towards families, so no alcohol is served.

One thing I have noticed that is impressive is the variety of snacks offered here. You get your popcorn from the clerk behind the counter, but you go to a machine to get your own butter and seasonings. I have seen everything from regular salt to spicy seasoning and even cinnamon sugar.

Also, there is a freeze-dried ice cream machine and several candy machines that spit out servings into a bag. All of these options are much more complex than the ones available when I was a child.

By kylee07drg — On Aug 19, 2012

For many years, the only theater in my town was at the mall, and it showed only four movies at once. It was rather small.

Finally, a multiplex got built about a mile from the mall, and it offered twice that many movies. Most of the good ones ended up there, and I began to dread learning that the movie I wanted to see was actually playing at the old theater in the mall instead. The old theater had uncomfortable seats, and the sound quality wasn't nearly as impressive.

The multiplex has huge surround sound speakers and stadium seating, unlike the old one. The seats rise dramatically as you go upstairs, so even if a tall person is sitting in front of you, you will be able to see the screen.

By Kristee — On Aug 18, 2012

My local multiplex always seems to be showing several 3D movies at once. This format has become so popular over the years, and it is especially loved by children.

Just about every cartoon or kid's movie that comes to the multiplex is available for viewing in either 3D or regular format. The 3D movies cost a dollar more than the others, but you get to keep the cool glasses.

I'm not too crazy about 3D movies, because I don't like seeing things jumping out at me, but my niece and nephew love them. When I take them to the multiplex, I have to wear the glasses, because if you try to watch the movie without them, the picture is distorted and blurry.

Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at WiseTour. With...
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