The missus and I enjoy the movies, but we find ourselves watching fewer and fewer of them in the movie theater. Why? Well, the inappropriate talking, the prices, and the having your seatback kicked by some unrepentant kid haven't helped. Heck, if I could find a used theater-quality popcorn popper and then retrofit our sofa with a cupholder, we might never leave the house.
Nevertheless, we recently found ourselves with a free afternoon and set out to see The Inside Job at a local theater. This cinema has some years on it - three big screens, bigger rooms than you usually find today, and none of the stadium-seating or electronics of the new facilities. Its relatively spartan style reminds me of the theater where I saw Star Wars (you know, the first one).
Thus I was quick to blame the theater's (and its equipment's) age when we settled into our seats only to recognize that the room was surprisingly warm, and it felt a little muggy on top of that. We grumbled a bit while the rest of the matinee crowd shuffled in but resigned ourselves to accept it for the next couple of hours. Then, two previews in, the place was more comfortable, and I realized that when the lights went down, the air conditioning had come on. Not only was the equipment working, but the management was trying to consider occupancy when managing its HVAC operation.
That industry clearly always remembers what I had forgotten as a lapsed moviegoer: People expect (i.e., demand) cool air in movie theaters. Not that a cool theater is necessary to the experience - after all, a few more degrees won't melt the film or the Milk Duds - but patrons simply have come to expect a cool or even chilly theater as a matter of tradition, tracing back to the days when cinemas were dark, climate-controlled refuges from warm, naturally ventilated homes. Residential units are the norm now, of course, but the collective memory remains. In that sense, I suppose the public's expectation is a matter of, well, conditioning.
(Have you ever been surprised by a level of HVAC sophistication somewhere? I'd be interested to hear about it.)