Podcast: Reclining into Madison’s cinema sprawlscape

Chris Lay and Mark Riechers discuss big gaudy theaters, transportation, and other issues facing moviegoers in Madison.

Chris Lay and Mark Riechers discuss big gaudy theaters, transportation, and other issues facing moviegoers in Madison.


You could be forgiven for thinking that this website has a bizarre sideline obsession with the much-touted recliners at the Marcus Palace Cinema in Sun Prairie. After all, they’ve been the focus of two strongly worded opinion pieces we’ve run since the theater opened in spring 2015: First, Mark Riechers accused the Palace of prioritizing amenities over a quality cinema experience. More recently, Chris Lay countered that the Palace’s big dumb experience is a reasonable way to enjoy big dumb movies.

But more often than not, Chris and Mark agree about the state of moviegoing in the Madison area. There’s still no first-run theater in central Madison, although the efforts of UW Cinematheque, WUD Film, and other programs like MMOCA’s Spotlight Cinema and the Micro-Wave Cinema Series help to give downtown a fertile cinema landscape of its own.

But as far as going out to see new movies, the options are only getting more spread out and more car-dependent—thanks in part to Marcus Theatres’ decision to close its Eastgate theater (which was on a bus route, if still out there) and locate the Palace in Sun Prairie. In fact, part of Marcus’ deal with Sun Prairie officials was that, unlike in Madison, they weren’t asking the company to help build infrastructure to make its new theater more accessible. On top of that, the west side’s Sundance Cinemas, which was touted as an indie-championing alternative but never really lived up to that promise, is now owned by another large theater chain.

Chris and Mark joined me on the podcast this week to debate DreamLoungers and the bigger picture of local cinema options. Also discussed: “carnival leather” and Mark’s contention that “people hate being next to other people.” Give the conversation a listen below.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes and catch WORT-FM’s weeknight local news show, which partners with us to produce these. Thanks to Dylan Brogan for producing this interview.

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