I finally got to check out the new Premiere Cinemas in Birmingham last night when I went to go see Terminator: Dark Fate on their “Giant” screen. It felt kind of nice to be going back to a theater I grew up around when it was the old Wynnsong theater back in the day. But where does it rank with the other theaters in a town that is dominated by AMC?

I will first say the only theater I haven’t been to is The Edge 12 from Phoenix Theaters. I have heard nothing but bad things about the theater and there is no reason to ever go there except to get a cheap movie ticket if you live somewhat close by.

This list also only includes theaters that are considered in the “Birmingham Metro Area” and have multiple screens. So I won’t count The Alabama Theater and I won’t count as far out as Pell City, Alabaster or Cullman where there are decent theaters. I also will not include the Grand River Drive-in in Leeds, which has it’s perks, but is a completely different experience that can’t be compared to normal theaters.

I also ranked the single best theaters to watch a movie in at the bottom.

On to the rankings:

1. AMC Dine-in Vestavia Hills 10

This is the clear front-runner and for good reason. A little over a year ago, AMC finished the transformation on their Vestavia theater to make it a dine-in theater with the best seats and food in town. They also built a PRIME theater as it’s main attraction which has great sound, seating and is the overall best experience for a movie in town. When Star Wars, or the latest Avengers movie comes out – PRIME is where you want to go see it.

While the PRIME screen isn’t as big as IMAX, and there aren’t as many overall seats (leading to many sell outs) the overall experience can’t be beat. With a full bar, delivery of food to your seat and the most comfortable chairs in the area, this is the easy #1 choice.

Pros

– Strong food game (and full bar)
– The most comfortable seats around (and in all theaters)
– Best overall theater with PRIME
– A part of AMC A-List

Cons

– Sells out quicker
– Food delivery is sub-par
– PRIME seats are slightly different than other theaters and the foot rest doesn’t go up all the way


2. AMC Patton Creek

Patton Creek comes in at #2 because of it’s IMAX screen and overall variety of choices with it being 15 screens. While Lee Branch has 15 and The Summit has 16, Patton Creek also offers a better overall variety of showtimes each day.

The Patton Creek theater is somewhat in need of an update. It still has the old “Rave” seats in it which aren’t the worst seats in the world, but not the best either. IMAX is still worthwhile when finding the best screen to watch a movie on, but PRIME has it beat in overall experience despite the screen being bigger in IMAX.

Patton Creek has also been the catch-all for events that happen from time to time at the theater, especially with Fathom events. You are more likely to find one-off showings of things at Patton Creek, giving it the edge over other theaters.

Pros

– Only normal IMAX theater in town
– Best standard concession stand
– Best location for events
– Shows some lesser known movies
– Convenient to shopping/eating before and after
– A part of AMC A-List

Cons

– Fairly old seats
– Not kept very clean
– Large crowds on opening nights due to location


3. Birmingham Premiere Lux Cine GSX & Pizza Pub

The newest theater in town debuts at #3 due to it’s newness and somewhat innovative features. GSX (or Giant Screen Experience) is their selling point along with DBOX seats in their giant theater. They claim to have the largest screen in the south, but when watching a movie on it, it doesn’t fill the whole screen. Is the physical screen the biggest around? Yes. Is the movie any bigger than if it were in IMAX? No. (at least it doesn’t seem that way)

DBOX seats are an innovative way to watch a movie in town. DBOX seats are basically seats that move with the movie to help you feel the movie on top of seeing and hearing it. There are other theaters out there that have seats like this, so it’s nothing new, but it is new to the area. It doesn’t seem quite as impressive as the 4DX theaters, but it does give an extra something who want to see an action movie and feel more like they are on a ride at Universal Studios.

The food is also different as they feature a full pizza kitchen on top of the standard movie fare.

Pros

– Newest theater in town, so still really nice
– Great pizza and other food
– Has option of getting DBOX (moving) seats
– Fancy chairs in all theaters

Cons

– Fancy chairs don’t work for tall people
– No perks like AMC A-List
– “Giant” screen isn’t utilized properly
– No stadium seating outside of “Giant” theater


4. Sidewalk Film Center + Cinema

Sidewalk just opened it’s new underground theater a few months ago and it is already becoming one of the favorite places to go watch a movie around town. The overall experience of going to a movie at Sidewalk can’t be beat, but with only two screens, the selection is not great. One of the perks is that they show lesser known movies and have already gotten their money’s worth out of me and my fiance due to this. However, you won’t see major releases here so it’s a gem that needs to be sought out if you want to see a lesser known movie.

Pros

– Unique movies shown
– Strong food game that is very unique (plus a full bar)
– Cool atmosphere around the theater
– Underneath Pizitz Food Hall so great food available before hand
– Fairly comfortable movie seating

Cons

– Only two screens
– Can be hard to find and to find parking
– Downtown Birmingham late at night is a turn off
– No reserved seating


5. AMC Summit 16

This theater has a chance to be #1 if they would spend some money to bring it out of 1997. This theater hasn’t been touched and is becoming more ancient with every passing day. The “luxury” theaters that have opened up have put the Summit to shame where there is no reason to go see a movie there…except that they have movies that other theaters don’t. With it having the most screens of any theater at 16, you can often find screenings of lesser known movies and even foreign language films. We often joke that when an award contending movie is set to come out, it is considered a “Summit movie”. I have seen countless Best Picture winners and nominees at that theater because it was the only place to see it in town.

However, that and it’s location are all the Summit has going for it, and the only reason it is this high. Even the location isn’t worth it during the holidays because of the madness that goes on at The Summit overall with the number of stores that are there. It helps in the offseason because of the food options around for before the movie, but the theater itself is not very good.

Pros

– Shows lesser known movies
– Good location for shopping/eating before and after
– A part of AMC A-List

Cons

– Worst seats in town
– Small, cramped theaters with tiny screens
– Bad concession stand


6. AMC Lee Branch

This theater is often forgotten about because it’s so far off for most Birmingham-area residents with a number of other AMC theaters around that are much more convenient. Lee Branch has a Big D theater, but that isn’t enough to entice people to come see films there. I’ve gone to major opening night releases there before and been the only one in the theater. Plus Highway 280 traffic is abysmal, it took me over an hour and a half to get there after work one day when going to see a movie with my fiance. I’d rather just stop at the Summit, or take any other road to any of the other theaters to see basically the same stuff.

Pros

– Not as well traveled, so seems newer
– Has a Big D theater
– A part of AMC A-List

Cons

– Location is bad


7. Regal Trussville 16

I don’t venture out here much, but it’s not a bad thing to have a different style of theater in town. This Regal reminds me of the Regal in Wildwood that was my go-to when I was growing up. There are 16 screens here so usually good variety, but the theater is old and it comes off as very old.

Pros

– Classic feel
– Fairly good concessions

Cons

– Not a part of AMC A-List
– Location is only good for Trussville residents and surrounding areas
– Very old theater


8. AMC Classic Lorna Ridge 10

This is another one that is straight out of the 90’s. I don’t know when this was last updated, but it is the cheap theater for a reason. If you have missed a big movie in the fancier theaters but still want to see it on the big screen, go here. It’s also an old school theater that does not have stadium seating.

Pros

– Shows movies past original run date
– A part of AMC A-List

Cons

– Very old theater
– No stadium seating


Best single screens to watch a movie on

1. PRIME (AMC Vestavia)
2. GSX (Premiere Birmingham)
3. IMAX (AMC Patton Creek)
4. Any other theater at AMC Vestavia
5. BIG D (AMC Lee Branch)