NEW SEATS, NEW ASSIGNED-SEAT TICKETING IN PLACE AT BOULEVARD CINEMA: Following a trend taking place at theaters all over the country, Petaluma’s Boulevard 14 Cinemas has done away with the old-fashioned, straight-backed, thinly-cushioned chairs that have been the norm in theaters for decades. In the biggest theatergoing game-changer since the dawn of cup-holders and individual salt packets, Cinema West — which operates several theaters around California, including Boulevard Cinemas — has replaced the theater’s traditional seats with lush, thickly-padded, spacious recliners.

At the touch of a button, each chair tilts back, with foot rests rising to support patrons’ legs, so that, if you choose, you can essentially lie down at the theater to watch your favorite superhero do battle with the latest special-effects.

For the most part, the new chairs appear to be a hit.

Decidedly more comfortable than the old version, the new easy-chairs also come with adjustable trays, though a recent trip to the movies proved that, when fully reclined, a popcorn bag on the tray fully blocks the screen. The cup-holders, too, are necessarily higher than in the old seats, and depending on where you are seat-ed — and how far back you are lying — can sometime also block the view of the onscreen action.

Fortunately, the seats are large enough to accommodate the average movie fan and their large, refillable bag of buttered corn. And once beer and wine — and the rumored pizza and other dinner-like consumables — are added to the current snack bar offerings, as is promised on the theater’s website, things could become even more complicated - and more fun.

Speaking of which, in an effort to solve one of theatergoing’s all time chief impediments — locating an empty seat when you arrive late or during previews — Cinema West has also installed a new ‘reserved seating’ system. At the brand new box office — moved from outside on the sidewalk, to just inside the lobby — patrons can now choose their exact seat from a screen showing which spots are still available.

Tickets can be purchased early at the box office (even days ahead of the showing) or online. Each ticket shows the patron’s selected row and seat number (like at a live theater or concert), so no matter how late you arrive, in theory, your chosen spot should be waiting for you - and your fancy snacks.

Written by David Templeton