Best weekend activity: Warren Theatre

As the Sunflower’s resident film critic, it stands to reason that I would be intimately familiar with the Warren Theatre chain of movie houses, which are basically the only places to see new release films in Wichita. 

Since I’ve been a regular patron for most of my life, I can say with some confidence that Wichitans are lucky to have easy access to some of the highest quality movie theaters in the Midwest, if not the entire country.

“Classy” is a vague term that has almost been rendered meaningless by overuse, but it’s a decent way to describe seeing a movie at the Warren. Before a movie starts, the auditorium lights are dim, everything is clean and the speakers are playing film scores.

Compare that to theaters in other cities, where it’s common to see television commercials on the screen and hear pop music blaring from the speakers. Sometimes, those two things combine with garish lighting to create an unpleasant atmosphere unfit for cinema.

The seats are adequately comfortable, and the aisles offer enough legroom to accommodate most people. The theater employees also make purchasing concessions and getting to the auditorium a fairly expeditious process.

The three locations across Wichita each offer something unique instead of being carbon copies of one another. 

The 21st Street Warren in west Wichita opened an IMAX theater in 2010, which everyone should experience at least once. The screen is absolutely enormous, and the sound system is as bombastic as you’d expect.

The Old Town Warren has a serving staff that will bring food and drinks (yes, even alcohol) directly to your seat during movies, and they do a decent job of staying out of the way. I haven’t personally seen a movie in that theater’s director’s suite — which features large, reclining seats — but those who have usually recommend it wholeheartedly.

The 13th Street Warren on the east side of town is usually where limited release films show up, so fans of less mainstream fare will feel right at home there. The big draw at that theater is the grand auditorium, which has a large balcony with reserved seats like an old-timey theater. It’s worth noting that the balcony has an age requirement of 21 years old.

Wichita resident Lisa Arebalo has been seeing movies with her daughter and nieces at the west Warren for several years, and she said it’s a great place for families.

“They do a good job of promoting kids movies,” Arebalo said. “The kids have a really good time there.”

Arebalo also said the Warren is great for escaping from the stress of daily life, which I would say is the exact purpose of a movie theater. Luckily, Wichitans have some of the best theaters around to choose from in their cinematic endeavors.