I've seen SWEENEY TODD twice since the preview screening I wrote up back in October. Based on the subsequent screenings in movie theatres (as opposed to the preview screening room where I originally saw it), I would advise viewers to select their venue with care. Here's why:
Visually, the movie is extremely dark and gloomy - intentionally so. If you catch it at a cheap theatre where they are trying to save money on projector bulbs by turning down the intensity, you risk missing some of the actors' expressions. This was the case with the at the Mann Granada Hills 9 on Devonshire Blvd in the Valley. The scene wherein Sweeney (Johnny Depp) first enters Mrs. Lovett's pie shop left the actor's face often invisible.
To be fair, this is not entirely the theatre's fault; that is the way the scene was filmed, with low-key lighting that left half the face in shadow. However, a trip to the new ArcLight Cinemas in Sherman Oaks yielded a notably better visual experience: the scene is still dark and shadowy, but at least the image is bright enough to reveal the side of the face that had some light falling on it.
This was my first trip to the new ArcLight, which is modeled after the facility in Hollywood that houses the old Cinerama Dome. The Sherman Oaks ArcLight offers many of the same advantages, including a nice coffee shop and a souvenir store. There is no single theatre to match the magnificent Dome, but in general the auditoriums are very much like the ones you would find in the Hollywood ArcLight.
The Sherman Oaks Arclight replaces the old Pacific Sherman Oaks Theatre in what used to be the Sherman Oaks Galleria. The redesigned theatres are an improvement over the old facilities, although they are perhaps not quite a quantuum leap that would knock you out.
Rather, the substantial improvement lies less in the archiecture than in the frills: assigned seating, no pre-show advertising, helpful ushers, projection and sound that are handled with care, and an online ticketing service that charges no extra fee.