There seems to be a good one-upsmanship in Apgujeong when it comes to movie theaters. CGV renovates the old Cinecity tower and now COEX has just renovated the Megabox housed there. This means the theaters are offering better choices and more screens to see that movie you have been wanting to see. With the winters so cold, it’s nice to have indoor activities to enjoy. So where is the best place to catch a flick in Apgujeong? Keep reading and find out my picks.
A note on judging
I will be judging on four catagories - seat, screen, snacks, and location. The seat is about the comfort, size, and adjustability of the seat. I am taller than the average Korean, so I will tell you if I am hitting my knees on the seat in front of me, or if I can stretch out and relax. The screen score is about the size, quality, and location of the screen. Are their bad seats because of the screen being too small, too large, or too high? The snacks score will judge what kind of snacks you can get in the theater. One of the best things Korean cinemas offers us Americans that we don’t get back home is beer, but what else can we get? The location will be based on how easy or hard it is to find and what is around it. Can you get a decent dinner nearby or are you far away from anything interesting? Can you build a nice date night around this theater or not? Alright, so let’s get to it!
#4 Lotte Cinema
The smallest and cheapest (9k) of the theaters on this list is just outside Sinsa station (exit 2). It’s older, has smaller screens, and has less options than the other theaters, but it is also less crowded and cheaper. The screens are pretty small, so I recommend sitting in or near the front. The sound is not awesome either, I heard the reels spinning (do reels still spin?) from near the back of the theater, but for the price it isn’t too bad. There is a lot of leg room though.
Snack bar - The popcorn was pretty standard - caramel, cheese, onion, and original flavors. The Cinema Combo with popcorn and two drinks was 8.5k, but the caramel popcorn was the worst of the bunch. It was sporadic caramel at best.
The location is not bad, but it's a few minutes walk to Garusugil where there are plenty of choice places to eat and drink before or after the flick. The immediate vicinity is not great for a nice dinner date spot, but there is plenty of quick bite places like Mariachi next door, Subway, and Yum Yum Thai just down the street.
Seat - 6 Screen - 5 Snacks - 6 Location - 7
#3 CGV Apgujeong
Just outside Apgujeong station (between exit 2 and 3) is the most convoluted theater I have ever been to. There are three places to buy tickets in two different buildings. Even the theater is split up, the Arthouse theater is behind the main entrance in a second building and the Sweet Boxes are downstairs in the first building.
Arthouse - The waiting area of the Arthouse theaters has a nice lounge with big screen TV to watch while waiting and there are a few cafes and quick bite restaurants just upstairs.
Sweet Box (12-15k)- If you manage to find your way down to the sweet boxes with one of the several methods of descending (I took the outdoor stairs in the freezing cold), you might find the place empty. Where the sweet box theater is there are no popcorn vendors, and when I was there, no attendants at all, just a lounge and bathrooms. One more floor down is the main area where the main theater seats are. There you can find the popcorn and snacks area. The sweet box is just the balcony section of that same theater with double wide seats. There are built on a severe incline so each sofa has a good view of the screen. It was a comfortable seat with nice privacy because of the curved, high-backed seats.
Snack bar - The popcorn is good. They offer the standard flavors of popcorn, but they also offer seasoned popcorn in banana, mango, onion, cheddar cheese, bacon, and hot curry favors (9.5k for combo with two drinks). You get regular popcorn with a lid and packet of flavoring that you dump into the popcorn and you're just gonna shake, shake, shake - shake it off, shake it off. The bacon flavoring, although tempting, was alright at first, but wore thin quickly.
The location is perfect if you are getting plastic surgery since you are in the midst of Surgery Street just outside of Apgujeong station. It is a decent location though, right in the thick of things. Five minutes one direction and you are on Garusugil and five minutes the other and you are on Rodeo and all the places in between.
Seat - 8 Screen - 7 Snacks - 8 Location - 6
#2 CGV Cheongdam
The renovations are a few years old now, but it is still a pretty new theater in the grand scheme of things. It is between Gangnam-gu Office station (exit 3) and Apgujeong Rodeo station. The top several floors of the tallest building in Apgujeong are movie screens in many varieties. What CGV lacks in movie varieties, they make up for in theater varieties. They have screens where you can see the movie the traditional way, they have 4D, the gold class, and they have the Beats Theater where you have the option of listening to the movie on Dr. Dre’s Beats headsets.
Beats Theater (12k) - The screen is average sized, so sit in the middle of the place. The leg room is good, but the width is not as great. The seats are not high back, so there is no neck support for us taller folks. The lean back is not bad though, a decent amount of space means you can lean a bit better without bothering the person behind you. The major flop at this theater is that the exit leads straight to the elevator which goes to the first floor outside. To use the bathroom you have to reenter the building and use the bathroom in the deli. During the movie you can exit the theater as you entered and use the bathrooms on the floor above, but after they want you to exit outside. Now to the headsets, this seems like a weird thing to offer, but it can be nice to eliminate the sound of babies crying, cell phones, or the loud crunching of popcorn next door to you. The downside for me is that they can start to hurt your ears after a while and it can be uncomfortable. I have even had to take off the headset and go with the crappier standard sound in the theater for awhile to give my ears a break.
Kia Theater (2D-11k, 3D-21k) - The Kia theaters are the "normal" theaters of the building, in that they are not equipped with headphones or moving chairs like the 4D theaters. They also rarely show Western movies, so if you are interested in this particular theater, you might be watching Korean movies. Unfortunately, there are still no subtitles offered anywhere in Apgujeong for Korean movies.
4D (25k) - The 4D theater is a really fun experience if you are willing to pay for it. Make sure you choose the movie wisely though, something that will have action and excitement is key. The last movie I watched wasn’t in 3D either, which takes away one of the benefits of the theater, but the seats still move and punch you in the back. There is spray and mist and even a smoke machine that appeared way too realistic when it looked like the front of the theater was on fire.
Snack bar - The popcorn is great because you can get creative with toppings. I like to get M&Ms and Gummy Bears on the top of my caramel popcorn there. They also offer seasoned popcorn in banana, mango, onion, cheddar cheese, bacon, and hot curry favors.
The location is decent and the edge of the Rodeo area and all the great food and shopping that entails. The closest station is Gangnam-gu Office station up the hill or Apgujeong Rodeo near Galleria, not Cheongdam contrary to the name of the place. It also happens to have the best view of any theater in the area, since the rest are underground. Being high in the sky with windows on the 8th floor where you buy tickets gets you a nice view of the surrounding area. You can also step out onto the stairs for a better view, if you are looking to take a picture.
Seat - 7 Screen - 8 Snacks - 10 Location - 8
#1 COEX Megabox
The renovations are complete and let me tell you, I am pleasantly surprised with their decisions. Inside COEX mall (Samseong station), the main entrance has had quite the surgical change. Now with nice wooden decking/stairs for sitting and waiting or grabbing a coffee and a slide. You read that right, not just one slide but, two slides now reside in the main lobby of Megabox. Inside the theaters the seats are decent sized and decently comfortable, but they have a cubby next to the seats for coats which is a table for your popcorn on top. No more spilling popcorn trying to hold it on your lap and sitting on your coat awkwardly for two hours. They still have cup-holders as well, it’s not just the table, traditionalists. The seats don’t have much adjustability though, but they are spaced nicely enough that people aren’t running their bags into your heads as they squeeze behind you into their seat. The screen is average sized, so don’t sit in the back. It is not too high either, so if you are forced into the front row you don’t have to crane your neck too much. Another benefit to the Megabox is that it offers more variety of movies than CGV. CGV sometimes runs most of their screens for a movie they produced leaving the options to see anything else slim-pickings. Megabox seems to have more movie options.
The suite room (25k), if you choose to be a baller, is their high class, separate theater for comfort and luxury. There is a separate bar and lounge with bar seats and no lines or waiting for your snacks and drinks. Inside the theater there are nice leather reclining seats with slippers and a foot rest. There are end-tables on either side of the two seats and a table in front as well. Free water and blankets, and not paper blankets like in economy flying either. There will be a menu of items from the snack bar with an attendant that serves to your seat. The screen is basically equivalent to the regular screen, but with half the crowd and twice the room.
Snack bar - Popcorn comes in many flavors, as is the norm, like garlic, cheese, caramel, and original for those boring folks. The set with two drinks is 12k. The popcorn was good and the drinks are standard.
The location is one of the best bits about this place. It is the newly renovated COEX mall. On a rainy, cold, or snowy day you will not need to be outside and you can shop, eat, gamble at the casino (if you are not Korean), or go to an aquarium. On a nicer day you can even go to Bongeunsa temple sight-seeing just across the street.
Seat - 8 Screen - 8 Snacks - 9 Location - 9
I never thought too deeply about theaters until doing this list. I just went wherever the movie I wanted to see was playing. I am now starting to appreciate the differences in theaters because of this. I am getting older and really enjoy some of the more expensive options, like Gold Class and Suite Rooms. When I was younger it seemed silly to pay more for things like that, but now that I teach young children all day, it is nice to get away from that, especially when watching a movie aimed at children. It is becoming more and more worth the money to not hear crying children or have people kicking the back of my seat. I'm sure I'll be yelling at kids to get off my lawn soon enough, but no matter how you like your theater, there is something for you here.
Watch on Apgujeong!