Best Sound System

Mazza Gallerie, 5300 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Back in late 1999, I was hired as a manager of Mazza Gallerie’s General Cinema while it was still under construction. One day when the sound system was installed, a handful of us gathered in a completely bare house—no seats, no carpet, no screen—to listen to an extended THX trailer, the one with birds twittering and train whistles blowing and bees buzzing seemingly around your head. And it was glorious. Though I’m not technically an audiophile, that experience remains one of the most thrilling of my life. Yeah, the place had plenty of problems: a poorly designed lobby, an embarrassing shortage of restrooms, a “Club Cinema” that proved better in theory than in execution. Yet over a decade later, the sound at now-AMC-owned Mazza is still the best. Once upon a time I would have given its presentation as a whole my thumb’s up, but when union projectionists were ushered out in favor of tasking 16-year-old ticket-takers with building and maintaining the films, well…just focus on the Dolby Digital and know that you’ll probably get a pair of free tickets whenever you experience the inevitable upside-down reel.