The Worst Movie Theater in the World

Congratulations, Philadelphia, it’s right in our back yard

And the winner is?  The UA Riverview on Columbus Blvd.  I wish there was a plaque or a trophy I could give them because they have so earned it.  The experience is so bad, it’s actually comical.

Often throughout my 14-year career as overnight host at WIP, I have been stuck in a time no-man’s land. I will have just finished performing at a private party in Pennsylvania.  It might be 1030 p.m. I have to figure out if it is worth it for me to drive all the way back into Jersey, just to get back in the car at 1 a.m. to drive back to City Ave., which is where WIP is located. [SIGNUP]

The UA Riverview is the one theater in our area that actually starts movies as late as 11 p.m. Throw in the 20 minutes of previews and if you can get there by 11:15 p.m., you’re good to go.  So  often I have made the decision to chill out and watch a flick at the UA,  instead of making the haul back home only to come back over the bridge.

CHILL might not exactly be the correct word to describe the experience of seeing a movie at the UA. It’s the one theater where the action in the seats often outshines the action on the screen. First of all, everybody talks like there’s no movie going on at all, or even better, the audience often talks TO the screen:


Violent movies are very well received. Vicious deaths are met with healthy cheers and rounds of applause. Don’t even THINK of seeing a romantic comedy. The audience will get so bored they’ll start talking to each other ON THEIR CELLPHONES if they have a friend they know is only a few aisles away. I’ve even seen some crowds take “romance” into their own hands as once I sat three rows behind a guy receiving oral sex in his seat while there was lovemaking going on up on the screen at the same time. NOW THAT’S 3D!

I know you must be thinking why I find this all so funny, but believe me, I know what I’m in for when I go there. There would be nobody to complain to anyway.

Today I had an appointment at Jefferson Hospital that ended at 5 p.m. I had to be at Tom & Jerry’s which is in Delaware County, no later than 8 p.m. With traffic, there is a very good chance that I would not have made it home till 6:30 p.m., just to hang for less than an hour before I would have to drive over the Commodore Barry back into PA. So, maybe I could just go to a movie and forget fighting all that traffic.

Well, none of the times worked out right for anything I wanted to see at any of the Ritz theaters. The UA, however, has so many screens (and good one’s I might add) that there was a 5:30 p.m. Predators — and I’m a huge Walton Goggins fan.  I figured I might be able to get away with this, there might not be anyone there at this time on a Thursday.

I pay my $9 and find my screen. That, by the way, takes some doing since the usher cat tells you a screen number but there’s no sign telling you what theater is playing what. I find my screen, and my hunch pays off. It was empty. Maybe eight people.

Now one of the drawbacks from my radiation treatments is that my throat is painfully dry all the time. I’m constantly drinking these Ensures and sipping on soda. Water doesn’t cut it, it stinks. So I go out in the lobby to get a soda while the previews are on and there is no concession stand on the second floor. I have to take this giant escalator back to the first floor. It’s like being in a casino.

I ask the concession stand chick, who never looks at me once, for a small Coke. I reach back to pull some cash out of my pocket and when I turn around she says, “That will be $4.75.”  Politely, I remind her I asked for a small.  “THAT IS A SMALL, MISTER.”  The “small” turns out to be as big as a bucket. Even the straw is, like, two feet high. It’s so big that I won’t be able to even take it to the car with me later because there’s not a cup holder in the world big enough to hold it. Unless NASA has designed one I missed out on.  I am way too tired to argue or ask for my money back, so into the theater I go with a “small” soda that you have to put on the floor because their own cupholders can’t handle it.

The movie begins and 10 minutes in a couple comes in with enough food and drink to feed Cambodia and sits DIRECTLY BEHIND ME and begins to argue. There are HUNDREDS of empty seats and they sit DIRECTLY BEHIND ME. Do I move? Of course not. I play another hunch that their argument will be more entertaining than Predators and guess what?  I was right.

Another fine movie-going experience at the good ol’ UA.

The next public show that I’m doing will be at cofffee.comedy in Sea Isle on Saturday, July 24th, at 9 p.m. It’s a great venue to see me do my thing cuz it only seats 100 and it always sells out, so make your reservations now by calling 609-263-5282. That’s 609-263-JAVA.

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  • vitaminpurple

    the only time I went there was a quiet wednesday night and a fight still broke out on the second floor. The couple of us who were there had to be escorted out a back entrance while the police were arriving. On a postive note it does have free parking which pretty much isn’t an option in philly anymore

  • Maureen

    If you can catch an early Saturday or Sunday movie (I’m talking 10:30am!) that’s the best time to go. Hardly anyone is there, the floors aren’t sticky yet, and the bathrooms are relatively clean.

  • rick

    Sounds like the ideal theater for The Rocky Horror Picture Show…

  • Vibracobra

    Wow, you’re really insightful.

  • phyllis mass

    Agree with everything you said but you left out the drop cloth factor. The floor is so sticky from having to place sodas on the floor that it isn’t safe to place your feet on the ground for fear that you won’t be able to remove them. Hence, the drop cloth factor. BYODC
    Or better yet. Do as I do and don’t go there.

  • Karen

    Gotta give Big Daddy credit for continuing to go there. I stopped about 5 years ago when kids started screen hopping and making their own scene in each theater. So no more Riverview for me. It does make for a great article and I might just try a morning movie one day. They do have great screens.

  • tonyb

    I stopped going to the UA years ago. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I had to move my seat due the the noise the baby was making while breast feeding. Pure class in a movie theater.

  • At least they don’t shoot live ammo at the screen like they used to in West Philly, when they didn’t like the movie.

  • Teresa

    UA was one of the first movie spots I visited when I first moved to Philadelphia from Baltimore. Never went back. It reminded me of an old Baltimore experience downtown at the old “Hippodrome”. Ask anyone you may know from Baltimore…Not Good!

  • Donna

    I certainly agree with you. The people, dress code and the behavior leave alot to be desired. I would rather pass on a movie than subject myself to the riverview. Your article is great! I find it quite amusing.

  • Joe Joe

    What a shame! Great place to see a movie 15 years ago but like everything else, the locals destroyed it.

  • I once went to this movie theater on a Sunday night. I went to the movies by myself and geared up for a nice night. Well right after I got my soda and popcorn some jerk off pulled the fire alarm. Everyone got escorted outside, mind you it was winter and we stood there for 30 minutes before they told us we weren’t allowed back in the theater. Then we had to wait in line to get a free ticket to go back another time. Thanks jerk off.

  • Trotsky

    As a man of the people, I enjoy a movie theater of the people. At the UA, the crowds are global and sundry and electric (and perhaps a tad rawer than suburban clods, but then that’s actually a crowd as opposed to a disemplaced mall). As you trash the UA, I realize the Petit Bourgeoisie and its blogging ambassadors will never understand the beauty of the Riverview…what a joy it is to see a mindless action flick and not only feel the expected caffeine-sparks from the screen but also hear the startling and real Roman convivium swell up all around, in pleasure or displeasure, and know that for the hive mind here tonight, it all matters very much. Peace out, fearful suburbanites, the UA is really not so bad….

  • Larry

    Whats left unsaid here is that United Artists Riverview sits adjacent to a very good mostly-white neighborhood yet is overrun by low-income blacks, latinos, asians, and yes, some white people.

    For the most part, the problem is a black problem. I am sure I will be called racist but I am not. I refuse to go into it more than that. I have been to this theater dozens of times and it always the large group of loud obnoxious hoodlums or just plain large black women shouting at the screen, fighting, doing the cell phone thing along with everything else you can think of that would ruin it for someone else. I came to the conclusion that they do it on purpose just to aggravate other people trying to enjoy a few hours away from their kids or whatever. There is no other explanation as to why someone will pay 9.00 to act like an animal.

    Since it opened it has been a major cause of crime to include theft, robbery, rape, and murder. UA Riverview 17 caters to that crowd by the show times and movie selections (i.e. Soul Plane on two screens at 10:40PM!). It has to be the worst theater in the world. It is everything that is wrong with this city in one building and I sincerely hope it closes down soon.

  • Lele

    If memory serves me correctly, the gentleman who popped a couple of caps in an evening showing of Benjamin Button in Dec 2008 was a white dude.

  • John

    Its definitely a black problem. They ruin everything. Seriously, look at their neighborhoods. No respect for other and themselves, and then I’m sure they’ll call this post racist. Its not racism, its realism!!

  • vicky

    Wow! Wonder if they played Clint Eastwood’s Grand Torino at this theater?!

  • Jim DeLorenzo

    You’re right on about the Riverview experience. Back in 2001, I went with my then-girlfriend (now wife) to see the first Spider-man movie. Indelibly marked in memory is the “patron of the arts” behind me who screamed out “LOOK BEHIND YOU SPIDER-MAN” whenever the Green Goblin made an appearance. To this day, “Look behind you Spider-man” is our code word for any trip to the Riverview, which most of the time we avoid like the plague. Unless its the only theatre in the area showing a movie we desperately want to see!

  • Concerned Neighbor

    The Riverview is the most poorly managed (or should I say non-managed) business I have ever experienced. I gave up on this theater 9 years ago. I would not allow my children to go there, even as teens and young adults. It should be closed. Otherwise, just take out the seats and put in ropes to swing from or a large mud wrestling ring and be done. The patrons there confirm the “devolution” of some members of our society.

  • Mikey Mush

    Black people ruin everything. Neighborhoods, Public housing and even welfare.

  • Buckethead

    The last time I was at the Riverview was to see Saving Private Ryan. During the initial Normandy beach sequence, the morons behind me were talking about how if they had been there, they would have totally kicked ass. It went downhill from there.

  • MD

    I have been there several times with my wife and kids. We go during a day between Christmas and New Years. As white bread, suburbanites who take 1 overnight trip to the city every year, this theatre is our first stop before checking in at a downtown hotel.

    Honestly, I have never had any problems at the theatre. It is a little dirty though. Perhaps I am just avoiding the chaos since we will not see anything rated higher than PG since our daughters are still young. As they get older, that could change.

  • Larry

    The clientale at UA Riverview has cause so many problems inside and outside the theater that it’s led to the closing of restaurants like Philly Rock,
    Engine 46,Langistino’s and others. How they stay in existence god knows. I know of at lest one shooting and 2 stabbing inside the movie!?!