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Reely Big Show

Bigger is better in Boca -- and in the movie-theater biz -- so the recent opening of the massive Muvico Palace 20 in Boca Raton couldn't have come at a better time or in a better place. Smaller multiplexes are becoming obsolete as megaplexes with lavish off-screen amenities reel in more and more dough, and Fort Lauderdale­based Muvico's new 141,388-square-foot, 20-screen cinematic castle was tailor-made to that formula.Once through the 55-foot arched entry of the Mediterranean-Moorish­style structure, moviegoers will find that "off-screen amenities" here means more than clean restrooms. For starters there's the sumptuous décor: a marble-dust wall finish used in European castles; backlit, wood-beam cathedral ceilings; a hand-painted kinescope chandelier that projects a running reel of classic movie scenes. Then there are the extra-wide, reclining stadium seats in the concourse-level theaters. There's also the Children's Playroom for kids ages three to eight (featuring Nintendo, nap cots, and pagers for parents) and a 110-foot concession stand that offers expected fare and surprises like chicken, popcorn shrimp, and international coffees.

With so much attention to detail, it's no wonder the place took seven years to plan and more than a year to build. And so far we've considered only the basic theatergoing experience here. The Premier grand-balcony level takes up the entire second story of the grandiose building, where as many as 412 drinking-age patrons pay $15 (instead of $7.75 general evening admission) per person. The pricier pass entitles them to free valet parking, unlimited popcorn, and a choice of really unusual concession cuisine (sushi, crab and artichoke dip, and desserts such as crème brûlée and "chocolate decadence" -- all baked by Muvico's own pastry chef).

Goodies in hand, pampered moviegoers can take their haul right to their preselected seats, which are reserved by the concierge before guests board the private escalator up to the balcony. There oversize reclining love seats are situated in six intimate "screening salons."

As if all of this flashy finery weren't enough, the Premier level is also home to a 230-seat restaurant and bar, where balcony-level patrons can dine on Chef Adam Lamb's eclectic Continental menu. Appetizers include grilled calamari served with a black olive­and-tomato ragout ($7); featured entrées are lemon-pepper chicken salad grilled with Brie and pepper relish ($8) and grilled skirt steak marinated with fresh herbs ($16).

The Palace is such a sumptuous cinema setting, we can't help but wonder: Surrounded by so many palatial perks -- like plush love seats and gourmet munchies -- will anyone be able to stay focused on the real main attraction, the movie?

For showtimes and previews, see this week's New Times or go to moviefone.com

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Dale Koppel

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