Universal Studios AMC Cinema Graphics

Merit Award

The renovation of the AMC Cinema at Universal City Walk has raised the bar for movie-going experiences in Los Angeles. After large architectural gestures proved to be unfeasible, the design team was brought on to make a bold graphic statement within the confines of the existing structure and a limited budget. The first task was to create the “big idea” that the targeted demographic would respond to. Since the majority of City Walk movie-goers are 18 to 25 years old, the design team created a visual statement that would appeal to this age group. A grand entrance was the first step in the complete redesign of the theater as an entertainment space.

From the outside, the building façade is defined by twin murals of popcorn—after all, the universal symbol of movie-going—bursting from a soothing California sunset. The design team creatively retooled the “Cinema” channel letters that were once mounted on the building, perching them atop poles in the theater’s plaza space. The curved “AMC” and “IMAX” panels serve as both identification and wayshowing devices to pedestrians approaching from three directions.

Inside, the theater lobby is also dominated by popcorn, this time bursting out of a cornfield over the entrance and sunset-colored walls. Interior surfaces are saturated and vivid, referencing Los Angeles’ custom car culture in cherry red restrooms and in streaking taillight effects on flooring. Elegant and simple directional signs were designed to counterbalance the exuberant interior palette. Their black-and-white contrast is easily readable from long distances and in dim environments.

Jury Comments: 

“Dimensional graphic treatments make an explosive statement! Recycled large-scale letterforms from the old building façade are creatively recast as a sculptural signpost on the theater plaza. Popping popcorn animates the lobby and makes for a fun and memorable moment.”

Design Firm: 

Sussman/Prejza & Company


Universal Studios Hollywood

Location City: 

Universal City, CA

Project Area: 


Open Date: 


Project Budget: 


Photo Credits: 

Benny Chan, Jim Simmons, Sussman/Prejza

Design Team: 

Deborah Sussman (principal in charge), Mike Shaub (project manager), Holly Hampton, John Johnston, Sharon Blair, Hsin-Hsien Tsai, Alisa Benfey, Agnes Pierscieniak, Chris Loomis


The Jerde Partnership (interior design subconsultant), Kaplan Gehring McCarroll Architectural Lighting (interior/exterior lighting)


MetroMedia Technology/Rembrandt Graphics (exterior popcorn vinyl), Lexington (interior cornfield and popcorn), Superior Electric Signs (interior/exterior signage fabricator), 3M (exterior vinyl)

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