Don’t believe a movie theater could be as impressive as what’s showing on its screen? Executives behind Gold Class Cinema and other upscale theater chains are out to change your mind.By Meredith Simons
Robert Kirby realizes he doesn’t have an easy job ahead of him. He knows sticky floors and screaming toddlers have driven modern movie-theater patrons to their couches, where they’re curled up watching Netflix DVDs. But he has a plan to woo Americans back into the theaters.
Next month, Kirby, cochairman of the Australia-based entertainment giant Village Roadshow, will launch Gold Class Cinema, his first state side luxury movie theater, in South Barrington, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.
“It’s the quality and the degree of luxury that can make the experiences so different,” Kirby says of what separates his upscale theaters from the norm. “What we are offering is a first-class experience for the cinema.”
Indeed, customers will feel steeped in luxury from the moment they reserve their seats online (at a cost of about $35 each ) to when they step outside after the show and the valet arrives with their car. During the movie, they can order food from their fully reclining seats, from popcorn and candy to a full dinner, complete with appetizers and cocktails. The auditoriums -- which will seat no more than 40 -- are designed so that servers can deliver food and drinks without disturbing other guests.
Granted, the concept isn’t entirely new to the United States, where, for years, theater chains like Muvico and Cinema de Lux have been offering premium amenities to customers willing to pay a premium price. But according to Jason E. Squire, a faculty member at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts and the editor of The Movie Business Book, it was Village Roadshow’s success in Australia that inspired American film exhibitors to go upscale.
Now, the original is on its way to Illinois, and a second theater will open soon afterward near Seattle. Village Roadshow plans to bring the total number of Gold Class Cinemas in the United States to 50 within the next five years.
Squire says Gold Class’s concept may be just the ticket to get movie buffs off their duffs. “There are so many more choices for recreational time today,” he says. “The customer needs to be seduced out of the house and into the theater.”