Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Movie theaters are great. NOT !  People go to a movie theater about 6 times a year.  As Hollywood gives us more big-budget films with 3D and other special effects we might want to go to the theater again, however little has changed at most places.  Yes, we can usually find worn seats, stale popcorn and overpriced candy.  Under pressure from viewers as well as movie- industry executives, the country’s theater chains are trying to have you return to theaters with excellent food and wait service and large reclining comfortable chairs.  Just like home.

Some chains are offering high class theaters that offer full bar service, gormet food and high priced art on the walls in the lobby.  Others offer middle-class needs like burgers and salads.  Both theaters called “in-theater dining” places offer the great leather seating.  Popcorn is offered free.  Other offers to get people back into theaters is offering reserved seating online with numbered tickets and more 3D films.   The in-theater dining represents one of the movie-theater industry’s biggest bets to expand its static audience size.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, an industry veteran who once was the studio chairman at Walt Disney Co. said,  “I am 100% sure that these theaters are the future of movie-going.”  The AMC Menlo Park 12 Cineplex in Edison, N.J. offers Tuscan pepperoni pizza and a prime rib sandwich for $9.99.  At the iPic Entertainment’s theater in Scottsdale, Arizona, they serve cocktails in its Salt Lounge.  It seems that now double feature that used to mean 2 movies now means dinner and a movie. Instead of waiting on line outside the theater, now you can wait at the bar and someone will find you and usher you to your reserved seating. 

A few years ago, a handful of these types of places existed. The National Association of Theater Owners now estimates that the U.S. is home to about 3-400 theaters nationwide with restaurant service out of roughly 5,500 total theaters.  We might even see soon say a Applebee’s or a similar chain offering their full menu at the theater.  The one demographic that we probably will not see is horror movies.  Thank goodness, people do not want to eat while watching blood and gore.  The other drawback is that many might not want to smell food or listen to others chewing during a film. 

Guys love it because you can meet someone at the bar, take her to dinner and a movie and maybe even get lucky all in one night.  Keep dreaming.  Seats typically come in pairs of two, with wide aisles between couples to allow waiters to navigate during screenings without blocking views of the movie.  Many guests order during the film by pressing a button near their chairs.  Some theaters have small tables in front of the seats; others feature folding trays that extend across the seat.  Many have some age restrictions; some don’t allow anyone under 21 years old.

Some theaters offer footrests, blankets, pillows or moist towels before the film begins- as well as chocolate mints afterward. The actual auditoriums are often smaller than most theaters featuring fewer than 30 chairs, digital sound and super-wide screens.  Ticket prices vary from 10 to 20 dollars more than the average ticket price excluding food. 

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