Can A Luxury Theater Get People To The Theater?

from the might-be-tough dept

We’ve talked for years about how the movie theater industry’s real problem was that the movie-going experience was terrible. The prices went up and the actual experience kept getting worse and worse. That drove people to look for alternatives, such as home theater systems. A simple solution would be to make the experience better and convince movie goers that it was a fun social experience to go out to the movies, to be able to experience the movie in a way that was different from the home theater experience. Last week, we pointed out that some theaters were moving more towards things like IMAX screens, which is a start. However, rob wrote in to point out that a few firms have teamed up to build a series of “luxury theaters” around the country, targeting a higher class of movie-goer willing to spend more for a top notch experience. As Variety explains:

Each complex will sport theaters featuring 40 reclining armchair seats with footrests, digital projection and the capability to screen 2-D and 3-D movies, as well as a lounge and bar serving cocktails and appetizers, a concierge service and valet parking. But the circuit will especially push its culinary offerings — made-to-order meals like sushi and other theater-friendly foods from on-site chefs (a service button at each seat calls a waiter).

That seems like a step in the right direction… other than the fact that the price is probably going to turn an awful lot of people off. It’s $35 per movie ticket, and that doesn’t include that special on-site chef food. While it definitely makes sense to charge more for tickets to such a theater, a $35 entrance fee, not including any food seems pretty steep. What’s wrong with just making the regular theater experience better?

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Can A Luxury Theater Get People To The Theater?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
wooster11 (profile) says:

I do think there is a market for this...

I do believe that there is a market for this. You’re already seeing a bit of this with theaters like the ArcLight in Hollywood where they assign seats and never fill up a theater (on purpose). They have a bar and provide a really nice experience. I really enjoyed the one time I’ve been there. I’d go more often if it was closer to me. Tickets are about $15 though. I think there are people who are willing to pay for a really nice experience. This just won’t be a theater that a family goes out to because of the cost.

However, mentioned in your post is something about making the “regular” experience better. I definitely think that’s where it needs to start. And to be honest, if they just kept the theaters clean, I think that would make huge strides into improving the experience. No one likes to stick to the floor when they walk the aisles in a theater.

Anonymous Coward says:

alamo draft house

austin, tx got it right with the alamo draft house. i wish they would open these everywhere. i’ve since moved away and miss the funky atmosphere, regular priced tickets with comfy seats, unusual and fun shows (ex. shrimp dinner with forest gump movie), and a yummy diverse menu that you can order from throughout the movie. you just write your order down, stick it in front of you and a waiter will come by and pick it up. oh, and yes they serve booze.

Jezsik says:

Bangkok is way ahead

I’ve gone to two movie theaters in Bangkok that were very high-end. They have assigned seating, an exclusive lounge area, reclining lounge chairs (or couches if you pay more), pillows, blankets, wait staff to bring you drinks and food. It’s really a royal treatment to see a movie there. The price was about four times the cost of a low-end movie theater ticket. While I’d be willing to pay more for such a seat in the US, it would have to be under $30, be devoid of advertisements and show a few shorts to warm up the crowd.

Anonymous Coward says:

There is a theater in Vancouver WA that is already succeeding with this business model. They do not charge $35 per ticket however. I think the most I have ever paid to get into Cinetopia was less than 15 bucks for the “Living Room” theaters which have very comfortable chairs that recline. Foot stools, blankets and pillows available down in the front, and food/drinks served to you at your seat. They are also a completely digital theater, even in their “auditorium” style ones.

David says:

We have it in FL

In the Boca Raton area, they call it the Premier and it is part of one of the big theatres, on the second floor. They sell out 2-3 weeks in advance…

You can reserve your seat either eat in the restaurant then go to the theatre, or bring your food in (no seat-side service, they thought it might disturb the viewers), it $20/seat.

Never actually tried it, though.

Pro says:

Riff Raff

I think the whole idea is to keep the riff raff out. Most of the distracting people are kids with less means.

Also, the main problem with the movie going experience is that the cost doesn’t begin or end with the ticket price. Exhibit A -> Take wife out to the movies.

Babysitter: $10 / hr = $20
Tickets: $10 / ticket = $20
Popcorn and 2 sodas = $10

So that’s 50 bucks to go out and see a shitty movie. Maybe if something good were to emerge you could consider it, but I can’t recall the last time that’s happened…

People are being forclosed upon, and everyone is complaining about how expensive it is to fill their SUV with gasoline and we’re supposed to pay $50 to go to the movies?

BTR1701 (profile) says:

Better Exerience

Until they can figure out a way to deal with rude and talkative audience members and cell phones (not just the people who talk on them, but the people who constantly text-message and check e-mail and whatnot, which lights up the dark theater with their glowing displays), then it will never be as enjoyable as a movie watched on my home theater with a few select friends.

ehrichweiss says:

Let's go out to dinner and see a movie....

Yes, the subject is a Phish song if anyone is wondering. Anyway, we’ve got a “Movie Tavern” in the area. They seem to have everything in order as the tickets are only $8, you get HUGE seats, and the servers(waitresses, not Sun Microsystems) will a)leave you alone when you don’t care to hear from them and b)come assist you ASAP when you require their services. The dinners are a little expensive but they’re good food and cooked to order. Last Memorial Day when we went it cost us about $100 for 6 of us to have gourmet hamburgers and several beers. So it might have been a bit expensive but it was a great experience overall, at least as a treat.

Another Anonymous Coward says:

Those who argue $35 for ~2 hour of entertainment is too much are hypacrits.

You wouldn’t think twice about plopping down $75+ for a ticket to see 1 to 1.5 hours of the Foo Fighters, or $95 for kick ass seats at a hockey game, but you guys complain about a measly $35 for lazy-boy, waited on service to watch a movie with no screaming kids.

Just because movie theaters have lagged behind with how much they charge doesn’t mean the entertainment isn’t any less enjoyable (depending on the movie you go to that is).

Yes, this will probably exclude a certain amount of the movie-going public, but then again these Luxury Theaters are not replacing the normal ones, they are just adding another option.

Just my $0.02.

Jesse says:

Re: Re:

>You wouldn’t think twice about plopping
>down $75+ for a ticket to see 1 to 1.5
>hours of the Foo Fighters, or $95 for
>kick ass seats at a hockey game, but
>you guys complain about a measly $35 for
>lazy-boy, waited on service to watch a
>movie with no screaming kids.

I would – that’s one of the reasons why I don’t go to big-name concerts and sporting events.

There is a fundamental difference between a live performance and a movie, anyway.

– Jesse

Eric the Grey says:

I heard an ad on the radio...

for a theater that served dinner along with the movie for Boulder CO, and thought it was a cool idea. If I recall, the price was all inclusive.

However, I’ve not heard the ad again, and cannot locate the place online, so I’ve not been able to check it out. If they do something like this, they better make certain they advertise it well enough to attract people.


2gravey says:

We have the same thing but cheaper.

I just moved to the Massachusetts/Southern New Hampshire area and we have these theaters called Chunky’s. They have tables and all the chairs are later model Lincoln leather front seats on custom built frames. They are comfortable and recline. They serve cocktails and beer and Chilis/Applebees type food for about the same price that Chilis/Applebees charges and the ticket prices are the same as a regular theater too ($7.50). If we can get a sitter, my wife and I are going to see 21 there this weekend.

John (profile) says:


Here’s a question: if people are paying $35 for a movie ticket, will they have to sit through commercials that were sometimes (literally) shown on TV the night before?

I’m paying $10 to see a movie: I don’t want to see the same BMW ad that was shown last night on TBS.
If the theater is going to get money from BMW to run TV commercials on every screen, then the theater should *reduce* the price of the ticket.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Advertisements

We limit our ads to 3-20 second ads. They are at the begining of the reel. The ads generate $ 20.00 for each ad per month. Hardly worth our while. Ask your cable company to reduce the price of their service for the 5 minutes commericals every 10 minutes on TBS. A hour and half movie lasts well over 2 1/2 hours. At least we don’t stick our ads in the middle of the show.

Pro says:

Re: Re: Advertisements

It sounds like you have a nice place.

That’s the interesting thing about the economy these days, is it’s completely different in Massachusetts, Florida, Texas, North Dakota, Ohio, California, etc…

While cinema model might work great in N. Dakota still, it’s completely broken here. Property values make everything so damn expensive that the whole experience loses it’s value. Meanwhile, the same plasma TV and Sound system cost me the exact same thing that it costs you (which in effect makes a TV cost half as much for me because I live in a place where everything costs double, but salaries are double as well). I bet the girl next door doesn’t ask for $10 an hour to babysit either in ND.

Here, you spend $50 to listen to someone talk Spanish into their cell phone.

That being said, I’ll probably go to see 21 some weeknight at 10PMish by myself, when the place is mostly empty…

LittleBeanCurd (user link) says:

The Sundance Theater in San Francisco is FANCY!

San Francisco now has what I believe to be Sundance’s first foray into running a theater. It’s SUPER fancy! It’s the Sundance Kabuki, in Japantown where the AMC Kabuki once was. But, they didn’t just take it over, they’ve completely remodeled it into a pretty extravagant moviegoing experience. Tickets there are still only $10-$12 (average ticket price in San Francisco is $10) and includes reserved seating in very comfortable and spacious aisles. There’s a Sundance restaurant next door, a sort of minglyish mini restaurant inside along with a few bars. I must say, the price is only a buck or two more than the other theaters, but well, this one washes their floors and I don’t have to show up an hour before my movie just to stand in line (reserved seating is a blaaaaaast!)

Daz says:

In Australia a standard ticket is around $10, which is too much as it puts many people off going, when compared to alternatives such as your own home/rent a dvd etc. So $35 for such a service isn’t such a stretch. (Geez, how much do you pay in US for a movie ticket?)
If you can actually get to a Star Class or Gold Class cinema without traveling for 2 – 3 or more hours then fine, but its still not exactly luxury.
They should make the standard experience more compelling.

Michael (user link) says:

Priced too high

I think that luxury theaters could be the answer but the problem is the fact that ticket prices are just too high in general. I go to a discount movie theater fairly regularly, it costs me $5 a ticket and that seems pretty fair to me. I really think that movie theaters could double the amount of people in the theater if they realized that they could lower the price and make it up in volume.

Luxury theaters would be really nice but I’m not sure how much of an impact they could have, although I’m sure there are a lot of people in this world that would pay an extra $25 to see a movie in a theater with comfy chairs I’m not the kind of person that would want that, $25 extra is just too much.

Bill (profile) says:

Luxury theatres - almost but not quite

I can tell you what would get ME going to movies again and paying extra…

In Japan, they have tons of high-end Karaoke bars/parlors. These have a bunch of comfortable private rooms of varying sizes complete with comfortable seating, a great sound system, and a waitress to bring food and drinks. You take a group of your friends there and everyone drinks, eats great food, and has a blast making fun of one another singing. It’s pretty popular there.

I always thought theatres should look into this concept with modifications appropriate to movie display as a high end alternative to traditional theatres. My idea is, let a group of friends (or a couple) rent a private theatre room with comfy furniture, amazing screen, and brilliant audio system. Let them select any available feature film from a menu to be displayed on the wall-sized screen in their room. Have a waitress serve them dinner and drinks with a button on the wall to call her at any time. Let the customers start the movie whenever they want and stay as long as they want, depending on the type of reservations they made.

The advantages are, folks still get to go out to dinner and a movie and get away from the kids. They can completely control WHO is with them in their private theatre room. If they want to be loud and chatty during the movie, they can do it without disturbing others. They can also have total silence to completely enjoy the movie. They can have a romantic night out with the wife or they can have a fun night of drinks and food with good friends.

The key is that this type of experience becomes whatever they want it to be because they have full control over the attendees, the pace, the menu, and the schedule. Plus, splitting the cost of the room rental among a group of friends makes it less expensive than it sounds. How much you spend on drinks and food is up to you. Which movie you choose is also up to you. Digital movies make this customized experience a very real possibility now.

It’s like a strange cross mutation between a bar, a small hotel operation, a movie theatre, and private booths at a nice restaurant. They could even let people have karaoke parties in the same rooms with words on the big screen and the sound system playing music. Or just have a private party there with your friends and music videos, sporting events, or concerts playing on the big screen. I know a lot of guys who would pay a lot to have a waitress serve them and their buddies beer and food while watching football on a wall-sized screen with theatre quality digital surround sound.

THAT would be the type of theatre which would get me going out to movies again and that would be worth more money to me. Otherwise, I will continue to prefer my big LCD flat panel and built-in digital surround sound at home. Because at home, I control the environment, the sound levels, the attendees, and the pace of the experience. I can grab a beer from the fridge or a bag of chips whenever I want and I only buy the movie once for less money than it costs my wife and I to go out to a movie at the theatre.


Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...