Exclusive Engagements

This story is a few days old, but I haven’t had time to blog it. But apparently the movie theater company, Village Roadshow Gold Class Cinemas, is planning to build a chain of specialty theaters that would charge $35 per ticket. According to the AJC blog where I originally found the story, the theaters would feature approximately 40 reclining armchair seats, digital projection with 3D capacity, and valet parking, as well as a bar that offered drinks and appetizers, including things like sushi (food and beverages are not included in the ticket price, and I’m guessing that valet parking isn’t either). The basic approach sounds not unlike the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, only significantly more expensive, and it’s not clear what kinds of movies the theaters would show, although I’m guessing it would be a mix of Hollywood blockbusters and indie-lite films.

According to Variety, Village Roadshow is banking on the idea that offering a luxury experience will draw audiences back out of the home and into the theaters, with the double enticement that rowdy teenagers won’t be congregating near the theater and throwing popcorn at the screen (or whatever it is unruly teenagers are doing these days). It’s also seeking to profit heavily from the drinks and food that they will be selling, in part because the movie distributors get a large cut of ticket sales but don’t get a share of the concessions. In this sense, I suppose the idea makes some amount of sense–at $35 a ticket, they only need about one third of the number of ticket sales to match the box office numbers of regular theaters charging $8-10 a ticket, and with the “experience” that the theater plans to create, it seems likely that customers will buy drinks and appetizers.

That being said, despite my impatience with the local multiplex when it comes to poor projection quality, I can’t really imagine paying $35 for a ticket before concessions unless the chain was the only art house in town (a film festival might be another exception). Even then, I’d probably boycott it. The whole concept basically sounds like the movie theater as country club, excluding the unruly masses. The folks at Cinema Blend and /Film seem a little more enthusiastic about the idea than I do, but this idea seems to reinforce the bunker mentality Barbara Klinger associated with domestic movie audiences in Beyond the Multiplex rather than reviving any notion of a moviegoing public.

Update: So maybe I’m being too harsh here.  Other than, say, film festivals, would you pay $35 for a movie ticket, with the expectation that you might be spending another $10-20 on food and drinks?

3 Comments »

  1. Nels Said,

    March 29, 2008 @ 1:55 pm

    I’m probably going to sound like an ass, but I would do it for certain movies if it was adults only.

  2. Chuck Said,

    March 29, 2008 @ 2:07 pm

    I probably should acknowledge more clearly that my own impatience with seeing movies at the local multiplexes is due in no small part to my impatience with some of the unruly crowds at local theaters. Including having a full cup of Coke tossed into the audience when I was watching World Trade Center a few months ago (the kid got chased out of the theater by a couple of military guys), so, yeah, the multiplexes here aren’t terribly pleasant.

    I’m not sure that I’m willing to spend $35 to avoid the crowds yet, but I understand the impulse (and unlike a lot of people who have commented on the story, I don’t think their plan is misguided at all). Still, something about this model rubs me the wrong way.

  3. weepingsam Said,

    March 29, 2008 @ 6:26 pm

    I can’t see it. Special events, yes, that’s possible – but just to see a movie? and with the people around you eating and drinking during the film? No, I don’t think I’d like that.

    Though as always I have to note the caveats: I’m not the target audience for this – I go to a ton of movies anyway, though not to Hollywood films so much… I don’t need to be lured into theaters. And – film going experience is very much dependent on where you live. Here in Boston, there are enough options, and enough good films and theaters to make a lot of these features kind of pointless. If I lived somewhere else, without those options, I might think differently. Though I still don’t think I’d be willing to pay $35 plus food and drink to see a movie when I can see the same film on DVD for the price of a netflix subscription.

    And I suppose – if $35 was going to get me the chance to see things I couldn’t see anywhere else – that’s another story. Though that’s back to festivals, (and special showings, and guest appearances and so on) basically.

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