In the date-night trinity of drinks, dinner and a movie, Cineplex already dominates the third part of the equation in Canada. Now it wants to own the whole evening. That’s the thinking behind its burgeoning line of VIP theatres: grown-ups-only zones, each with a full bar and resto-lounge in addition to upgraded theatre seats.
“We saw an opportunity to re-engage the adult moviegoer,” says Bill Tishler, Cineplex’s vice-president of design and construction. “What we’re attempting to do is attract our guests to come earlier and stay later, and make an evening out.” That required changes big and small to Cineplex’s standard theatre designs. Here’s what got tweaked:
Smaller box office
Mobile ordering has reduced the need for a lot of box-office staff. More than half of VIP moviegoers reserve seats hours before they get to the theatre and simply pick tickets up from automated kiosks.
Cineplex’s VIP sections are blocked off from the rest of the multi-plex by what Tishler jokingly calls “Star Trek doors.” The separation heightens the exclusivity—but it’s also expedient for liquor licensing, meaning VIP is an adults-only zone.
VIP theatres are licensed to serve alcohol throughout, so you can take your cocktail to your seat. Each theatre sources local beers on tap, too.
No ads here
Unlike standard theatres, there’s no advertising visible in the VIP lounge. Instead, black-and-white stills from Warner Bros. films adorn the walls (Cineplex struck an exclusivity deal with the studio on the decor).
Tables for two
Like in the theatre itself, seating options in the lounge—corner banquettes and fireside club chairs—tend to be arranged in pairs to facilitate romance.
A full kitchen is required to handle the food options, which include ceviche and an artisanal cheeseboard. VIP employees provide full table service in the lounge and in the theatres.
Extra leg room isn’t just for the patrons’ benefit; it also allows servers easy access to any seat to deliver food and drinks.
The first Cineplex VIP sections suffered from tiny screens, but newer ones are basically full-size, with a capacity of about 100 viewers.
Tweaking the standard auditorium seat
In addition to the large-scale alterations at its VIP locations, the company made a number of changes to its seating:
1. Built for two
Seats are arranged in pairs, another nod to date night. The middle armrest can be stowed for a loveseat effect.
2. More snacking space
A sliding tray on the armrest is a custom modification to the seats. Trays swivel out, putting snacks (served on a real plate, not a cardboard tray) within easy grabbing range.
3. Lean back experience
The chairs offer La-Z-Boy-style reclines (raised footrests and all) with arm-mounted power controls.
4. Popcorn container
VIP theatres boast specially designed rigid cardboard popcorn boxes that stand upright on the trays.
5. Cups don’t runneth over
Cupholders—three for every two seats—have special slots for holding wineglasses with stems (another menu item available only in VIP).
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