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Coming Attractions Vital At High-End Theaters

The high-end movie theater trend isn’t new.

In the early 2010s, as consumers searched for more experiential modes of entertainment, upscale cinemas that offer a plethora of amenities like reserved seating, plush and reclining seats, cocktails and a dining menu, started opening up around the country. There are about 10 of the upscale theaters in San Diego County.

The trend is not a fad. In 2018, Cinepolis, a Mexico-based chain of movie theaters, opened three high-end cinemas stateside. Late last year, Los Angeles’ TCL Chinese Theatre opened up its first property in San Diego. And, most recently, The Lot, headquartered in La Jolla, will debut its latest offering in Del Mar this spring.

But, as their standard counterparts — the ones best known for sticky floors and buttery popcorn — have been implementing some of the accommodations that have brought the VIP theaters to the forefront as of late, luxury theaters are getting creative to stay ahead of the competition.

Late last year, Los Angeles’ TCL Chinese Theatres, opened its first location in San Diego.
The Lot, headquartered in La Jolla, will debut its latest offering in Del Mar this Spring.

Junior Concept

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Cinepolis recently launched its junior concept in Vista. According to Annelise Holyoak, Cinepolis USA’s national director of marketing and communications, the venue is a cross between a theater and a playground.

“Kids can play before a movie,” she said, adding that the Vista location also offers 15 minutes intermissions for little ones that may need to take a bathroom break or grab a snack or even burn some fuel at the playground. “It’s something different that other cinema chains are not offering, Holyoak said. “We are constantly putting ourselves to work by looking towards the future and testing our ideas out in different parts of the world.”

Holyoak said other newer options for moviegoers at the Vista property include what she dubbed the “show before the show,” which is basically entertainment provided in the lobby of Cinepolis movie theaters.

The theaters are no longer limited in their offerings as they were in the past. Holyoak said her high-end cinema chain has been more purposeful about hosting events at its locations, including things like wine tastings.

Popcorn, Soda, Candy Model Got Stale

“For a long time, the industry was very stagnant with very few changes made — it was pretty much popcorn, soda and candy,” she said. “But what was originally innovative, at this point, is not. Now, alcohol and reclining seats are really what the movie theater of today has become.”

And Holyoak said the creativity has worked in the favor of the company. She said Cinepolis plans to build at least five theaters a year for the next five years, with a full focus on the luxury dine-in concept.

“People want innovation,” she said, “so, that is the direction in which we are headed.”

Paula Peter, marketing professor at San Diego State University, said the shift that the cinema industry has seen the last decade or so has been as a result of immediate services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, which allow viewers to watch movies just a couple of months after debuting in the comfort of their home for a much more affordable fee.

Charissa Davidovici

Family Appeal

“Cinemas have to reinvent themselves and add services to make it appealing to consumers to go and watch movies at the theaters,” she said, specifically applauding the cinemas that have implemented dedicated spaces for kids. “The old format doesn’t always work anymore due to the impact of new technology. It’s important that the high-end cinema experience becomes appealing to the entire family and not just focus on the adult.”

Charissa Davidovici, a partner at the Theater Box, which houses the Chinese Theatre, said although the Chinese Theatre is similar to other high-end cinemas in that it has plush seats and dine-in services, it stands out from the rest because the location in San Diego is really an entertainment complex.

“We took over the whole corner lot,” she said of the Theater Box, which also has a Sugar Factory American Brasserie restaurant and a Chocolate Lounge in the back. “We wanted to capture the families and the date nights, where people can go to a movie, have dinner at the Sugar Factory, then, thanks to our second phase through which we will open a sports bar and a rooftop lounge, adults can spend a couple of hours drinking responsibly and enjoying a night out in the town. It isn’t just a theater, it provides entertainment for everyone.”

Davidovici said that the San Diego Chinese Theatre location is also different in that it has been intentional in “bringing Hollywood to San Diego.” She said a few months ago, it hosted a meet and greet with the producer of the Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper film, “A Star is Born,” and, on Valentine’s Day, it had an event with “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” Scott Disick and his girlfriend, daughter of famous musician Lionel Richie, Sofia Richie.

“With us, we are always going to keep up with the trends and basically go over and above,” Davidovici said, adding that the Chinese Theatre just started offering $5 industry movie nights and will have a celebrity appearance with actor Val Kilmer in a few weeks. She said the San Diego Theater Box location is only the first of many, as the company plans to expand in the near future.

“VIP theaters started with the food and the seats, but, we took it a few steps ahead,” she said. “What other theater can you go to and, before you sit down, you have over 100,000 candies to pick from, different flavors of popcorn to choose from and food like sushi that can be freshly made and delivered to your seat,” she asked.

“Our main goal is to keep up and stand out,” she said.

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