a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Saturday, September 06, 2008

$35 to go see a movie? Yikes.

So there was an article in the LA Times this past week about Australian company Village Roadshow Ltd, who are planning to open a trio of "Gold Class" movie theaters in Southern California (in Pasadena, Costa Mesa and Ontario) where admission will cost $35 a ticket.

And you don't even get free popcorn for that.

Actually, it doesn't seem like you get anything free, except I guess the ability to see a movie without the riffraff.

The theaters will be set up with seats next to tables, which limit the seats to 30-40 per theater (which probably explains the high price; most of it probably goes to the movie studio to justify opening a new movie there).

The theaters will serve posh food, but it won't be cheap. According to the article, a mushroom-and-brie pizza and a bottle of beer will run you $28. So if you want to share the pizza with a date, and get her a beer too, you've already dropped over $100, for pizza, a couple of beers and a movie.

The waiters will be black-uniformed, "stealth-like" servers who can be summoned by the touch of a button, and deliver food without disturbing anyone's movie expertise. In theory. I guess ordering is by mime. And you probably have to tip them, too.

Staffing costs will be relatively high, with as many as 30 workers, including chefs and line cooks, on duty at a time and commanding salaries as high as $100,000 a year.

They're going to have to sell a lot of overpriced food to cover that.

Supposedly this works in Australia. But really, won't anyone who can afford this prefer just having a nice expensive dinner somewhere else, and then watch a movie without having to fumble around in the dark for your lobster roll?

Is multitasking really that necessary during leisure time? And is combining dining and a movie really worth paying a $25 surcharge per ticket?

I was a theater manager for 6 years, and I think it's nuts. And doomed to failure.

I guess we'll find out. Stay tuned.


At 7:57 PM, Anonymous Eddie said...

When I was about 18 years old there was a twin theater that open in town that had a dining environment.

A hostess would sit you down at a table with your party. Then a waitress would come over take your order by memory and serve it to you before the movie started.

About an hour into Rambo II you realize that this wasn't the best idea, mixing food, drink and a blood and guts movie.

Needless to say the place shut down due to the high cost of everything.

There are still dinner/movie theaters around, but they are far and few between, but you can also bet that they do not charge an arm an leg like this place will.

At 8:17 PM, Blogger Cole Matson said...

We have a dinner movie theatre in Portsmoth, VA called the Commodore. It's very popular, and you can count on it screening the big blockbuster movies, because it has the best sound system and one of the biggest non-IMAX screens in the area. You are served your food before the movie starts. While the food is restaurant-priced (though not unreasonably so), here's the best part: A ticket is only $7.

At 8:23 PM, Blogger E.C. Henry said...

$35 a ticket is a RIDICULOUS price to pay.

If you wanna eat dinner while watching a movie you do it via DVD and TV trays. Flawed idea. Spot-on, Scott, THAT "Gold Class" movie theatre is going to BOMB.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

At 8:44 PM, Blogger Christina said...

Sounds stupid.

There are a couple of theaters in the Bay Area that have been successful by charging *less* for admission (like $7), not admitting anyone under 21 and then offering wine and beer, and food. They even have a special called the "cheap date" - a pizza, a bottle of wine, a bowl of popcorn and two admission tickets... for $35 complete. Now that's a deal.

At 5:33 PM, Anonymous John said...

I'm in Australia, and have visited 'Premium Lounge' cinemas.

It's a nice thing for a special occasion, but to be honest I think I prefer watching a movie in a regular cinema.

The prospect of food being delivered to you during a movie sounds cool in principle, but having waiters scurry around really distracts from the movie experience.

If you trying to impress a date it's not a bad idea, but otherwise it doesn't do much for me.

At 9:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They're opening one in Austin, too.

I think it will do well.

We're well versed in dinner theater, with the highly successful Alamo Drafthouse chain. And there's a large segment of people here with money to burn. It's going to be in a pretty ritzy shopping area. It's not going to bomb.

At 1:25 AM, Blogger stu willis said...

We've had these in Australia for a while and they're great for event movies. It makes it much more of an experience. A lot of older couples ONLY go to see Gold Class movies, especially as they tend to be more eclectic in what they show.

But with one of the best cinemas in the city now offering pre-booked specified seating, I'm more likely to use that than Gold Class.

I think its only a good thing as it keeps movies in cinemas rather than on computer screens.

At 4:24 AM, Blogger Belzecue said...

You know what I wish cinema chains would do? (I'm an Aussie, by the way.) Concentrate on giving patrons a quality projection and sound experience. NOT the best popcorn experience. NOT the best online booking experience. The best presentation of films, which is supposed to be their core proficiency.

I saw Dark Knight at a Hoyts cinema chain theatre and it was glorious -- sharp, vibrant, perfect sound. A few weeks later I saw it at a Greater Union cinema chain and it was out of focus and muffled. I paid the standard ticket price of $15 AUD (about $18 USD) to watch Christopher Nolan's carefully crafted hundred-million dollar creation ruined by a cinema chain who did not give a damn about their core business function. No, let me rephrase that -- what should be their core business function. I'm sure they believe their core business function is to sell the most overpriced foodstuffs from the candy bar.

I cannot wait for digital to replace traditional cinema screening -- then there'll be less chance my film-watching experience can be wrecked by cinema chains like Greater Union.

As for Gold Class -- I've been once. It was weird. It kills the group dynamics that can make a film even more fun to watch.

At 4:26 AM, Blogger Belzecue said...

>> I paid the standard ticket price of $15 AUD (about $18 USD)

correction... that should be $15 AUD = ~$12 USD

At 6:05 AM, Blogger 2nd2Nun said...

I agree with you belzecue, as I think they should concentrate on making the overall experience better. Better screen quality, maybe clean up the popcorn-ridden floors more often.

I would even pay more to have a more intimate setting, where I wouldn't have to watch a movie with people who aren't there to watch the movie in the first place.

At 8:44 AM, Blogger Tom said...

Scott, I can remember the week our old theater chain knocked Manhattan prices up to $10. There were protests in the street! Ed Koch was all over the news crying foul. I can't imagine $35, even in Manhattan. Then again, I'm an unapologetic cheapskate.

At 12:19 PM, Blogger Shawna said...

Hey Scott! Haven't seen you in awhile -- wanted to let you know my blog has moved -- (I'm off blogspot now)

If you could update your link to me, I'd appreciate it!

Happy writing!

At 7:47 AM, Blogger Deaf Brown Trash Punk said...


movies are my passion. I watch a movie every night (well, I try) and I would LOVE to spend the rest of my nights in a cinema.

hell, let's create a cinema nightclub! drink, eat, dance, while watching a movie!!! that's my dream life <3

At 4:59 AM, Blogger Tom Murphy said...

I'd happily pay a couple of quid more for guaranteed food-free cinema, including - especially - popcorn. That's why I love BFI Southbank (London); no smells, no ads or trailers, no morons ringing their mates.

I'll sit next to you, 2nd2nun!


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