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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Will Movie-Goers Pay $35 a Ticket?

The LA Times covers Village Roadshow, which is opening three ultra-luxe theaters in Southern California in 2009. Think the ArcLight's swank? It's a grindhouse compared to this, baby.

Josh Friedman writes:

    The Gold Class experience starts with online seating selection, valet parking and a concierge desk at check-in.

    Auditoriums will be the regular size but hold 30 to 40 table-side seats each, as opposed to 150 to 200 seats with drink holders at a typical multiplex, said Rob Goldberg, chief operating officer of Village Roadshow's Burbank-based Gold Class Cinemas division.

    With the extra room, black-uniformed, "stealth-like" servers will be able to whisk menu choices such as lobster spring rolls, duck tacos, Wagyu beef burgers and creme brulee to customers' tables without obscuring the movie, he said, all at the call of a button. The theaters will offer seasonal menus with more than 100 wine selections, plus signature cocktails.

Two other Gold Class locations, in Illinois and the Seattle area, will open later this year.

Here's the site for their Australian locations, and here's a Variety story from earlier this year.

Clearly, they're not targeting teens who might see a movie a week during the summer... but adults for whom movie night might happen every other month.

Innovation in the exhibition business? I'm all for it!

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  • Sounds a little bit like an up town version of the Alamo in Austin, TX. Except there it's beer and tacos! Pretty good experience, though!

    By Blogger bob in ny, at 9:39 AM  

  • I think any event-based experience will be good for cinema- but it will be interesting to see how important the titles themselves will be in this environment- and what the titles will be. Will they take chances with artier fare that might appeal to this chi-chi set?

    By Blogger Laure, at 1:00 PM  

  • The Alamo is great! (Even the new-and-improved version.)

    By Blogger Scott Kirsner, at 1:08 PM  

  • We've had Gold Class cinemas here in Australia for some time now - and having served popcorn at a Village Cinema myself for a year, I can say that the Gold Class Cinemas consistently out-performed the traditional cinemas. Not only can Village charge extra for the ticket (the price ranges between $20 and $35 depending on the day of the week) but customers treat it much more like a 'going out' experience and spend lots more money on food. As your article suggests the average audience are adults who are a looking for a more refined and upmarket experience. Plenty of Mums and Dads looking to get away from the kids. Many corporate events too. The content also reflects this audience; whilst they have lots of mainstream movies playing they also dabble in more arthouse stuff and leave these films running for longer. The typical spend-per-person (SPP) for the traditional cinemas were around $8, but for Gold Class it was more like $23. Even though the overheads are higher (the staff/customer ratio is a lot higher) Village are still making nice profits. Interestingly, the staff get paid the exact same rate if they are in traditional or Gold Glass even though you have to work a lot harder in Gold Class.

    Oh - and by the way Scott - loved your book - I downloaded it (since it's not on Aussie shelves yet) and just finished it. Fantastic, except my only complaint is that you spent no time discussing innovation in SOUND technology - Dolby's monopoly on cinema sound-systems has been great to help standardise sound formats, but now it's an incumbent could Dolby be stifling innovation?

    By Blogger Chris Kamen, at 9:57 PM  

  • Chris-

    Thanks for the post, and for buying the book.

    You know, I hated having to leave the digital sound revolution out, but it didn't feel like there was enough action there to warrant a whole chapter, and it didn't seem to fit with the other chapters...

    But there was definitely some interesting stuff with Dolby and SDDS and DTS and the other systems in the 1990s, and I may eventually post that material here or on the book's site,

    By Blogger Scott Kirsner, at 2:30 PM  

  • I want to thank Chris for the relating the personal experience of working at a Gold Class Cinemas in Australia. It's hard to know whether Village Roadshow's concept will work, especially during an economic downturn, but hearing from an insider at how well these theatres performed should give the exhibition community some hope.

    By Blogger J. Sperling Reich, at 2:03 AM  

  • I'm skeptical of the gentrification of theaters. Movies aught to contantly innovate while staying affordable for the middle class, as most home entertainment products and services do.

    By Blogger Dean, at 3:09 AM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:49 AM  

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