Wednesday, April 2, 2008

What kind of wine goes well with buttered popcorn?

Think about all of the things you hate about going out to the movies. Well, that is except for the ticket price because what I'm about to suggest isn't going to help you on that score one bit. Going to the movies can be a lot like using public transportation: no choice about who you're sitting with, no defense against rude patrons, cramped and often uncomfortable seating and generally indifferent employees. Compare a movie theater hotdog and those infamous airline "snack" sandwiches and you've got a pretty good picture. Consider that solving these problems on a plane can more than quadruple your airfare, and maybe bailing yourself out of the same situation at your local movie theater for just an extra 25 bucks could seem like a bargain.

Enter Gold Class Cinemas, the brainstorm idea from Village Roadshow Ltd.. As a movie fan, you all ready know the famous "V" logo of Village Roadshow. They are one of the production companies responsible for last years Will Smith mega-hit I Am Legend that pulled  in half a billion in worldwide box-office. This summer's projects include Get Smart and Speed Racer. No, we're not talking about some futuristic concept in development. This is one of those times when the US market wasn't first and foremost in the minds of the parent company but an inevitable step in it's growth. Village Roadshow's Gold Class Cinemas found their start in Australia and can currently be found in places like New Zealand, Greece and Singapore. The US is about to enter the market with theaters being built in Illinois, Arizona, Texas and Washington. Also on the rollout schedule: California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada and New York.

So what's the big deal and why would anyone cough up more than three times an average ticket price to go to the movies? Let's start here:

This is where you're moviegoing experience would begin. That is after valet parking your car. Kind of like a frequent flyer's Captains' Club lounge, you'll want to arrive a bit early for cocktails and small talk with other like-minded moviegoers. You may also want to partake in some light appetizers. The sample menu is a far throw from Rasinets and flat fountain soda. Personally, I'm kind of anxious to try the "mini barbeque beef turkish rolls". And there's no need to rush through your selections, as you're welcome to take them to your seat when your invited in for the start of the movie. In fact, you're welcome to order from your seat as well, simply by pressing your "call" button and having your personal waiter serve you. Worried about holding all of that food on your lap... don't, here's where you'll be sitting...

When the lights go out, you'll be treated to state of the art sound and digital images and enough distance between seats to completely eliminate any annoyance from those around you. And here's perhaps the most interesting aspect of the whole idea, when the movie's over and the credits disappear above the screen (and we're thinking that most people won't be getting up out of those chairs in any big hurry) there's no rush to go have the car brought around. Instead, grab a chair and share your thoughts about the movie with all of your like-minded compatriots. It's a really good bet that this whole mingling thing, before and after the movie, will make moviegoing more of a social opportunity than ever. I'm envisioning groups of friends forming, who plan evenings out together to catch the latest releases much as they might meet for golf, tennis or live theater. At the core of this is a certain brilliance that may become very seductive to those looking for a new environment to add to their social calendars.

So is it all worth the $35 price of admission? Take into account that the present locations in the Gold Class Cinemas chain make unlimited popcorn and soda part of the ticket price, and now the premium is really only about 15 bucks. I'd call that reasonable. Add the guarantee that the presentation will be first class (I'm sorry, GOLD class), the food (food prices are separate from admission) however gourmet you choose to go, will be fresh and the staff pleasant and helpful, and the word "value" definitely becomes part of the conversation. When it gets down to it, that value is subjective and many may find the price beyond comprehension for trekking out to see a movie. I can hear the "but I can buy the damn DVD for under 20 bucks and watch it as many times as I like" comments. In my mind, there's the point. Gold Class Cinemas will have their particular appeal and for the people drawn to the idea, that's part of the appeal in itself. Not so much as a status night out or a pompous way to enjoy a movie, but a way to get away from all of those things we hate about going out to the movies.

You can check out the Gold Class experience for yourself by visiting the Village Roadshow Gold Cinemas website here.

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