Cinemas add luxury seats and meals after pandemic slows

Popcorn in a movie theater. Photo: Fabian Sommer/photo alliance via Getty Images

The box office is showing signs of life again after a few years of stagnation due to the pandemic and customers are returning to a revamped cinema experience.

The big picture: Hundreds of theaters have closed since the pandemic began, but those that remain are betting that making cinema a more luxurious or unique experience will bring audiences back.

Some theaters have become smaller with recliners and more comfortable seats to improve experiences. Others embrace more enjoyable dining options.

  • Major chains like AMC Theatres, Cinemark and Regal have redesigned their theaters to include more luxury recliners.

Small local theaters are making upgrades and organize special events beyond the movies. Megaplex theaters in the Salt Lake City area have remodeled many of their locations to include heated seats and laser projection. The theater chain told Axios that it is also hosting events for NBA All-Star Weekend 2023.

  • Nitehawk Theaters, located in Brooklyn, New York, is a seven-screen theater with catering services that allow guests to enjoy a meal during their performance. There’s also a bar above the main cineplex that offers full food and drink.
  • And the Madison Theater in Albany also offers dining services similar to the national chain Alamo Drafthouse. Madison has also set up an unlimited movie subscription service for its customers.
  • iPic, with its multiple slots, allows exclusive members to watch movies with pillows and blankets.

The New Parkway Theater in Oakland, California., took a different approach. Instead of remodeling a traditional theater, he created a space with ottomans, chairs, and wraparound sofas.

  • “They come for the film, but they also come to connect with people,” New Parkway Theater director Moses Ceaser told Axios.
  • Part of that is taking advantage of events like “Bingo & Beer” eveningskaraoke and team quiz.
  • “We don’t make that much money on every person that comes in the door,” Ceaser said. “So we have to make sure they have a great experience and tell their friends and neighbors and even their haters about all the good stuff.”

Driving the news: As of mid-March, the box office had recorded a total gross of $1.3 billion for 2023, according to Box office mojo.

Enlarge: Despite recent successes, the number of US screens has fallen by 3,000 since 2019 to about 40,000, CNBC reports. Most of the closures can be attributed to the pandemic.

And after: Theater design isn’t the only thing changing. AMC Theaters may soon price tickets based on where people choose to sit in the auditorium — a notable shift in pricing for most movies.

  • “While every seat at AMC offers an incredible cinematic experience, we know that some moviegoers prioritize their specific seat and others who prioritize cinema,” said Eliot Hamlisch, chief marketing officer of AMC Theaters, in a communicated. Press release.

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