Movie theaters are adding comfy seats, booze -- even gourmet meals -- to lure us back to the cinema

Dinner and a movie under one roof
Movie theaters are adding comfy seats, booze -- even gourmet meals -- to lure us back to the cinema
Posted at 9:00 AM, Apr 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-10 06:09:27-04

Home entertainment technology makes it easier than ever to stay in and catch a flick. That's why Meredith Goldsmith of Mason said she doesn't go to the movie theater anymore.

"With the Amazon Fire Stick, we can see all of the movies, new and old, from the comfort of our home," Goldsmith said.

Goldsmith is not alone. Frequent moviegoers' attendance dropped 10 percent in 2016, according to a Variety report.

"Competition with other forms of leisure activity will continue to be a challenge for the industry," said Tim McGriff, director of marketing for Cobb Theatres and CineBistro, which has a location at Liberty Center in Liberty Township. "There are multiple ways to view a movie with the increasing forms of technology available on personal devices and home entertainment systems."

Variety's report showed attendance drops across virtually all demographics, including ages 18 to 24 (down 25 percent), ages 40 to 49 (down 23.5 percent) and ages 50 to 59 (down 21 percent.)

In the 18 to 24 demographic, 2016 marked the fourth consecutive year for a decline.

As a result, movie theater companies, recognizing the challenges they face, are investing in upgrades to bring crowds back.

Newport on the Levee's announcement in early March about AMC Theatres' $8 million renovation project is the latest example. The renovations, scheduled to start this fall, include adding full reclining power seats to all non-IMAX theaters. Each theater will also get a complete overhaul of its projection and sound equipment to create a "state-of-the-art experience," according to AMC Theatres' news release.

Lobby at AMC 20 Newport Theaters

Food and beverage offerings also will get an upgrade at MacGuffins Bar and through new concession items.

"Our goal is a more enjoyable experience," said Harold Dull, manager of AMC Newport on the Levee. "We are creating out-of-home entertainment that will entice you to leave your living room and large-screen TV to enjoy the new technology."

Milford next in line for Cinemark upgrades

AMC Newport is not the only theater looking to up its game to attract customers. 

Cinemark, with locations in Oakley Station, Western Hills, Milford and Florence, also understands the need for innovation to keep customers wanting to return.

"I believe Cincinnati-area moviegoers have seen that Cinemark will do whatever it takes to upgrade and update our theaters," said Bryan Jeffries, vice president of marketing and promotions for Cinemark USA. "We are constantly trying new ways to enhance the cinema experience for our guests."

Jeffries pointed to new electric recliners in Western Hills and Oakley Station and an expanded menu, including beer and wine, in the majority of Cinemark's Cincinnati theaters as recent improvements. Oakley Station also has Cinemark XD, a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling movie experience that immerses viewers into the world of the movie. The Florence location has a VIP seating area for guests ages 21 and over. The area offers oversized chairs and allows guests to order dinner at their seats.

Cinemark's Milford location is the only one that has not received these upgrades, which Jeffries said he knew put the theater at a disadvantage compared to other local venues.

"I'm happy to say that we'll be updating our Milford theater with these same new amenities toward the end of the year," he said. "Cinemark feels it's important to stay ahead of the trends in order to continue to be the preferred way to watch a movie."

Embracing the ‘social experience'

When cinemas first opened in the early 20th century, many people saw going to the movies as a major event.

Liberty Center's Cobb Theatres and CineBistro location looks to recapture that sense of excitement with its offerings.

"The theater industry has been in existence for over 100 years, and the one thing that remains constant is the desire to get out of the house for entertainment," said McGriff, Cobb Theatres and CineBistro's marketing director. "It is a true social experience to see a movie in an auditorium with friends, family and other guests."

Devon Rollbuhler of Liberty Township agreed.

"It's all about the experience, leaving the house and going out to do something fun," she said. "I love movies, so it is worth it to me to pay for the full experience with the big screen and the enhanced effects."

Now moviegoers can enjoy dinner and a movie under one roof. Cobbster's Kitchen is a full-service, casual restaurant. There is also a bar and lounge for people to visit before or after seeing a movie.

The CineBistro bar enhances the movie-going experience.

Cobb's concession stands offer not only traditional snacks such as candy, soda and popcorn but also pizza, soft-serve yogurt and a coffee bar. And the CineBistro section allows guests age 21 and up to come to the theater early, take their reserved seat and have a chef-prepared meal brought right to them.

"The dinner-and-a-movie concept is extremely popular and a positive change for the industry," McGriff said. "We are redefining the movie-going experience by offering a refined and expanded 'day or night at the movies' focused on quality, comfort and convenience."

Rebecca Paciorek of Middletown, who visited CineBistro with her husband on March 30, said she appreciated the theater's amenities.

"Not only was it fun to be able to eat while we watch the movie, but I really enjoyed not having a bunch of kids in there when I saw 'Beauty and the Beast'," she said. "Yes, I have children and I take them to the movies. But for a date, this was a great experience."