Reel Blog

Reserved for adults

Muvico’ s Rosemont 18 outside of Chicago, is causing a bit of a buzz.

The L.A. Times features it in an article about movie theaters luring back patrons with luxury, alcohol and adults-only seating. This isn’t an entirely new trend, NATO’s former magazine covered the trend of alcohol service and cinema eateries (also here) in 2005 and 2006.

What seems to be catching on is the added intangible of an adults-only policy required by alcohol service.

From the Times article:

“This is a little bit of heaven,” said Tricia Holman, who works for a technology firm and lives in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Ill. For a $15 ticket on a weekend evening, she said, it’s “just me, my husband and the big screen. And no teenagers.”

In an attempt to entice grown-ups back to the nation’s movie theaters, Florida-based Muvico opened the luxury Rosemont 18 in this Chicago suburb just east of O’Hare International Airport. The theater has a clear goal: to cater to those weary of watching films accompanied by a soundtrack of fussy babies and gossiping teens.

One screen is entirely dedicated to customers old enough to buy a cocktail. Five other screens have all-ages seats on the ground level — and separate, adults-only balconies reached through the bar inside the theater. Customers can lounge on love seats, eat gourmet concessions such as filet-mignon mini-burgers and sip alcoholic drinks during the movie.

Not all movie-goers are thrilled with the idea:

“I grew up going to the movies with my parents. I think it’s ridiculous that I can’t be a VIP and bring my kids,” said Isabelle Moraine, a Chicago-based shop owner who brought her teenage daughter to the Rosemont theater to see “Dragon Wars.” “What, am I not a good enough parent to be let into the ‘cool’ area?”

An article in Chow captured the Texas roots of the cinema eatery business back in June:

Texas: Ground Zero for the Eat-O-Plex

Today, there are more than 20 different cinema-eateries in Texas, run by three different companies. The best known, Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, was started in Austin in 1997 by a couple named Karrie and Tim League, who built a following among film buffs by doing things like inviting Quentin Tarantino to screen his favorite movies. Three more Alamos opened in Austin. The food is well-done pub grub that you order from servers at your seat and eat at little tables that extend in front of you. There’s an extensive selection of draft beers and wine, too.

Despite Alamo’s early success, the larger moneymaking potential of cinema-eateries wasn’t obvious until 1998, when another Texas outfit, Studio Movie Grill, became the first theater-restaurant combo to get the rights to show a first-run film (The Waterboy).

“The studios wanted their movie to be the reason people came, and the main point of attention [rather than something to compete with the food],” says Patrick Corcoran, research director for the trade group the National Association of Theatre Owners. “But [the film] did very well, so more started doing it.”

Another competitor, Movie Tavern, entered the fray. In 2004, the Leagues got out of the business of running Alamo (though they still own and operate the Austin theaters), and the new ownership franchised the concept across Texas, with plans to go national.

A question to theater owners: Is this trend catching on with your company? What are the benefits? Has it boosted business and your patrons’ satisfaction with the movie-going experience? What are the difficulties unique to alcohol service and adults-only marketing?