With households able to watch movies on small and large screens in private homes, at least one movie theater company says it has found the secret sauce in the luxury theater market.
Wehrenberg Theatres' first "five star lounge" opened in 2010 in St. Louis. Featuring plush, heated leather recliners, cocktails, gourmet food and digital menus at their fingertips, theatergoers 21 and older get to enjoy smaller crowds - about 30 or 40 - for a slightly more expensive price: $16 for an evening movie, as opposed to the $10 average price in Wehrenberg's traditional auditoriums. For matinee shows, the luxury price is $12 and the price for regular auditoriums is around $7.
Wehrenberg is constructing its fourth and fifth five star lounges in its St. Charles 18 Cine that will open in the St. Louis metropolitan area in April or May. That theater will share the luxury amenities that its sister theaters have, including satin waterfall curtains, pictured above at its Galaxy 14 Cine in the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield, Mo., which opened in October 2010.
Another one of the company's theaters in the metropolitan area, Des Peres 14 Cine, was one of the favorites among St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporters who reviewed the growing local market of luxury theaters.
"Little touches like a discrete, in-table call button for servers and an LED light on menus make this dine-in experience a standout," wrote Evan S. Benn of the Post-Dispatch.
Kelly Hoskins, vice president of marketing for the company, said it's nearly impossible to find a manufacturer that makes waterfall curtains in the U.S. these days. But the 106-year old company insisted on finding a piece of "old vaudeville."
"My boss insisted to find a company to have the feeling of intimacy," she said.
She added that the theaters "strike a balance" between a family-friendly environment in the traditional auditoriums and luxury in the premium auditoriums for those 21 years old and over.
"We call it a luxury theater for date night and special occasions," she said.
But do mixing alcohol and movie theaters make for a rowdy movie experience?
Not so, said Hoskins.
"We've not had a problem, at all, and we've been open since 2010," she said. "We've had wonderful audiences."
Part of the reason is that people are paying a premium for a ticket and, with a smaller audience of perhaps 40 or so, "they tend to be a responsible audience," Hoskins said.
If anything, "they eat a lot, they enjoy dinner and a few cocktails," she said.