TORONTO - Canada's biggest movie exhibitor hopes that a menu of new dishes from its corporate chef and the promise of a kids-free night will entice adults to pay a few extra dollars for an upscale experience at the movies.
Cineplex is ramping up an expansion of its higher priced "VIP" theatres that cater exclusively to adults by offering larger seats, menu service, and a licensed auditorium and lounge.
The company said Monday that it will install the new screens at three Ontario theatres, as well as build the first stand alone VIP cinema in Don Mills, Ont. Ticket prices for the high-end theatres typically range from five to seven dollars more, though Cineplex hasn't said how much it will charge at the new locations.
The exhibitor has also hired a chef to expand on the existing line of appetizers, which already includes calamari, deep fried pickles and macaroni and cheese wedges. An array of alcoholic beverages are also on the existing menu, ranging from beer to martinis.
"We are satisfying a demand that we've had in the Greater Toronto Area for many years to add more VIP cinemas to the city," said spokeswoman Pat Marshall in a phone interview.
The company's new chef will work from Cineplex's headquarters where the cafeteria will serve as "a test kitchen" for new food items that could later show up at the cinemas.
The move is part of a broader expansion at Cineplex (TSX:CGX) of premium priced ticket options, which have helped drive box-office revenue even during quarters when Hollywood movies fell short of expectations.
During the second quarter, premium priced tickets helped the company deliver record results, at a time when summer blockbuster "The Avengers" was the only massive hit.
Box office revenues increased to $156.2 million, despite a 0.2 per cent decline in attendance from a year earlier.
Across the country Cineplex theatres are home to premium priced Imax screens, digital 3D presentations as well as its UltraAVX theatres which have a bigger screen and high-end sound system.
The new stand alone VIP theatre in Don Mills will offer valet parking, as well as a significant amount of personal space for moviegoers. Each theatre will seat from 100 to 150 patrons in a space that would typically seat about 300 people, Marshall said.
The extra space will be used for the larger seats and side tables.
Cineplex already operates VIP cinemas in Edmonton, Coquitlam, B.C., downtown Toronto, London and Oakville, Ont.
Other VIP screens will be added at two Toronto-area theatres, a new cinema in Kitchener, Ont., and Brossard, Que.
Cineplex runs 133 theatres located from British Columbia to Quebec with 1,438 screens under its numerous brands which include Cineplex Odeon, Galaxy, Famous Players, Colossus, SilverCity and Scotiabank theatres.
Earlier this summer, the theatre operator announced a deal to buy four theatres from AMC and upgrade the locations to include digital projection systems.
Under the deal, Cineplex will acquire AMC Ventures, which includes the theatres in Toronto, Oakville, Ont., Mississauga, Ont., and Montreal, for a nominal price.
With the latest acquisition, Cineplex will own, lease or have a joint-venture interest in 134 theatres with 1,445 screens.