Movies go upscale at new Redmond facility

By Mary Stevens Decker

Reporter Newspapers

A new movie theater, which combines the elements of a private screening room blended with an upscale restaurant and cocktail lounge, opens at Redmond Town Center Friday.

Redmond is the second city in the U.S. for Village Roadshow Gold Class Cinemas (VRGCC). The concept originated in Australia 12 years ago.

VRGCC opened its first American location on Oct. 3 in South Barrington, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. There, patrons have lingered in the lounge area for hours after watching their movies, just to chat and enjoy some wine or dessert, said Whitney Ashley of The Rose Group, the Southern California-based public relations firm representing the cinemas.

In every way, this movie-going experience is unconventional, Ashley emphasized. Patrons are encouraged to book their seats online, since there are only 40 seats per screening room.

A concierge checks you in — just like at a fine hotel — and you're escorted to the lounge area to peruse a menu.

“You don't have to come 45 minutes or an hour early, because your seats are reserved, but people usually get here 30 minutes or so ahead,” said Ashley. They suggest ordering food and drinks before the show, although you can do that during the movie, too, by pushing a call button.

If you order before the movie starts, the wait staff will bring different courses to you at intervals, the same way you'd be served in a restaurant.

Everything on the menu is “aimed to be user-friendly,” said Ashley. Keep in mind that you'll be noshing in a darkened room. Therefore, the Chinois Chicken Salad Rolls are sliced on a diagonal, into small portions. A Vertical Salad features spears of Romaine lettuce that can be dipped into dressing. There are mini-burgers and other items that are easy to nibble without a mess.

“We hope people will opt for our gourmet food, but we do have popcorn, Red Vines and Milk Duds, too,” Ashley added. “There are no requirements, just do whatever you like.”

Once you're inside a screening room, you'll languish in an oversized recliner chair and can even get a plush blanket to keep you cozy.

Companies are buying up special package deals for employee or customer appreciation events, she added.

For example, when the new 007 film, “Quantum of Solace” opens Nov. 14, you could book private screenings such as the “Bond Package.” For $149 per guest, that includes 30 minutes of cocktail time upon arrival, appetizers, an entree of lamb chops or scaloppini of chicken with mushrooms, dessert, a Smirnoff Quantum of Solace Martini, a premium souvenir and of course, viewing the film.

Not part of a corporate group? Movie tickets at VRGCC will run from $22 to $35 depending on the time you visit. Food and beverages are purchased separately.

It's by no means “a cheap date,” but the company has flourished internationally, in spite of various economic cycles, according to the company's COO, Rob Goldberg. In a phone interview last month, he told the Reporter, “The sheer comfort factor can never be underestimated.”

For information about the Village Roadshow Gold Class Cinemas, visit www.goldclasscinemas.com.