Movie News & Reviews

Sit back – no, better yet, recline – with a beer at Sacramento’s new movie multiplexes

The Sacramento movie-theater scene is undergoing a Hollywood-style face-lift, with the opening of two new multiplexes boasting the latest amenities. Three more are on the way.

Moviegoers can drink beer in electric recliners at Folsom’s Palladio LUXE Cinema, which opened Nov. 18, and at Sacramento’s Century Arden 14 and XD, opening Thursday. You can pick the specific recliner you want beforehand, since both offer reserved seating.

At the LUXE – owned by Petaluma-based theater chain Cinema West and this region’s second dine-in multiplex, after Rocklin’s Studio Movie Grill – a touch of a button brings a server to one’s seat to bring a glass of white wine or plate of chicken alfredo. And don’t worry about unruly toddlers ruining the show: After 5 p.m., the intimate, six-screen LUXE, which sits in the same shopping center as Cinema West’s much larger Palladio 16 Cinemas, is reserved for those 21 and older.

At the Arden 14, which replaces the demolished Century Stadium 14 (aka “the domes”) on Ethan Way, patrons can recline in front of a 70-foot-wide screen in the theater’s largest, or “XD,” auditorium. As of last week, when The Bee toured the still under-construction theater, Cinemark was awaiting final approval on its plans to serve beer and wine.

Though there is no in-seat food service, the Arden 14 will offer “expanded concessions” – pizza, chicken wings and other items, along with popcorn and hot dogs.

“People have a lot of alternatives (regarding) where to spend their free time,” said Mark Zoradi, CEO of Cinemark, Century Theatres’ Texas parent company. “Everything from staying at home and watching television to going out to some other form of entertainment. If we want to continue to motivate people to go to the movies, we need to make that movie-going experience really good.”

Movie goers accustomed to vibrant carpeting and red-and-gold color schemes might be taken aback by the LUXE’s and Arden 14’s muted palettes.

The LUXE features a wood-paneled lounge area that looks more like a private club, or the bar of a nice hotel, than a theater lobby. People can have a cocktail (the theater holds a full liquor license) before or after a show – or any time, since there is no ticket required for entry.

Light-colored tile evoking hardwood runs through the lobby of the Arden 14, which carries an overall design of mid-century modern as filtered through 2016 sensibilities. In other words, there are no homages to the space-race, “Jetsons” brand of mid-century modern that characterized the domes, built in 1967-68. But the theater does establish a sense of place with a giant photography/art display above the concessions area depicting the Tower Bridge and Ziggurat building.

Cinemark also plans to install recliners and sell beer and wine when it opens a new, nine-screen theater in the space that held the Century Downtown 7, in Sacramento’s Downtown Commons (formerly Downtown Plaza). That multiplex will open in summer 2017, Zoradi said.

Construction also is again underway – after a delay due to a contractor change – on Woodland’s long-awaited State Theatre project. Cinema West is transforming the historic theater into a 10-screen multiplex. It will hold a café and serve beer and wine, but will not offer in-seat service when it opens in spring 2017, said Dave Corkill, Cinema West owner.

Corkill said his company also is close to starting construction on a 13-screen multiplex in Sacramento’s Country Club Plaza. It too will have luxury seats, a bar and food, though Corkill is not certain if it will have in-seat service.

Cinema West has been a forerunner in embracing new technology, including D-BOX motion seating and Dolby Atmos sound. In October, Cinema West installed recliners in 10 of its Palladio 16 auditoriums and began selling beer and wine there.

Now, the chain is offering its adults-only nighttime policy. (Children are welcome during the day).

“We have seen this model used successfully” at a Cinema West theater in Idaho, Corkill said. State restrictions dictated the rules there. The LUXE policy, by contrast, is “a business decision we made,” he said.

“We felt like we could offer complete service to all different types of movie guests” with two multiplexes in the same shopping center – one open to families all day, the other adult-oriented. LUXE tickets run $2-$5 higher than the prices at its neighbor theater.

“You are paying for the experience,” Corkill said, including having people wait on you at your seat.

Both new multiplexes are opening in time for the Dec. 16 debut of what is likely to be the year’s biggest moneymaker, “Rogue One,” the latest installment in the “Star Wars” series.

The timing seems especially keen with the Arden 14, since it replaced the theater where thousands of Sacramentans saw the original “Star Wars” during its 60-week run there in 1977-78. The “Star Wars” association with the domes came full circle when “The Force Awakens,” which opened last December, ended up being the final film many people saw at the domes before they closed in January 2016.

Cinemark CEO Zoradi, a Sacramento native and 1972 graduate of Rio Americano High, saw the original “Star Wars” at the domes.

“That was my local theater,” he said. He visited the domes when they were new, in the late ’60s, and recalls being wowed by their then-cutting-edge technology.

“Theaters go through their useful life,” he said. “Those (dome) theaters were fantastic and what I grew up with, but at a certain point, you keep up with all the new things.”

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