After all these years in decline, somebody has figured out a way to make the movie-theater balcony hip again. Not just hip, but -- to use the terminology of National Amusements, owner of a new Showcase Cinema multiplex at Florence Mall -- "lux."
It will cost you $10 beyond the cost of your movie ticket to see for yourself. For that amount, you get admission to an upper-level foyer with entrances to private sections of auditoriums. Essentially, these are balconies overlooking the screen -- the hoi polloi sit in a separate stadium-seating area below.
The new theater is called Showcase Cinema de Lux Florence, an upscale concept for the Massachusetts-based chain but not in itself a new one. The Showcase in Springdale also is a Cinema de Lux. But this is the first Cinema de Lux built from scratch to have a so-called Lux Level. Who said there are no new ideas?
Your section of the auditorium has reserved, custom-designed, leather swiveling love seats with moveable armrests. They're the perfect size to rest your food (there's a private Lux Level kitchen) and alcoholic beverages. If you forgot to buy a drink at the bar (with your ticket you get a $5 voucher toward refreshments) before entering, you can silently buzz for a server to come in and take your order.
Best of all, no crying babies or noisy kids brought by parents trying to save sitter fees. No text-messaging teens, either. You have to be 21 or older to get in.
The theater, which opened last Friday, has 14 auditoriums but only four have these private sections. You might think, given the upscale spin of the concept, that these auditoriums would be showing art/independent movies. A Bergman retrospective, maybe? Alas, no. On opening week, they're showing Sex and the City, Wanted and Wall*E.
I'm not sure this is the right time for this concept. With gas climbing north of $4 a gallon and people struggling with plummeting house values and thus net worth, they're probably not looking for a reason to pay an extra $10 to see run-of-the-mill Hollywood fare in cushy, flattering surroundings.
But with Wall*E, Showcase might be on to something. Adults enjoy the new computer-animated family movies (especially Pixar's, like the visually inventive Wall*E). But they don't always like sitting with children to do so -- even their own.
There might be quite a few moms and dads or aunts and uncles willing to pay an extra $10 to swig a martini and relax in the balcony -- oops, Lux Level -- while the kids are delightedly squealing safely below. (You can see the whole auditorium from above, so you can check on their safety and candy consumption throughout the film.)
Of course, what happens if the grown-ups swig too many martinis? Or if they have a fight with a server over an order while the movie is playing? Or with another patron over noisy eating and drinking habits? I trust Showcase has trained its staff in the art of being quiet bouncers.
Actually, I'd like to see a theater offer a surcharge to sit in an auditorium where no food or drink is allowed -- a place where you can just concentrate on a new, beautifully projected movie in peace and quiet, without hearing or smelling your neighbors' food and beverage consumption. But maybe I'll have to wait for the Lux Lux Levelz: For a $100 surcharge, you get your own screening room.
Contact Steven Rosen: firstname.lastname@example.org