Luxury theaters roll out the red carpet

May 2017 View more

Theaters are making a major comeback, just in time for summer movie season, as they begin to offer a more luxurious cinema experience—and it’s not just flavored popcorn and cushioned arm rests coming to a theater near you.

Upscale dining at theaters has become a hot trend in recent years as the competition has risen for a more high-end viewing experience. Many theaters offer premium reclining chairs plus food and beverage service from guests’ seats, and some west-suburban theaters are adding Dolby technology to their facilities.

The Dolby Cinema entertainment experience includes advances in three areas: imaging, audio and seating features. The picture comes alive with astonishing brightness and captivating color, plus moving audio that surrounds a viewer seated in reserved recliners—including from above—that pulsate with the action.

AMC Showplace Naperville 16, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 & RPX in Warrenville, iPic Theaters at The Promenade Bolingbrook, AMC Oakbrook Center 12 and Goodrich Kendall 11 in Oswego all offer the Dolby experience to moviegoers.

Dolby takes the approach of letting the audience see beyond the traditional technology and, according to Stuart Bowling, director of content and creative relations for the company, it’s all about being lost in the moment. “The moviegoer is getting the best possible experience from the technology we put in there, and as an audio company, we specify the equipment and control the acoustic as well so you get the best bang for your buck,” Bowling says.

Once You Go Dolby

When viewers experience Dolby technology, they don’t want to go back to the traditional movie experience. “When you’re paying premium for a movie experience, you expect more value and will want to be blown away. The experience is so different now that you see all of the details that you wouldn’t have seen before.”

Dolby also offers an ideal environment with premium seats and strategically designed theaters. “[Our theaters] are very different because our rooms are matte black interior,” Bowling says. “We did that because it’s really all about the image on the screen and that’s where you should focus your attention.”

Bowling says Dolby doesn’t put bright lights inside the theater because that can be a distraction and could affect the contrast being projected onto the screen. “When you’re looking at a movie, it looks so different—you don’t have to understand how the technology works or what it’s doing, but you can see that the experience is different than what audiences are traditionally used to.”

The industry not only has re-evaluated auditoriums and made changes in the seating, sound system and projection technology, but it has also made theaters a destination. “It’s not just going to watch a movie. Some places have bowling alleys, restaurants, bars, and that way you can go, relax, watch a movie, hang out at the bar afterwards and dissect what you just experienced together,” Bowling says.

Great Reviews

Many movie theaters across the western suburbs have picked up on this trend. Wheaton’s Studio Movie Grill opened in 2012 and was immediately named to Forbes Travel Guide’s Top 10 Movie Theaters in the country. The theater features the latest digital projection, a full-service bar and a lounge for guests to enjoy a sip before a movie or a nightcap afterwards. Guests can order off the American Grill Menu at the push of a button from their seats.

Hollywood Palms Cinema in Naperville and Hollywood Blvd. Cinema in Woodridge also are dine-in theater concepts with full-service bars. Their auditoriums offer terraced seating and food and beverage service to your seat.

Other local theaters that have picked up on the trend for luxurious movie experiences include Cinemark at Seven Bridges’ IMAX theater, Regal Bolingbrook Stadium 12’s Regal King Size Recliners and AMC Loews Woodridge 18’s RealD3D.