Big Screen, Bigger Luxury

by Nate Hunter

At Cinépolis theaters, guests can order nostaligic movie snacks or a four-course meal in an intimate, upscale environment.

In an effort to compete with the popularity of downloading movies and to evolve the film-going experience, many movie theaters have been tinkering with unique ways to keep the box office cash registers ringing in recent years. It began with theaters boasting tiered stadium-style seating and improvements in picture and sound quality, and even forays into large-format IMAX films. Later, beer and wine and full-service kitchens entered the picture. The theaters owned and managed by Los Angeles-based Cinépolis are examples of how movie-watching is climbing to an all new level of luxury. Cinépolis theaters offer their patrons a full bar, with rotating seasonal movie themed cocktails, craft beers and a healthy wine selection, and a menu that not only includes Milk Duds and buttered popcorn, but kale salads, braised short ribs and sushi, and for dessert, affogato or Nutella egg rolls are but a few of the selections.

Unlike some of its competitors, Cinépolis aims to include families by not limiting admission only to those 21 and older when possible. Cinépolis theaters also distinguish themselves from competitors by continuing food and drink service throughout the duration of the movie screening. The experience is further enhanced by intimate ambient lighting and leather seats that fully recline. The blue button built into each seat summons wait staff before and during a movie screening.

Cinépolis was founded in 1971 by Enrique Ramirez, whose grandson, Alejandro Ramirez, was pulled away from a job at the United Nations to become the current CEO, according to Latin Trade Symposium. The private company got its footing in the theater business in several other countries before tapping into United States markets. The first theater opened in 1971 in Morelia, in the state of Michoacán in Mexico. In 1999, the company introduced the first luxury cinema in Mexico City. Today, Cinépolis maintains a market share of approximately 64 percent of box office sales in Mexico, making it the leading cinema company in the country. There are Cinépolis theaters in 11 countries, including Brazil, Colombia and India, as well as several spots in Central America, such as Costa Rica, Honduras and Guatemala. Cinépolis entered the U.S. market in 2011 and is currently only located in California, but according to Adrian Mijares, country manager for the United States, there are currently deals underway in Alexandria, Va., and four in Florida. Mijares says the company is proactively focused on growing in California, Florida and the northern East Coast, from Washington, D.C., to Boston but could also consider opportunities elsewhere. Cinépolis’ goal is to complete 25 deals in the United States in the next five years. “In the U.S., we’re growing rapidly, but not as aggressively as in other markets.”

In California, there are five theaters located in San Diego, Carlsbad, Laguna Niguel, Rancho Santa Margarita and Westlake cineopolis LagunaBarThe bar areas in Cinépolis’ Laguna Niguel, Calif., location. The company is currently operating U.S. theaters primarily in California but has plans to expand to other states, such as Florida and Virginia.Village — and it was from Westlake that Cher tweeted that the theater was “the lap of luxury.”

“In the United States, we are in no rush,” Mijares says. “We are cherry-picking our locations.” Mijares adds that the company is now bringing an upscale traditional concept to the United States in addition to the full-service luxury concept already underway in California.

“We are all about date night and the family outing. We will never have a site that is only for adults,” he says, adding that reserving the theaters for special events is quite common and even marriage proposals have taken place in their theaters. New theaters for Cinépolis’s luxury concept open in areas where the average household income is at or above $100,000 per year within a five-mile radius. The company, which handles its real estate in-house, is flexible about whether it will go into a new-build or retrofit. Cinépolis has completed deals in the United States that range from 26,000 square feet up to 78,000 square feet.

“Our luxury concept is a great option for developers who have a smaller space or who have parking restrictions,” Mijares says. Of their U.S. holdings, Cinépolis operates two eight-plexes, one seven-plex and two six-plexes. “Our eight-plex in Del Mar had the highest box office of any eight plex in the country in 2013,” Mijares says. “We have a deal right now for a 78,000-square-foot project that is 14 screens, six luxury and eight upscale traditional within the same building. All five of the U.S. theaters were retrofits. “We believe in constantly putting money back into our theaters,” Mijares says. “Otherwise, we would be jeopardizing our industry in the long term.”

cineopolis CF000366Cinépolis’s theaters feature luxury amenities like wide reclining seats, carpeting and tables for food and beverage service.The company prides itself on Food & Beverage and IT innovation and always having the best projection and sound offering. Tickets can be bought at Cinépolis’ website or with its app. “We feel we are bringing people who may have given up on the movie-going experience back to theaters,” Mijares says. “We want to get people excited about going to the movies.” 

— Randall Shearin and Lynn Peisner

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