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Lounge chairs and booze at the movies: Is it worth it?

Photo: Rémi Yuan

A new movie theatre in Ottawa hopes to get you to turn off Netflix and come back into a real cinema again—by acting like you’re still at home.

In this context, it only seems fitting the movie-watching experience be turned into an elaborate luxury, complete with many of the amenities of home viewing. But that’s just about all that Cineplex Cinemas Lansdowne & VIP—one of about a dozen VIP theatres recently rolled out by the company, and the first in Ottawa—turns out to be: an overpriced luxury experience.

Intrigued by the concept of a movie theatre with comfortable seating, booze, and in-seat dining, I tried to go into the experience with an open mind. The $21 entrance fee made that a bit harder to swallow, but the swanky VIP lounge with its glowing bar, dim lighting, and just-subtle-enough-to-be-sexy maitre d’s made it nearly impossible.

Once seated, I was faced with what looked like an average pub menu, with about four or five beers on tap, hors-d’oeuvres, and a couple entrées. Though some prices were suspiciously undisclosed, the pricing was average, as was the quality of the food.

As for the actual movie-watching experience, while the comfortable seating did make me feel at home, I’m not too sure what, besides fancy leather seats, was supposed to justify the exorbitant entrance fee.

Is the total average cost of $40 per person with food and drinks worthwhile? Not really. Booze in a movie theatre was a great idea, but concession stand pricing for soggy cheese sticks? Not cool.

I asked some fellow University of Ottawa students whether they’d cough up the coin for a flick with frills.

Cédric Marin, a third-year civil law student, says he’d consider trying it out, and that in comparison to the cost of other forms of entertainment in Ottawa, the pricing isn’t unreasonable.

“A (Senators) game costs roughly $40, plus $10 drinks, and a two-hour bus ride for four hours of entertainment, massive bathroom lines and, all this, in Section 300?” he says.

“Boycotting a new concept since it’s ‘expensive’ or ‘different’ doesn’t sound logical.”

Dana Fan, a third-year political science and common law student, says the luxurious concept doesn’t exactly place students within its target audience.

“Maybe it’s just my broke student views, but … I think it’s a little absurd to pay $21 to be served at your seat,” she says.

For Fan, the VIP concept takes away from the traditional movie theatre experience, but she says she recognizes that those who can afford it may find it enjoyable.

It’s difficult for a classic movie reviewer to be optimistic about the role this entertainment model will play in transforming modern cinema.

The more it’s about food, drinks, and comfortable seating, the less it’s about a movie’s effectiveness in transporting you out of your reality and immersing you in another. I found that the VIP model detracted entirely from the purpose of cinema—theatres are keeping us focused on the reality, instead of the fantasy.

After all, what make movies such a loveable experience is their ability to help transport us outside of our reality, even for just a couple of hours.


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