VIP cinemas are just the latest in the long line of gimmicks that movie theatres have employed to combat their dwindling ticket sales. However, unlike other such attempts, like IMAX and 3D, the VIP cinemas don’t offer any difference to the visuals or audio of the film itself.
It is all about the experience. This in itself isn’t a problem, the difference in the atmosphere is why I prefer smaller independent theatres to large multiplexes. The problem with VIP cinemas is that a “better” viewing experience shouldn’t come with a premium price tag. The add-ons of a private lounge, in seat service and marginally better food are all simply cash grabs. If I want good food, I go to a restaurant where they specialize in food and don’t charge me a fee to just enter the space. The extra cost allows the theatres to double dip and pad their diminished revenue from fewer patrons. You pay simply for the option of purchasing up on concessions and you will end up paying the same or more than you would on staple concessions like popcorn and soft drinks.
Yes, VIP cinemas allow in-seat ordering, but even with more comfortable seats, who really wants to sit in a cinema for four or five hours? It’s also disruptive and slightly awkward. Anyone who’s ever tried to eat dinner on their couch while trying to watch television has experienced this. Not only is this a messy endeavour, we’re also talking about food that requires some attention to consume properly. Unlike television, films are not designed with convenient breaks so you can pay attention to your food. There is a reason that popcorn is a staple of the film going experience—it can be easily enjoyed, while keeping your attention focused on the screen and not on the business of eating. And while the VIP cinemas provide alcohol to wash the meal down, many of the independent cinemas in Toronto will as well and it will still only cost $10 to see the film.
I understand that the theatres are desperately trying to entice the film-going public to leave their homes and attend the cinema, but making it more “exclusive” is not the answer. There is talk of releasing films strictly within VIP cinemas and charging an even larger premium to see them. This goes against what has made the movies what they are today: the most universal and popular art form in the world, one that is accessible to everyone, not just the rich and the privileged.
And in the end, just how exclusive is the VIP experience? It is simply a more bloated version of what cinemas have been offering for decades, only now they’ve erected a wall to separate it from the rest of the movie going public and charge a premium to enter through the doors. They’re peddling the same wares for a bigger price tag.
Check back at noon for “She Said/She Said: VIP Cinemas, ‘Yay'”.