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The Evolution of the Cinematic Experience

It’s a pastime which has long captured the hearts and imagination of all ages – a trip to the cinema. Now as technology pushes the boundaries of reality and culinary expectations are raised, we’ve come to expect more from this popular pursuit. It’s evolved into a hub where people gather to experience an unrivalled cinematic experience.

“A trip to the movies today is far more of a social activity, as well as a way to immerse yourself in the latest in cinema upgrades and technology,” John Albright, Vice President of Development at Starwood Retail Partners explains.  “This is why we’ve already revamped 15 of the 25 theaters we have in our portfolio to include bars, dining options and cutting-edge sound and screens as well as luxury seating.

One of the major reconfigurations has been the dynamic AMC Metreon, nestled in the heart of San Francisco. While it was a strong performer previous to the upgrade, Albright reveals results are showing sales increases of over 20 percent since its full remodel. “It's now the third highest grossing theater in Northern California.”

Those who fancy a drink in a contemporary setting are also catered to in the cinema space. “A number of cinemas have received their alcohol licenses, and it’s definitely bringing in more people,” Albright says. “Bar areas have grown into stand-alone destinations at modern cinemas. Viewing a movie is not a prerequisite – it’s just about bringing people together in a desirable place.”

The Shops at Willow Bend (Plano, TX) will attract luxury cinema seekers when it opens Cinépolis in 2020. The 40,000 sq. ft. multiplex will be the cinematic anchor for the $145 million reimagining and renovation project, and offer patrons a curated selection of cocktails, wine and beer with elevated all-American food fare. It joins an SRP portfolio that also has Paragon/CMX Cinemas at The Mall at Wellington Green (Wellington, FL), which has been tempting movie lovers with dine-in and drinks options to great success, while Cinemark at Louis Joliet Mall (Joliet, IL) is currently attracting customers to leave the comfort of their homes with plush, state-of-the-art luxury recliners to kick back.

In order to stay ahead of the curve, there is frequent competition to deliver first-to-market amenities. Blue Back Square’s Cinépolis (West Hartford, CT) is in the midst of a multimillion-dollar renovation to install 359 reclining leather seats, improved sound and high-definition projection, along with an upscale lounge and lobby. Movie-goers will also be able to order food from a robust menu directly from their seat, with a planned liquor license forthcoming.

Starwood Retail Partners COO Jeff Zeigler also chimes in on this trend now emerging in American shopping hubs. “Great cinematic experiences help drive the evolution of our centers. We’ve been able to deliver not only another reason to visit the center and be social, but also provide the ultimate movie-going experience.”