By Sandra Kraisirideja
San Diegans may hate to admit it, but there’s at least one way the city pales in comparison to Los Angeles, and that’s in its movie theaters.
Cinepolis, the fourth-largest theater chain in the world, is hoping to turn things around with the opening of its second luxury cinema in La Costa. The first location, in the Del Mar Highlands shopping center, opened about nine months ago and is often sold out over the weekend.
The La Costa Cinepolis, which took over an UltraStar location just like in Del Mar, had its soft opening in February. Plans are being considered for an official grand opening for both La Costa and Del Mar this summer said Antonio Garcia, who handles sales and marketing for the two locations and was formerly the general manager of the Del Mar Cinepolis.
Cinepolis Luxury Cinemas expands on the VIP concept available at some of the company’s theaters in Mexico. Garcia said some theaters in Mexico have a small section that is reserved for VIP guests but at La Costa and Del Mar “the whole place is VIP.”
A Cinepolis Luxury Cinema offers full-tilt, seven-foot-long leather recliners, in-seat dining with wait staff assigned to each theater, an extensive wine list, locally brewed beers on tap, and top-of-the line projection and sound equipment in each theater. La Costa has three theaters equipped with 3-D technology. Seven-feet of floor space separates each row of stadium-style seating. For those who like to snuggle while watching a movie with their partner, several pairs of seats in the theater can be made into love seats simply by lifting the center arm. Garcia said once somebody watches a movie at Cinepolis it is hard to go anywhere else.
How much does all of this luxury cost? Tickets are $15.50 for the first show; $17.50 for shows before 5 p.m; $19.50 for all shows after 5 p.m. Compare this to a full-price ticket at AMC, which is $11, and the cost does raise some eyebrows.
Garcia understands the price of Cinepolis’ tickets may come as surprise but was quick to defend the pricing structure as consistent with the brand image the company is building. “Luis Vuitton never had a sale and that’s the kind of brand we’re trying to create,” Garcia said.
Cinepolis is not aiming for the crowds that frequent Edwards or AMC theaters. “In a sense we’re not trying to appeal to the masses, we’re appealing to a certain niche market,” Garcia said. “We’re not looking for coupon clippers or Groupon [users],” he added.
Garcia believes Cinepolis offers the finest cinematic experience in an environment supported by great customer service, he said.
As with Del Mar, La Costa offers two 21-and-up theaters where guests can enjoy wine, locally brewed beer or cocktails all while watching their movie. There are over 20 red and 12 white wines offered, and among the specialty cocktails is something called Fresca Caliente made with tequila and raspberry liquor muddled with fresh strawberries, a slice of jalapeno, orange, pineapple, and cranberry juice.
Walking into the lobby feels more like entering a boutique hotel rather than a multiplex. La Costa’s lobby is about double the size of Del Mar and is dominated by a bar to the left and a spacious lounge to the right. Interestingly, the ticket booth and concession stand are not the main attractions.
The lounge area is bathed in soothing earth tones and the walls are covered in travertine tile. The furniture harks back to the ’60s but with modern textures and materials. Accent pieces help bring the room together with touches of natural wood and polished chrome. Complementing the decor’s earth tones are three enormous branches of drift wood that form a tree-like sculpture in a far corner and there are plenty of places to sit and mingle. A flat screen TV in the lounge and an enormous HD display over the bar are both tuned to ESPN.
Close to the ticket booth are two of the leather recliners used in the theaters for guests to try out before purchasing a ticket. This is an excellent idea since it gives folks a taste of what they will experience once inside the theater.
While the concession stand sells the usual popcorn and soda this only scratches the surface of Cinepolis’ full menu, which features everything from appetizers to dessert and cappuccino. Everything is made-to-order in a kitchen tucked just behind the concession stand.
Luxury doesn’t come cheap, of course, but the menu prices are comparable to other sit-down restaurants. The most expensive item on the menu, the Ahi Tuna, is $15.50. For $10 I had the Caprese Salad and was impressed that the portion served was similar to what I would have gotten at a stand-alone restaurant.
Some other selections that may be surprising to find at the a movie theater include, hand-made sushi rolls, crab salad, an artisan cheese and meat platter, chocolate Godiva cheesecake, and an affogato, which is vanilla ice cream soaked in espresso.
Even Cinepolis’ hot dogs and popcorn have a tinge of luxury. There are gourmet popcorn flavors like cheddar cheese, cinnamon roll and Zebra, and the Cinepolis Signature Hot Dog made with lean chicken and basil sausage.
Garcia said the menu at both La Costa and Del Mar have been adjusted to reflect feedback they’ve gotten from patrons who requested healthier food options.
For showtimes and to purchase tickets online visit www.cinepolisusa.com.