New high-end Eastside cinema hopes to offer ‘affordable luxury’

An attempt to bring back the era of elegance and service to cinemas is emerging in Redmond’s City Center shopping center, but for a price.

  • Wednesday, November 5, 2008 12:00am
  • Business

A server carries a tray of dessert down the hallway during a screening for friends and family at Village Roadshow Gold Class Cinemas on Oct. 24.

An attempt to bring back the era of elegance and service to cinemas is emerging in Redmond’s City Center shopping center, but for a price.

Replacing an AMC theater, the new Gold Class Cinema opened Oct. 31, bringing a concept to local movie-goers of “affordable luxury” that their Australian owners hopes catches on in the affluent Eastside.

Flown in from Melborne, Australia and just back from suburban Chicago where Gold Class Cinemas’s first US location opened, CEO Kirk Senior thinks the combination of fine dining and quality mainstream films will help them develop a loyal clientele.

“Our movie experience is very much about being a destination,” he said. “We want to make this a ‘special event’ place.”

He said the theater’s target audience was adults who didn’t want to mingle with a teenage audience and was seeking something more relevant to their tastes. With tickets running between $22 for a matinee to $32 for a weekend evening show – plus a three dollar fee for an online reservation – the high price just might keep the youth at bay.

Once inside, a foyer more akin to a boutique hotel invites visitors to admire the vintage photos of movie stars, rows of plush armchairs and a full bar. The seven screening rooms are the size of a standard modern movie auditorium, but seat no more that 40 on seats that recline at the touch of a button. Peckish patrons can summon a waiter with a call button to order any number of bistro-style bites – or the cinema’s chef Keith Keogh called it, “eyes-up food.” And to wash it all down, a wine list that holds a $695 spot for a 2001 Chateau D’Yquem is there for the taking.

“The broader Seattle market is the market we seek for our concept,” Senior said. “We’ll probably open one or two other locations in this area.”

Gold Class Cinemas is a subsidiary of Village Roadshow, an Australian entertainment company perhaps best known for producing “The Matrix” film series. They’ve opened 12 theaters so far in Austraila, Greece and plan to quickly open 10 more cinemas in the U.S. next year.

With Kirkland’s Parkplace Shopping center soon scheduled for redevelopment, a high-end concept might also find a home in a new cinema there. But the concept of replacing the local multiplex completely in favor of another Gold Class Cinema wasn’t winning much support locally.

Christine Muenz was rushing to a Friday afternoon showing of High School Musical 3 with her 11-year-old daughter Grace and friend Natalie Peterson 10, when asked about Gold Class.

“I’d go once in a while,” she said. “But we certainly don’t need another theater like that in our area.”

A major part of Village Roadshow’s strategy to succeed appears to be based on catering for private events and business meetings. The spacious floor area near the movie screens and the latest in digital display and sound systems and hotel-style service amenities offer the layout and furnishings needed to make such gatherings work. For lighter fare, a private screening of the latest James Bond fimlm, Quantum of Solace, is offered with a fully catered dinner, right down to the martinis and caviar hors d’oeuvres.

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