Have you heard about the new movie theater in Pasadena? Gold Class Cinemas is upping the ante for premium movie going experiences. It takes a lot of your gold to be part of the gold class, though.
Gold Class Cinemas opened in the One Colorado complex in December. I recently had an opportunity to see a movie there, and I was looking forward to seeing what all the hype was about. I was also looking forward to seeing Avatar in 3D, so let me get that bit out of the way first: story was beyond trite; have you seen Dances With Wolves? Visually stunning, though, and great use of 3D. Worth it for the visual effects alone.
Follow me past the jump to hear about the theater and the movie-going experience (and the money.)
They’ve (literally) rolled out the red carpet for you in Pasadena. As you step across that carpet into the reception area, you are greeted not by pimply-faced teens speaking to you through an indecipherable intercom from behind a glass wall, but a cadre of concierges, waiting to confirm your booking reservation. You are handed your ticket inside a small folder, much like a hotel room key, and directed down the escalators to the lounge.
Some theaters have a snackbar, where you can get popcorn and soft drinks. This one has an upscale lounge, where you can you can order from the wine list or choose from 14 beers on tap.
A host will take your ticket and lead you to your seat, offer you a menu, and explain that the lighted button on the table next to your seat will call your server. The menu features items designed to be eaten in a darkened theater with your hands, such as Crisp Maine Lobster Rolls ($18) and a Wagyu Beef Burger Duo ($17.) An assorted cookie plate or seasonal berries were $9. I like popcorn at the movies, but couldn’t find any of that on the menu, so I went with the house-made Potato Chips with Bleu Cheese Fondue ($13.) While it was delicious, imagine eating a basket of potato chips drizzled with warm, creamy bleu cheese with your fingers. In the dark. You get the idea.
That business out of the way, I pushed the button to recline my seat, donned my 3D glasses and sat back to enjoy the show. The seat was comfortable, and the sound and picture quality were superb. What else can you say about a movie theater? Well, one other thing you can say is that unlike the ArcLight‘s “black box” theaters, this one had lighted buttons on lighted tables between every two seats, and that proved to be a bit distracting throughout the evening.
My cocktail arrived about 10 minutes into the film. Because I was not seated on the aisle, the server had to lean in front of the guy next to me to place the drink on the table between us. 20 minutes later, when the food arrived, he passed it in front of that poor guy again. Later still, when the busboy was clearing, he leaned in front of my seatmate, too. Had it been me, I would have been pissed.
Movies should be an immersive experience. That’s why ArcLight’s black box theaters are so great. No distractions. For that two hours (give or take,) you can lose yourself in the story and visual images. Between the numerous servers constantly moving in and out of the theater and the table lights throughout, there were plenty of distractions to pull me out of the movie experience. (This is also why I’m tempted to throatpunch anyone who pulls out their bright-screened cell phone during a movie, but that’s a rant for another day.)
I see what Gold Class is reaching toward with the level of service, menu, amenities, etc., but it seems all of this attention to luxurious detail has made the movie somewhat superfluous to the movie-going experience.
Now for the bottom line.
Thanks to a tip from my friend Josh, I was able to utilize a complimentary ticket and $20 credit toward food & beverage. Had those not been available, I probably never would have seen the inside of this theater, and here’s why: tickets to a movie at Gold Class cost $22-$29 each, depending on when you go (mid-week days are cheaper than weekend nights.) When you figure in the $3 per ticket online booking fee(!), tickets are effectively $32. To see a movie. Among Gold Class’ current offerings is “Did You Hear About The Morgans?” Would you pay $32 to see that? (Pro-tip: Not just no, but HELL NO!)
When you add the cost of the ticket, food, a $10 Manhattan, tip for the server, and parking, all told this movie would have cost me about sixty bucks. For a movie! And I was alone. Had I taken a date, it would’ve been at least double that, as long as she didn’t want a second glass of wine.
When the economy is down, luxuries are the first thing to go. That being said, the movie industry is still turning record profits. This is due largely to people looking for that two hours of escape from their economic troubles, among other things. There are limits, though. I go to the movies a lot, but I’m usually able to make it out the door spending under $20 for ticket, popcorn & beverage. Will Gold Class be able to continue to fill the seats at (roughly) $60 a head once the initial “wow” factor has worn off? I got the impression that many of the patrons at the screening I attended were also there on a free ticket. Will people really pay that much to go to the movies?
Tell me what you think, Los Angeles. Would you pay $60 per person for “Twilight: New Moon,” also (still) running at Gold Class? If you’ve already been, would you go back? Was the Gold Class experience worth it?