All Your Gold Are Belong To Us!

No more than 40 of these wide, comfortable reclining seats in any theater.
No more than 40 of these wide, comfortable reclining seats in any theater.

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 lobby with a snackbar. This one has a lounge.
Some theaters have a lobby with a snackbar. This one has a 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?

18 thoughts on “All Your Gold Are Belong To Us!”

  1. Annika, you’ve got a son. All you have to do is teach that kid to toss a mean mai-tai and bring it to you on the couch. With Netflix streaming, you don’t even have to go to the mailbox, much less an overpriced theater.

  2. I liked the theatre when Laemlle had it and was disappointed when it closed. I can’t imagine spending that kind of money and eating prepared food–no thanks.
    The whole reason I would go to a theatre (rather than wait for the dvd) is to submerge myself in it. I can’t imagine any of my friends who would be interested–unless it were comped.
    I’m very glad to read your report. I wonder what will take over the space when this fails?

  3. As a former resident of Austin, I was initially excited when I heard about the Gold Class business model. I used to love going to watch movies at the Alamo Drafthouse. They had ridiculously good pizza, excellent beer, and great specialty programming, proving that table service food and movies can actually work well in conjunction. (My favorite Drafthouse moment involved White Russians and a screening of the Big Lebowski.) I was hoping Gold Class would be similar. Too bad the prices are completely out of line with reality. And if they’re showing movies like Twilight: New Moon? No, thank you.

  4. Jennifer: Though I’ve never been to the Drafthouse, I’ve heard of it, and that’s more in line with what I was expecting (hoping for.) Special programming would be nice, though it still wouldn’t justify the outrageous ticket prices. When they opened they were showing Old Dogs. Really? Old Dogs???

    Julia: Aha! And you thought I wasn’t paying attention. ;-)

  5. I’d pay it for a date night out with the Mrs. Then again we like to do something out of the ordinary and a little extravagant when we get a date night out.

  6. No thank you. I’ll stick with the Arclight, which is already pricier than other theaters. And their popcorn is really good. But then, what do I know? I really enjoyed “Avatar.”

  7. frazgo: I can get behind the unusual/extravagant angle. That seems to limit it to a one-time thing, though. Not sure how that business model will be sustained.

    Jodi: I’m okay with pricier at the ArcLight. That extra couple of dollars seems to deter the riff-raff. Gold Class is more than double ArcLight and triple other theaters, though. What are they thinking? (I didn’t mean to cast aspersions on the “Avatar” fans in the crowd. I really liked it, too. Just felt like I’d seen the story before. Visually, it was spectacular.)

  8. So which is worse, this place, or Cinespace?

    My friend described Avatar as basically a very fancy version of FernGully. I haven’t been too motivated to go see it.

  9. JC: Haven’t been to Cinespace for a movie, so I can’t compare. If it’s similarly priced, it’s seems unlikely I’ll go. If they wanted to invite me, on the other hand… ;-)

  10. I absolutely agree about the Arclight ticket price being worth it for that very reason. I’ve only been to Cinespace for special events that happened to be free…it’s definitely more about the bar and atmosphere. Feels more like a restaurant that happens to project stuff vs. a theater with dining and drinks to me. It works for some things, but you certainly don’t get the immersive experience.

  11. Mmm, there’s nothing like immersing yourself into a movie, say “Avatar”, and travelling to the distant planet Pandora … accompanied by the smell of warm creamy blue cheese. Ix-nay.

  12. Sounds like a good concept with poor execution. I personally hate being distracted in theaters and would be even more annoyed if it cost that much more to go in the first place, even if it was to see the awesome effects and storyline of Avatar (which I thoroughly enjoyed, even though I’m not usually the sci-fi/fantasy type).

    On a sidebar, you may want to employ a grammar and spell-check tool if you would like people to view you with credibility. Aside form all the obvious typos, the title itself really makes no sense grammatically…

  13. Shalk: The title is a play on a geek meme that has been circulating around the internet for years.

    As far as “all the obvious typos,” I’m not sure what you mean. Not only do I use a spell-check (which rarely catches errors; I’m a pretty good speller,) I typically proof-read a piece at least two or three times before posting. Every character is exactly as I intended it to be. Sure, there may be an occasional word or phrase that doesn’t conform to the rules taught by Strunk & White, but it is important to remember that this is MetBlogs, not the New York Times. I am not bound by the limitations of the AP Stylebook. If archetypes help, I think of myself less as a reporter, more of an essayist. I am not simply reporting the news, but sharing a story. I like to think that I write that story much as I would tell it to you face to face. In fact, I tend to believe this is largely where my credibility with readers is derived.

    Your comments are always welcome and appreciated, so keep reading and I’ll look forward to you joining the conversation here.

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