When Atrium Cinemas in Eltingville upgraded all 12 of its screens to luxury auditoriums in 2016, adding reclining seating and APEX sound, Staten Island film fans rejoiced in the much-needed upgrade.
Finally, after decades of standard movie experiences, there was a “premium” movie theater in our borough and all of the cinematic opulence that went with it.
And in February, when AMC opened the borough’s first Dine-In location in the Staten Island Mall, introducing a restaurant/movie concept with IMAX screens, 3D picture quality and reserved seating, moviegoers reveled. In fact, even two months after its opening, weekend tickets are still selling out at a record pace.
And still, the theater domination of Staten Island continues: A 10-auditorium, nearly 1,000 seat Regal Cinema is slated to open soon in Charleston and an Alamo Drafthouse cinema/eatery is currently being constructed in New Dorp.
But with the popularity of home theaters rising and movie subscription services like Netflix and Hulu at an all-time high, why is there currently such a rapid expansion of public theaters in our borough?
Movie buffs say it’s all about the experience.
“During the last decade, AMC’s primary focus has been on renovating many of our existing locations nationwide, equipping them with guest-favorite amenities like our AMC Signature Recliners, MacGuffins Adult Beverage Services and premium formats such as IMAX at AMC and Dolby Cinema at AMC,” said Ryan Noonan, public relations director for the theater chain. “However, beyond that focus, AMC has continued to explore opportunities for new locations that are a part of premier regional projects and the Staten Island Mall certainly fits that description. We felt our AMC DINE-IN concept, as well as our premium experience formats like IMAX at AMC and Dolby Cinema at AMC would be great additions to what Staten Island Mall offers to its customers.”
The theatre, which has 11 auditoriums, offers a slightly different take on AMC’s traditional Dine-In model featuring “Delivery to Seat,” which allows guests to choose their entrees, appetizers and desserts from a concession area and then advance to their seat where the food will be delivered.
And the food is gastro-pub-esque: Artisan Pepperoni Flatbread, Southwest Chicken Bowls, Chicken Bacon Mac & Cheese and a “build-your-own-burger concept” are offered alongside traditional movie theater fare like popcorn and candy. MacGuffins, which offers beer, wine and cocktails, serves guests who are at least 21 years old.
In addition to “Delivery to Seat,” the theatre also offers power recliner seating throughout the theatre, online ticketing, reserved seating and ticketless entry.
According to theater executives, it’s that futuristic movie experience that is drawing customers back into theaters in droves. In fact, the concept is so popular, two more are slated to open this year. Regal Entertainment, which did not respond to requests for comment for this article, signed a lease in early 2017 to open a 90,000 square foot movie theater in Charleston’s Bricktown Commons.
According to its Facebook page, the theater is currently in the process of hiring employees. And Alamo Drafthouse, which operates a popular location in Brooklyn, is collaborating with Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA to open “The Flying Guillotine,” a kung-fu inspired bar concept that will be located within their nine-auditorium theater in New Dorp.
“Alamo Drafthouse Staten Island’s nine theaters will showcase the very best new releases, iconic special events, and the company’s unique take on repertory programming,” the company said in a statement. “Each theater will be equipped with top-of-the-line digital 4K laser projection and dynamic surround sound, and fully outfitted with luxury recliners equipped with footrests to ensure every seat in the house offers a viewing experience of unparalleled comfort.”
Continuing the company’s commitment to preserving 35mm, Alamo Drafthouse Staten Island will feature 35mm changeover projection so that both classic films and new releases can be experienced in celluloid. Founded in 1997, Alamo Drafthouse has been heralded for unique programming events and high exhibition standards.
“Alamo Drafthouse provides a unique combination of theater and restaurant, showing first-run movies, independent films, and special events with an extensive menu made from scratch. Guests order all food and drinks from servers who quietly attend to them throughout the movie,” the company noted.
The Flying Guillotine concept, which will be located in The Boulevard development and is scheduled to open in late 2019, will serve an extensive menu of themed cocktails, spirits and collaboration beers created by RZA and Alamo Drafthouse’s beverage director Bill Norris, The Flying Guillotine will also include a video store offering free rentals from a collection of martial arts classics personally approved by RZA. Alamo Drafthouse Staten Island will also feature monthly screenings of martial arts classics with after-parties at The Flying Guillotine.
“Bringing the coolest movie experience to ‘Shaolin’,” says RZA, “with a bar designed with the aesthetics of the Wu-Tang vibe – like the Flying Guillotine – and an extensive library of films, this location will surely be a place of many fun memories for Staten Islanders.”
And other theater chains are banking on that same idea of success, too.