Powered by Jasper Roberts - Blog

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Annals of Luxury: AMC, Loews, Regal, and Cinemark Are the New Status Brands

Movies may be the next category to make the leap to luxury status. And cinema chains are doing all they can to make that happen.

Movie theaters are doing better than ever, even in these recessionary times.

What recession? Cinema owners
are dancing all the way to the bank!
It's not that more people are going to see films – attendance has hovered in the 1.4-1.5 billion admissions range since 1998 – it's that they're paying more for them.

A movie ticket went for as much as $16.50 at some New York theaters, enabling the domestic boxoffice to reach $10.6 billion last year, up from $9.6 billion in 2008.

Filmgoers are going to see even higher prices, if cinema owners have their way.

Taking advantage of the unprecedented popularity of the 3D hits Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, exhibitors are imposing more price hikes to coincide with the opening this week of How to Train Your Dragon, another 3D animated divertissement.

The Wall St. Journal reported that an AMC theater outside of Boston raised its prices more than 20% to $17.50 from $14.50 a week earlier. A Seattle multiplex is now charging $11 for conventional films – up from $10 – and $15 for a 3D film, up from $13.50.

The price of a 3D Imax showing of Dragon jumped dramatically to $19.50 from an already not-exactly-a-bargain $16.50 at New York's AMC Loews Kips Bay.

None of this takes into account the cost of city center parking, babysitters, or popcorn – which, with 1,200 calorie and 60 grams of saturated fat for a large tub, isn't good for you.*

But wait! Exhibitors have come up with an even more effective means of separating you from your money.

Movie theaters offering gourmet food and at-your-seat service are springing up in Pasadena, Calif, the aspirational Buckhead section of Atlanta, Kansas City, and elsewhere across the nation.

These so-called "dine-in" cinemas offer full bars and meals prepared in on-site kitchens by trained chefs, a far cry from the high school kids who sling hot dogs at concession counters.

At the Gold Class Cinemas in Pasadena, the "seasonal" menu ranges from blue cheese potato chips and wagyu beef burgers to portabello sliders and house made beignets for dessert.

(Of course while you, beloved readers, know what a beignet is, how many regular filmgoers can describe one? And surely they mean American crossbred with Angus Wagyu beef, not the authentic, milder Japanese Wagyu. But we digress.)

Gold Class also features a cocktail of the month. Currently it's a Ginger Collins, consisting of Bombay Sapphire Gin and something called Canton Ginger Liqueur, plus strawberries and sour mix. (We're not making this up, we assure you.)

Dinner for two plus drinks, tax and tip costs around $75 and does not include tickets, which for How to Train Your Dragon are $22 or $29 each.

And you didn't believe us when we said that going to the movies is now a luxury item?

*According to The Center for Science in the Public Interest. Their recent study showed that the coconut oil used by Regal Cinemas, the nation's largest chain, and AMC Cinemas resulted in extremely high levels of saturated fat in popcorn. By contrast the non-hydrogenated canola oil used by Cinemark reduced calories by about 25% and saturated fat by a much healthier 90% per large tub.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Trend Roundup: Our New Feature

As there are more trends – micro, macro, and otherwise – than we can write about in this humble blog, we introduce our Trend Roundup, an occasional compendium of links to articles on other websites around the globe.

Today we take you from the runways of Paris and Milan to Las Vegas, London, and beyond. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Fine Print: An Amazing Gift for Those Who Love Books

If you're an avid reader, have we got a book for you!

Whether you use a Kindle or read the old fashioned way, the just-released Oxford Companion to the Book is an exhaustive compendium of all things pertaining to books from ancient to modern times.

Avid readers especially will delight in exploring more than 5000 short entries and 40 thoughtful essays written by some 400 scholars and experts.

At a generous 1,408 pages and $275, The Oxford Companion to the Book isn't for the faint of heart.  Its two volumes are gracefully slipcased.

Richly illustrated with reproductions, diagrams, maps, and examples of various typographical features, this is a monumental reference work that the egghead in all of us will consume and cherish for years to come.

Buy it now at Amazon

Monday, March 1, 2010

I.M. Pei: Last of the Lions

At 92, the architect I.M. Pei has lived long enough to see his major works – the Louvre pyramids, National Gallery east wing, the John Hancock tower in Boston, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, to name but a few – receive plaudits, then brickbats, then regain favor once more.

The Louvre courtyard with Pei's pyramids

Pei studied architecture in the late 1930s and early 1949s at MIT and Harvard with two other 20th Century giants,  Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer.

He and 102-year-old Oscar Niemayer possibly are the last two living links to the Bauhaus and its indelible influence on modern design.

National Center for Atmospheric Research at Boulder, CO

"For a self-styled 'western architect,' and one closely associated with the corporate end, Pei’s most elegant buildings have arguably been his two post-retirement, non-western projects," writes Edwin Heathcote in this weekend's Financial Times.

The buildings in question are The Museum of Islamic Art in Doha on the Arabian Gulf and a much admired melding of eastern and western forms at the museum in Suzhou, in Pei’s native China.

The Doha museum opened in 2008 to widespread praise. "The museum’s colossal geometric form has an ageless quality, evoking a past when Islamic art and architecture were a nexus of world culture," said the New York Times. "At the same time it conveys a hope for reconnecting again."

Opening of the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

Earlier this month, Pei was awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Gold Medal. On that occasion, The FT's Heathcote interviewed the modernist master, still lively and dapper in his ninth decade.

The full text is here.

Louvre photo by photoeverywhere.co.uk