Relaxing here in a darkened movie theater, I’m seeing the light.
As I push buttons on a luxurious recliner seat, my feet gently rise while my back lowers.
Aw, yeah. Folding my hands across my chest, I close my eyes and melt into my throne — nearly horizontal.
“I’m just concerned we’re going to find more people asleep after the movies,” quips Village Cinema general manager Dan Jividen, who is leading a tour of the newly renovated theater.
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The 15-screen multiplex at The Village at Meridian is in the midst of an upgrade. A handful of theaters at a time, fresh carpet is being installed. Wood-grain flooring is being laid. Most important, all the seats are being yanked and replaced with electric recliners. Each chair includes a swiveling tray and cupholder.
Welcome to the La-Z-Boy-style movie experience.
Treasure Valley moviegoers can expect more recliners soon — in existing theaters, and in ritzier theaters being planned.
Electric recliners are the latest industry trend, explains James Howard, executive director at Cinema West. Recliner installation started at the Village Cinema this month, and four of its theaters are finished. All 15 are expected to be converted by spring.
Since opening five years ago, Meridian’s premier multiplex has raised the moviegoing bar.
The Village Cinema already offers adult-only VIP sections, where servers deliver cocktails and dinner. The upcharge for a VIP ticket has been eliminated now that electric recliners are the norm. Movie ticket prices are not being raised because of the recliners.
Cinema West runs 15 movie theaters. Thirteen are in California, but the company also owns Magic Valley Cinema 13 in Twin Falls.
Any theater being opened nowadays has electric recliners, Howard says. And old theaters are being updated.
“Everybody here in California has got ’em, and it’s going to happen soon in Idaho,” he says, speaking from the Cinema West offices in Petaluma, California. “So we’d rather be the first to do it out there and do it right. My guess is in the next year or two, everyone in Boise is going to switch over to that.”
Luxury seating is roomier and takes up more space. Consequently, theater capacity at the Village Cinema is being slashed by 40 percent. But Cinema West has discovered revenue increases 10 to 20 percent after recliners are installed, Howard says.
“It’s just the added value of the experience of watching the movie and having that extra comfort,” he says.
Chances are, you won’t doze off. Bone-rattling Dolby Atmos surround sound was recently added to two more screens, bringing the total to four at the multiplex. That should keep Grandpa awake.
Even with all these improvements, the Village Cinema won’t offer Boise’s most decadent movie experience for long.
Cinema West also has plans for a six-screen Luxe theater at The Village at Meridian. Luxe, stylized as “LUXE,” is Cinema West’s high-end brand. It would be part of a mixed-use expansion area at The Village. Plans for the development are expected to roll out during the first part of 2019, according to Village general manager Hugh Crawford.
Cinema West already has implemented the Luxe concept in Folsom, California, where a six-screen Palladio Luxe Cinema is two doors down from a family-style Palladio 16 Cinema.
During the day, the Palladio Luxe is open to all-ages. But after 5 p.m., it has an over-21 policy. Full-bar service is available to every seat — which are electric recliners, naturally.
“It’s very plush,” Howard says. “It’s like when you walk into a Vegas hotel with a big, beautiful bar. Outdoor patio. So if you want to go out on a date night, have a nice adult night out, you go to Palladio Luxe, and you don’t have to sit next to teenagers on their cell phones every 2 seconds.”
The Luxe at The Village would mirror the one in Folsom, Howard says.
Cinema West’s Luxe might not be the Treasure Valley’s first luxury theater — or Luxe theater, for that matter. A sign at a lot on Eagle Road near TSheets headquarters in Eagle has indicated that Luxe Reel Theatre will open in 2019 with “all luxury recliner seating.” Despite the similar name, the companies behind the planned Luxe theaters are separate. Reel Theatre is known for its second-run movie houses in the Treasure Valley. A Luxe Reel Theatre with first-run movies and limited recliners opened in Caldwell in June.
Whatever the case, being spoiled at the movies appears to be key to the industry’s future.
“The whole point of going to a movie theater is to check your brain at the door,” Howard says. “It’s an escape. It’s to get away from the stress and doldrum of your life. For two hours, you’re putting yourself in our hands, and we just try to offer the best way to do that.”