Theater Chains Boost Bottom Line With Booze Sales

By Richard Verrier
Los Angeles Times.

The bartenders were working overtime on a typically busy Saturday night at Cinepolis Luxury Cinemas in suburban Los Angeles.

All eight screens were sold out and the barkeeps were serving up craft beers, glasses of Chardonnay and $15 movie-themed cocktails to go with truffle fries and gourmet cheese plates.

A dozen black-clad waiters shuttled back and forth to serve customers in the hotel-like lounge and in darkened auditoriums, where patrons relaxed in plush recliners while ordering drinks like Murphy’s Law, a Jack Daniels concoction inspired by the upcoming science-fiction movie “Interstellar.”

“It’s awesome,” said McKenzie Ferguson, a 21-year-old college student, sipping a cocktail called the Galaxy with her boyfriend at the bar before a screening of “Gone Girl.” “It’s so different. It’s like a combination of a night out. You go to a bar and you go to see a movie in one place.”

Cinepolis is one of several theater chains that are ginning up a growing business by selling beer, wine and cocktails along with $20-plus movie tickets, popcorn and soda. Expect to see this kind of service coming to a theater near you.

Major circuits and independent theater companies are discovering that booze is a small but highly profitable line of business, providing a much-needed tonic for an industry that has struggled with long-term attendance declines and is looking for new ways to lure patrons.

Theaters are investing heavily in new bars and lounges, along with reserved seating, reclining seats and in-theater dining. They are among an array of premium services aimed at keeping consumers at theaters for longer periods, spending cash they would otherwise spend at a local bar or restaurant.

More important, theater executives say, they provide another incentive for patrons to watch movies on the big screen.

Box-office revenue has dropped this year, with ticket sales this summer plummeting to their lowest level in 17 years when adjusted for inflation.

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