Would you pay $35 for a movie ticket, plus extra for popcorn? What if it guaranteed no one could kick your seat? An Australian theater chain...

Share story

Would you pay $35 for a movie ticket, plus extra for popcorn?

What if it guaranteed no one could kick your seat?

An Australian theater chain opening in Redmond this fall is betting affluent audiences will pay three times the typical ticket price for plush, reclining seats equipped with call buttons for service, allowing them to order gourmet food, wine and cocktails from the theater’s restaurant.

Village Roadshow Gold Class Cinemas will open at Redmond Town Center in October, replacing the AMC theater that closed earlier this year.

It will cater to people who “don’t want to go to a cavernous multiplex and be caught up with hordes of people,” said Graham Burke, managing director and CEO of Village Roadshow Limited, the parent company.

“We believe we’re bringing back to the movies a new audience that arguably stopped going to the movies,” he said.

Exclusivity is key. Each of the eight auditoriums will have wide screens but no more than 40 seats arranged in pairs with ample legroom. The theater’s restaurant and lounge will be open only to moviegoers. An online booking service will enable people to choose their seats; valets will park their cars.

The theater will offer some matinees, Burke said, with admission discounted to $20 or $25.

Village Roadshow runs similar theaters in Australia, Europe and Asia. Audiences there typically spend about $60 per person, including the ticket price, Burke said, though for most, he added, cost is not much of a concern.

Village Roadshow will open its first U.S. location in the fall in the affluent Chicago suburb of South Barrington. The company is investing more than $200 million to open 50 theaters around the country in the next five years.

Despite the U.S. economic downturn, “people are still going to top-end restaurants, still buying top-end motor cars,” Burke said.

But will they be willing to pay a premium at the box office?

“The ticket price is a little shocking,” said Stacey Reid, a real-estate broker at Cushman & Wakefield in Seattle.

Redmond has very high income levels, however, and Northwest consumers tend to be more willing to splurge on experiences, rather than material goods, she said.

The prestige of the new theater chain could help attract other tenants to the 10-year-old mall, which is undergoing a transition as retail leases expire, said senior marketing manager Christina Henning.

“We’ve been talking to some retailers for quite some time now about coming to Redmond Town Center,” Henning said. “It’s definitely a plus.”

Amy Roe: 206-464-3347 or aroe@seattletimes.com