Gold Class Cinema, opening today in Redmond, offers swanky seats and "upscale handheld food."

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James Bond would feel at home in Redmond’s new Gold Class Cinema.

The luxury movie house, extensively remodeled from the old AMC movie theater that closed earlier this year in the same Redmond Town Center location, is a swanky vision in burnt orange and chocolate brown. Its lobby and bar have a cool, retro elegance; the artful lighting in the restrooms seems designed by Hollywood; the theaters feature large screens, digital projection, comfortable recliners and charming waiters who discreetly bring gourmet food and drink.

But Bond should be sure to bring his wallet. An evening movie ticket, which includes valet parking, will set you back $32 per person, or $35 if you buy a ticket in advance online. Food and drink are extra.

Rob Goldberg, chief operating officer of Village Roadshow Gold Class Cinemas, is not deterred by the prospect of opening a high-priced luxury cinema in a dismal economic climate.

“Now more than ever,” he said, “people need to escape.” He noted that while few can afford first-class air travel or five-star hotels these days, many can afford an evening at Gold Class as an occasional special treat.

“We target people who appreciate extra service,” he said, adding that the company is aiming at the 30- to 55-year-old age group.

Village Roadshow has been operating Gold Class Cinemas for more than a decade internationally, with 12 theaters in Australia, Singapore and Greece. Its first U.S. theater, in the well-off Chicago suburb of South Barrington, Ill., opened earlier this month. The company plans to open an additional 10 theaters in the U.S. in 2009, mostly in suburbs.

The Redmond location features seven screening rooms with no more than 40 seats each, widely spaced in pairs with shared small tables between them. Customers may reserve specific seats when purchasing tickets. The kitchen offers what chef Keith Keogh calls “upscale handheld food,” designed with an eye toward eating in the dark and grouped on the menu as smaller bites (crab cakes, $17), bigger bites (New York strip-steak sandwich, $19) and sweeter bites (an assortment of small, fresh-baked cookies, $9). A full bar is available, along with wine by the glass ($7-$21) or bottle ($30-$695).

And does the ticket price buy you freedom from the biggest scourge affecting moviegoers today: people blathering on cellphones during the movie? Goldberg said that while his staff wouldn’t hesitate to respectfully ask an offender to take calls out to the lounge, it hasn’t really been a problem in their cinemas. “People rise to the level of the environment,” he said.

This sort of upscale viewing/dining experience is new to the Seattle area, where an evening movie ticket generally costs somewhere between $9 and $10.50. According to market research firm Scarborough Research, King County moviegoers tend to be young (under 30) and of average income.

The Big Picture, a pair of boutique cinemas in Seattle and Redmond, is the closest equivalent to Gold Class; small, elegant screening rooms showing first-run films along with a full bar and waiter service. But the Big Picture is primarily an events facility (open to the public only when the theaters aren’t booked) and doesn’t serve food, other than popcorn, in the theater. Movie tickets at The Big Picture are $11 ($7 Mondays and Tuesdays).

Central Cinema, on Capitol Hill, also serves beer, wine and a menu of pizza, salads and sandwiches to moviegoers, but features art-house programming rather than first-run Hollywood films.

In terms of traditional multiplexes, the closest is Bella Bottega, about a mile from Gold Class in Redmond. It’s owned by the large Regal Cinemas chain — an advantage, generally, in booking first-run films.

Mark Stern, owner of The Big Picture (whose Redmond location is just steps from the new theater), said that he doesn’t see his neighbor as competition because their business models are very different. Serving food in a theater filled with recliners, he said, “sounds like it could be fun, but the reality is it’s no longer a movie-theater experience. It’s almost like an over-the-top spa treatment for movies.”

Stern, who said he’s spent 32 years managing and owning movie theaters, noted the state of the current economy, saying “the only thing affordable during the Great Depression for entertainment was a movie ticket.” He said he wished the new theater well, but quoted his own father on the idea of paying $35 for a movie: “God bless them if they can get it.”

The Redmond Gold Class Cinema opens today. Advance tickets are also on sale for the new Bond movie, “Quantum of Solace,” which opens Nov. 14. Gold Class is currently offering a special deal: Book your $35 Bond ticket early online and get a complimentary martini (shaken, of course). A bargain? You decide.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com