Pass the popcorn

Luxury theaters strive to make movie-going memorable

Classic Cinemas Paramount Theater in Kankakee
Classic Cinemas Paramount Theater in Kankakee (Provided photo)
Classic Cinemas Tivoli Theater in Downers Grove
Classic Cinemas Tivoli Theater in Downers Grove (Provided photo)

Movie theaters have become so much more than just a place to see a film on the big screen. From reclining seats to in-movie food and beverage service, movie theaters have become a destination for a full-fledged evening of food and fun.

Mark Mazrimas, marketing manager for Classic Cinemas, has been with the company for almost 18 years and has seen the conversion from film to digital and is now in the midst of seeing theaters transform into comfortable escapes with some of the amenities of home.

“Our three things as far as big changes are presentation, comfort and service,” Mazrimas says. “Those are the things we really want to make sure of.”

Classic Cinemas, which consists of 14 theaters and 104 screens, has around 51 percent of their seating converted into luxury power recliners. While some theaters have chairs that only have a single motor, Classic Cinemas has sought out the best chairs that have two motors to move the feet and back separately.

“That’s really been a significant difference,” Mazrimas says. “The customers really like it.”

While luxury recliners are more comfortable, they also do take up more space, and Mazrimas notes that an auditorium can lose around 60-65 of seating when recliners are installed.

“When we first looked at it, the math wasn’t good,” Mazrimas says. “It’s a lot of seats to lose, but what has happened is that people tend to come more often.”

In many cases, Mazrimas has seen attendance up around 50 percent after the chairs have been upgraded.

“We really feel our niche is ‘your hometown theater,’” Mazrimas says. “When there are big changes like seats, food and beverage, we want to make sure for the customer that we’re going to do it right.”

While no Classic Cinemas locations offer in-movie food and beverage service or bar service, Mazrimas says they’ve opted to not have it for a reason.

“We want the movie experience to be immersive,” he says. “When the auditorium goes dark, we want the audience to be immersed, and don’t want anyone taking orders. That’s kind of our approach.”

There may not be in-movie food service, but Classic Cinemas goes above and beyond for their customers by focusing on comfort. Employees even polish off the theater experience with a mint and a smile when each moviegoer leaves.

“I always look at going to the movies as kind of a communal thing you do with people,” Mazrimas says. “It’s like a two-hour affordable vacation. If you can make the people even more comfortable during that time, I think that’s a plus.”

AMC Dine-In Block 37
108 N. State St., Suite 434, Chicago

Reserve a luxury recliner chair in advance for this specialty dine-in theater. Moviegoers can enjoy handcrafted food or drinks at the touch of a button during the film. With 42 theaters in Illinois, AMC offers the largest selection of theaters that provide updated seating and unique food and dining perks. More information and a full list of theaters is available at AMC’s website.

Emagine Frankfort Theatre
19965 S. La Grange Rd., Frankfort

Every single auditorium features leather power recliners in a stadium-seating layout for every guest to kick back and relax. Not only is there a complementary valet Friday and Saturday nights, but there is also a theater bar for handcrafted cocktails and beers, in-seat service, handcrafted stone oven pizzas, and self-serve pop machines. Late night specials, including a $12.50 popcorn and beer happy hour deal, and “$9 after 9” popcorn and pop combos, are available daily.

Hollywood Blvd.
1001 W. 75th St., Woodridge

No need to do dinner before a movie, because this theater offers it all. A full menu is available during the movie, and includes everything from salads to snacks and burgers (the menu is even movie-themed). This theater requires a one-item minimum purchase per seat, but includes water or popcorn. Daily specials, including half price buckets of beer on Monday and $5 wines on Wednesday, are available. Anyone viewing a movie at this theater must be at least 18 years old or with an adult.

iPic Theaters
619 E. Boughton Rd., Bolingbrook

Dine before, after or during your movie at iPic Theater’s epic movie experience. While the classic popcorn and candy is readily available, a grab-and-go counter allows moviegoers to snack on treats like mac and cheese fries, filet sliders and fried chicken. iPic Theaters offer premium seating with oversized leather seats and a personal table, while premium plus seating has reclining seats, blankets and pillows, and food service at a large table throughout the film. A pool table, full bar and plenty of lounge seating makes the theater a fun place to hang out. iPic offers a second location at 100 W. Higgins Rd., South Barrington.

Hollywood Palms
352 S. Route 59, Naperville

This beautifully decorated theater features a Hollywood sign, waterfall and themed rooms that have reclining chairs and terraced seating with personal tables. Food and beverages can be purchased throughout the film, as well as in the lobby at one of the two full bars. Regular general admission tickets are just $9 with additional discounts for students, military and anyone in a public service position. Daily specials are available at the bar, and an adult must accompany anyone under the age of 18.

AMC Dine-In Rosemont 18
9701 Bryn Mawr Ave., Rosemont

Formerly known as the Muvico 18, this state-of-the-art theater offers a dine-in option, dine-in express pickup, bar and stadium seating. In addition to RealD 3D viewing, this theater also offers D-Box, an immersive movie experience that literally moves each seat during the film.

Orland Park Cinema
16350 S. LaGrange Rd., Orland Park

This remodeled venue features 15 auditoriums with DreamLounge seating, one of which is an UltraScreen DLX concept with a huge screen, heated DreamLounge recliners and Dolby Atmos sound. A bar, concessions and snacks like fried pickles, corn dogs, and smash burgers are also available for purchase.

North Riverside Luxury 6
7501 W. Cermak Rd., North Riverside

This North Riverside Theater was the first Classic Cinemas-owned venue to be remodeled with all new reclined seating in 2014. There are six auditoriums and while there is no in-seat dining, there are free popcorn and drink refills.

Picture Show at Bloomingdale Court
324 W. Army Trail Rd., Bloomingdale

For those looking for a cheap date night or family outing with the perks of a modern theater, Picture Show is the place. While they don’t get the newest movies right away (it’s generally shortly after), the theater has reclining leather chairs with cup holders, Dolby Atmos sound and $1 hot dog and popcorn combos.

Studio Movie Grill
301 Rice Lake Sq., Wheaton

Named one of Forbes Travel Guide’s Top 10 Movie Theaters in the U.S. when it first opened in 2012, Studio Movie Grill is home to eight luxury auditoriums as well as a bar, restaurant and lounge. Food can be purchased directly from your seat, which can vary from a counter-top seat, power recliner or lounge seat with built-in tray table, or desk style chairs with tables.

Cinema 7
101 Duvick Ave., Sandwich

Newly acquired by Classic Cinemas in 2016, Cinema 7 has reopened with luxury seating, upgraded digital projection and new bathrooms. General admission is just $8 with discounts for matinee shows, children and seniors, while the cinema offers free refills on popcorn, fountain drinks and ICEE.

Gurnee Mills Cinema
6144 Grand Ave., Gurnee

The Gurnee Mills Cinema is one of the top destinations for the newest advances in film with 19 state-of-the-art auditoriums. One has a 4DX experience, one is an UltraScreen DLX experience with a 70-foot wide, three-story screen with DreamLounger seating, and one is a SuperScreen DLX concept with DreamLounger seating and Dolby Atmos multidimensional sound. Grab food from Zaffiro’s Express or drinks from the Take Five Lounge before the show.

Kendall 11 GDX
95 Fifth St., Oswego

In addition to 10 auditoriums with recliners, premium rocking seats and digital projection, Kendall 11 GDX also has a Giant Digital Experience that features movies on a massive scale with 4K resolution, Dolby Atmos and premium rocking seats. This theater also has a full bar in addition to regular concessions.

Randall 15 IMAX
550 N. Randall Rd., Batavia

This theater is home to 15 digital projection auditoriums including an IMAX theater, which has a screen that is more than 80 feet wide and four stories tall. All auditoriums feature high-back rocking seats and stadium seating as well as free drink refills and 50-cent popcorn refills.