Blame it on the baby boomers. Exhibitors desperate for ways to innovate and stay competitive are upgrading and remodeling to lure the 55+ crowd to the movies — and, hopefully, keep them there. In-house bars, restaurants, and lounges are on the rise nationwide and globally, vendors say, and that goes for theater chains and select independent operators alike with older and more affluent demos. It’s no longer enough to have stadium seating, IMAX or large format screens, or even inspired concessions options. Theater owners are eyeing conversions to one-stop entertainment complexes where patrons can catch a movie, have a drink, eat a meal, and socialize in one place — and with the industry switch to digital nearly complete, exhibitors are looking to spend on the next hot upgrade. Luxury seats in theaters are on the rise for the same reason. “People want comfort”, one of a half-dozen high end seat manufacturers on the CinemaCon floor explained. Arcades are being remodeled into lounge spaces or dining areas as more and more theaters cater to higher-spending boomers. Even internationally the demand for premium theater experiences is increasing, with localized quirks. “In Russia we discovered you need to have coatrooms”, TK Architects principal Jack Muffoletto told me. Private karaoke rooms are a popular complex addition in China, he says. Stateside, in-house bowling alleys are gaining popularity. One hitch: These cash grabs for the boomer buck now mean younger generations aren’t being cultivated as future moviegoers.
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