They can, but managers have to be careful, a panel at the industry’s CinemaCon confab in Las Vegas told exhibition execs this morning. Companies are intrigued as they experiment with restaurant and fast-food offerings. “Everyone’s doing a dining concept,” says Carmike Cinemas VP Rob Lehman. As a result, “we’re in the beer and wine business.” But he warned colleagues to be careful when they go for liquor licenses. “It’s a long process but we work very closely with the police. Everyone has this perception that kids are going to get drunk at the back of the auditorium. We don’t want that.” Emagine Entertainment’s Gary Butske urged managers to train staff so they can deal with problem customers. His venues try to avoid trouble by strictly carding and giving wristbands to those old enough to buy. He has a two-drink maximum (strong drinks such as a Long Island Iced Tea are classified as doubles), uses clear plastic cups for booze, and has video cameras that monitor the audience so managers can see whether a buyer passes a drink along to an underaged friend. “We reserve the right to refuse service to anybody.” But he says theaters could see a payoff, especially if they become creative about their bar offerings. He’s had success with craft beers, as well as drink specials for PG-13- and R-rated films including the Hangover trilogy, Sex And The City, and Magic Mike. His theaters also had a vodka drink for The Avengers and Looper. “As more theaters incorporate bars maybe we’ll start to see the Sam Adams’ of the world or craft brewers partner with movie tie-ins.” Execs appear wary, but understand that their businesses have to adapt, much the way bowling alleys have, to offer full-evening experiences. Many potential ticket buyers “do not have time to go out to dinner and then rush to the movie theater for a 7:00 or 7:15 show,” says Marcus Theatre’s Rob Novak. As a result venues have to turn film going into “an event where people can come and have a social experience. …It’s beyond just going out to see a movie now.”
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