‘Premium’ theaters offer more than a movie

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Dec 2, 2011 - 20:46
  • Updated : Dec 2, 2011 - 21:10

Oh, those comfy chairs.

It’s as if stepping into the first class section on an airplane, except there’s a wide movie screen right before your eyes. There are drinks, snacks and even board games. If you want, you can order a bottle of quality wine along with the nibbles. Or even get proposed to over a fine dining five course meal.

Welcome to “premium” movie theaters, which have brought a new moviegoing experience to Koreans in the past decade. Since the very first premium theater in Korea, “CGV Gold Class,” opened at CGV Ori in Bundang, Gyeonggi Province, in 2000, the pricey theaters have turned into multi-functional cultural spaces where movies are only one portion of the entertainment experience.
The inside view of Gold Class venue at CGV Sangam (CJ CGV)

Since the opening of its first Gold Class venue at the Ori branch in 2000, CJ CGV ― one of the largest multi-screen cinema chains in Korea ― has opened six more “Gold Class” venues in Sangam, Yeongdeungpo, Chuncheon, Shindorim, Wangsimni and Yongsan. All of the venues have the large, comfortable seats, side tables for finger foods and an exclusive lounge and bar. The venues are much more spacious than the regular ones, with 35 to 40 seats in an area that would normally house 150. The tickets cost 30,000 won per person, almost three times more expensive than the price of an average movie ticket.

Jeong Jun-hyung, a 32-year-old school teacher who has visited Gold Class venue at CGV Wangsimni branch a number of times, said what she appreciates the most is the sense of privacy and spaciousness that the theater offers.

“It’s nice especially when you are with your boyfriend,” she said. “Yes, it’s expensive, but it does give you the feeling of being exclusive, being important. And I think that’s why the theater does so well.”

Then the opening of the famous “Cine de Chef,” took place in 2007. A combined luxury movie theater and gourmet restaurant located at CGV Apgujeong in southern Seoul, “Cine de Chef” offers deluxe chairs that are equipped with 11.1 channel speakers on top of quality French and Italian cuisine created by its seven celebrated chefs.

Dinner courses range from 60,000 won to 80,000 won, while its lunch menu starts from 40,000 won. To rent out the entire venue, it costs 1.2 million won for theater A, and 1.72 million won for theater B. One can choose to skip the meal and watch the movie only for 40,000 won.

“It really gives you the opportunity to have the perfect movie date,” said Park Hyun-ji, a 23-year-old who visited “Cine de Chef” about four months ago. “You get to have a really good meal and then watch movies in comfort all in the same venue.”

And both “Cine de Chef” and Gold Class theaters have become hot spots not just for movies, but as ideal places to celebrate special personal occasions such as engagements, anniversary parties and milestone birthdays. Gold Class theaters are also often rented out for business presentations and conferences.

While CGV Yongsan is especially popular among companies for formal meetings and seminars, Yeongdeungpo and Sangam are mostly visited by young couples aged 25-35, CJ CGV said.

Following CJ’s success, another major theater chain, Lotte Cinema, opened its first premium venue, “Charlotte,” at its Myeong-dong Avenuel branch in 2005. The cinema chain has also expanded the business over the years, opening seven more Charlotte venues nationwide.

Lotte has been particularly active in marketing the luxurious property as the place to rent for business occasions.

Its Myeong-dong venue held the 2007 press conference of German heavy metal rock band Scorpions, during the group’s visit to Korea that year. Its exclusive lounge offers the latest magazines, books and board games, while its beverage collection consists of more than 10 different kinds of wine, beer and coffee.

“The Charlotte venue is designed to launch the party culture as well as posh gatherings which are relatively new to most Koreans,” said Lim Seong-gyu, PR chief of Lotte Cinema said. “We aim to provide a cultural space which does much more than just a movie theater.”

For more information on “Cine de Chef,” call (02) 3446-0541, and (02) 304-6222 for CGV Gold Class. For “Charlotte” of Lotte Cinmea, call (02) 2118-5400.

By Claire Lee  (dyc@heraldcorp.com)