Earlier this week, Cineplex announced plans to construct three VIP auditoriums in the SilverCity Yonge and Eglinton and five VIP rooms in the Queensway cinemas. And a brand-new five-screen VIP theatre will be erected at the Shops at Don Mills, to open in late 2014.
The upside is obvious: the higher the ticket price, the more self-selecting the audience. Your screening is far less likely to be disturbed by obnoxious talkers, obsessive texters or any other form of cinematic lowlife; they're all in the cheap seats elsewhere in the building. (And you can have food and booze delivered to your extra-comfy seat, which adds an extra level of decadence.)
As someone who's spent his share of time in the Varsity VIP rooms, I can certainly see the appeal. But there's a downside. That premium you're paying for that VIP seat - currently five dollars, though who knows what it'll be when these screens open in two years' time - doesn't translate into added value where it counts the most, in the theatrical experience.
The VIP rooms have smaller screens and less bombastic audio, countering the specific advantages of the current Cineplex big-screen/big-sound model. And you can forget about stadium seating; these rooms are basically better appointed versions of the shoebox screening rooms on which Cineplex made its name. (Not as shabby as the old Eaton Centre auditoria, mind you, but the principle is the same.)
Don't get me wrong; it's good that Cineplex is investing in the idea that people will still be coming out to the movies in two years. The industry's panicking, and trying to figure out what the next big thing will be to pull people away from their HDTVs and On Demand libraries, which may offer a number of the same titles available for viewing in those VIP rooms, come 2014.
Maybe, by the time Paranormal Activity 6 opens, we'll be willing to pay an extra five bucks so we don't have to endure the idiot behind us who keeps asking her date if what she's seeing is a documentary. God knows I would have done it at last night's sneak of Paranormal Activity 4.