Theater chain puts a luxe twist on dinner and a movie


Gold Class Cinemas replaces vats of popcorn and sticky floors with ginger calamari, personal service and a price tag to match.

Gold Class Cinemas

The scene inside one of the theaters during a screening at Gold Class Cinemas in Pasadena.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times / December 8, 2009)

As they relaxed in the dimly lighted lounge, awaiting the sold-out screening of "Invictus," Stephen Galloway and his wife, Tina, were perusing the menu between sips of champagne. A waiter had just brought a chilled $49 bottle of Schramsberg sparkling wine and was ready for their order.

Tina was contemplating the $14 plate of fried calamari with ginger and lemon, while Stephen had a hankering for the $19 New York strip steak sandwich.

The Galloways are hardly high rollers -- he's a property manager and she's a social worker. Still, the Pasadena couple were more than willing to fork over $29 each for a movie ticket, on top of the bill for champagne and finger food.

"We've never experienced anything like this," Tina said of the Pasadena movie house, which opened this month.

Forget Milk Duds and popcorn. Welcome to the movie theater industry's equivalent of the first-class tourist cabin: the luxury theater.

Betting that moviegoers will pay triple the average price of a U.S. movie ticket to be pampered like Hollywood moguls may seem odd at a time when the bargain mentality is gripping consumers.

But Australian theater operator Village Roadshow Ltd. believes it can rattle the U.S. industry by introducing its upscale Gold Class Cinemas, which have been a big hit Down Under.

"Our secret agenda in America is: Not only are we going to make money, we'll make a lot of money. . . . This will shake up those exhibitors, and there are a lot of them, that have poor offerings," said Graham Burke, chief executive of Village Roadshow. "You go into some of these places and there's gum on the floors. Gold Class is the opposite. [Customers] get treated like royalty, like a king."

The Pasadena theater is the fourth U.S. outpost for Gold Class. The chain expanded into the U.S. last year, opening two theaters in affluent suburbs of Chicago and one in Redmond, Wash., the home of Microsoft Corp. Through a $200-million joint venture with Norman Lear's Act III Communications and other partners, Village Roadshow plans to open as many as 30 luxury theaters nationwide over the next five years. Future locations include Austin, Texas, and Scottsdale, Ariz., and possibly Santa Monica and Costa Mesa.

Although movie theaters have done a brisk business this year, some industry analysts wonder whether people will be willing to pay the premium ticket price on top of a pricey food and beverage tab, given the cutback in consumer spending.

"With the current state of the economy, that's a long row to hoe," said Bruce Austin, a communications professor at Rochester Institute of Technology who has conducted research on movie audiences."That seems like a lot of money to ask for a very narrow slice of the top end of the market."

But Gold Class executives are confident that even in a down economy, customers will pay up for silver-platter service.

Initial signs are encouraging, they say, noting that the newly opened Pasadena theater sold out eight of its first 11 nights.

"People like going to restaurants like Spago, Osteria Mozza and Nobu," Burke said. "They're the people who go to Gold Class. They're the same people who will buy a Mercedes-Benz and will fly first class because they get benefit and quality."

Recession notwithstanding, Gold Class is tapping into the growing luxury cinema niche, as theater operators look for new ways to draw upmarket homebound moviegoers -- or less-affluent customers looking to splurge on a special night out -- and capture some of the lucrative business that goes to restaurants and bars.

"There's a whole range of food services and premium services being tried out," said Patrick Corcoran, director of media and research for the National Assn. of Theatre Owners. "Some of this is about getting back the adult moviegoers. These are people who are generally better off than other segments of the population and they are used to getting catered to."

Some small theater operators, such as Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas, offer in-theater food and beverage services, as do some of the industry's largest theater companies. Kansas City, Mo.-based AMC Entertainment Inc., for example, has been testing casual and more upscale food and beverage services at theaters in Kansas City and Atlanta and plans to expand the offerings to as many as a dozen theaters in the next year. At AMC's Cinema Suites, moviegoers can dine and order alcoholic drinks in plush, reclining seats with lots of legroom.

"The demand for in-theater dining is there," AMC spokesman Justin Scott said.

Locally, Gold Class has some competition. The Arclight cinemas in Hollywood and Sherman Oaks, the Bridge Cinema de Lux near Los Angeles International Airport and Muvico Theaters' Thousand Oaks 14 multiplex offer many of the same amenities, such as reserved seating, plush recliners and bar and lounge access.

Gold Class, however, says it's taking pampering to a higher level.

Nograhany Widhi K - detikNews

US Medical Supplies is pleased to announce the addition of a new line of swing recliners from Nirvana Swing Company.

Raleigh, NC, November 20, 2009 --( US Medical Supplies, online provider of medical and mobility products, today announced the addition of Nirvana Swing Recliners to the US Medical Supplies web site. Nirvana offers a unique line of swing recliners which use a slow, swinging motion to provide an increased level of relaxation and comfort.

Nirvana Swing Company is based out of Bradenton Florida and is headed by its founder and chief designer, Tom Garland. Tom has more than 20 years of innovation and design experience, during which time he has developed numerous innovative products, including the Diaper Champ (by Baby Trend) and the Play-in-Place (by Fisher Price).

Using the patented Comfort Swing® mechanism, the Nirvana Swing provides a smooth, silent swing along a natural arc with just a gentle push. The motion of the Swing Recliner is designed to be slower than the resting heart rate, creating a calming and peaceful sensation that provides unprecedented stress reduction and an overall sense of well being. Every Nirvana Swing Recliner is also luxuriously appointed in leather upholstery guaranteeing the utmost in comfort. Studies show that the Nirvana Swing produces a reduction of approximately 10% in heart rate and blood pressure after only two minutes of swinging.

With its obvious health benefits, it is no wonder that US Medical Supplies is proud to include Nirvana Swing recliners along side the hundreds of other quality lift chairs and recliners in its catalog.

BREAKING NEWS: Robert Spilman dies

Retired Bassett Furniture CEO

Monday, November 16, 2009

Robert H. “Bob” Spilman, the retired president, chairman and CEO of Bassett Furniture Industries, died Sunday night in Richmond.

According to a company biography, Spilman led the company during a period of “dramatic change, including the growth of warehouse showrooms, captive distribution, imports and other issues. Under his guidance, Bassett became a full line manufacturer by adding recliners and motion, home office, bedding, and a highly regarded line of youth and infant furniture.”
Spilman and the company received many business awards: Wall Street Transcript No. 1 Award of Furniture Industry, 1981, 1982, 1992; Man of the Year Award, Home Furnishings Association of Delaware Valley, 1982; James T. Ryan Award Statesman of Commerce, 1983; Heck Ford Award from the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of , 1995.
He also was inducted into the Furniture Hall of Fame in 2005.
Spilman was a graduate of Augusta Military Academy, attended Davidson College, and later received a bachelor’s from NC State.
He began his career at Cannon Mills before joining Bassett. He became its president in the early 1970s, and remained at the helm into the 1990s.
Funeral arrangements will be posted on this site and in Wednesday’s Martinsville Bulletin.

Tricking out the recliner: Moving beyond just chairs to comfort zones


RALEIGH — Ah, the recliner. The American invention that linked lazing in the living room to television and frozen dinners is one of the few bright spots in a well-worn U.S. household furniture industry.
Sales of reclining chairs are getting a lift from the growing popularity of high-tech TVs, home theater equipment and video games, as well as an aging population that is less active. Even the recession, which forced many Americans to cancel vacation plans, seemed to have helped sales of the comfy lounge chairs.

“People think, ‘I'm not going to travel. Doggone it, when I go home I'm going to be comfortable,'” said Don Hunter, who heads Catnapper, a recliner-focused division of Jackson Furniture Industries in Cleveland, Tenn.

Sales of reclining chairs and sofas totaled $3.5 billion last year and are expected to climb to $4 billion within five years, according to trade magazine Furniture/Today and New York-based Easy Analytic Software Inc.

That's a stark contrast to the nearly 13 percent drop in sales furniture stores saw through September this year, compared with the same nine-month period last year, according to census data. That bad news includes a slight 1.4 percent rise in retail sales from August to September, the government reported this month.

At the fall edition of the High Point Furniture Market, several manufacturers will be showcasing recliners with more gizmos.

Latest in accessories

Berkline is introducing a recliner line starting at $699 with installed stereo speakers, a subwoofer and a plug for an iPod. The company has an existing model called the ButtKicker, which can be hooked up to a special amplifier that delivers the shakes and vibrations of the action on your home theater system.

Also new this year, is a top end to the line of massage chairs retailing for about $1,200-$2,400. The deluxe version offered this year costs $2,599, conforms to the shape of the user's body and includes a system of pressurized air bags for a massage that mimics human hands.