How Cineplex aims to own date night with its VIP strategy

Cineplex saw an opportunity to appeal more to adults with a grown-up—not to mention premium-priced—experience

Why Design Matters


(Illustrations by Remie Geoffroi)

In the date-night trinity of drinks, dinner and a movie, Cineplex already dominates the third part of the equation in Canada. Now it wants to own the whole evening. That’s the thinking behind its burgeoning line of VIP theatres: grown-ups-only zones, each with a full bar and resto-lounge in addition to upgraded theatre seats.

“We saw an opportunity to re-engage the adult moviegoer,” says Bill Tishler, Cineplex’s vice-president of design and construction. “What we’re attempting to do is attract our guests to come earlier and stay later, and make an evening out.” That required changes big and small to Cineplex’s standard theatre designs. Here’s what got tweaked:

Cineplex VIP mobile ordering

Smaller box office

Mobile ordering has reduced the need for a lot of box-office staff. More than half of VIP moviegoers reserve seats hours before they get to the theatre and simply pick tickets up from automated kiosks.

Cineplex VIP barrier

Shields up

Cineplex’s VIP sections are blocked off from the rest of the multi-plex by what Tishler jokingly calls “Star Trek doors.” The separation heightens the exclusivity—but it’s also expedient for liquor licensing, meaning VIP is an adults-only zone.

Cineplex VIP bar

The bar

VIP theatres are licensed to serve alcohol throughout, so you can take your cocktail to your seat. Each theatre sources local beers on tap, too.

Cineplex wall decorations

No ads here

Unlike standard theatres, there’s no advertising visible in the VIP lounge. Instead, black-and-white stills from Warner Bros. films adorn the walls (Cineplex struck an exclusivity deal with the studio on the decor).

Cineplex VIP banquettes

Tables for two

Like in the theatre itself, seating options in the lounge—corner banquettes and fireside club chairs—tend to be arranged in pairs to facilitate romance.

Cineplex VIP lounge servers

Full service

A full kitchen is required to handle the food options, which include ceviche and an artisanal cheeseboard. VIP employees provide full table service in the lounge and in the theatres.

Cineplex VIP in-seat service

Wide rows

Extra leg room isn’t just for the patrons’ benefit; it also allows servers easy access to any seat to deliver food and drinks.

Cineplex VIP screen size

Bigger screens

The first Cineplex VIP sections suffered from tiny screens, but newer ones are basically full-size, with a capacity of about 100 viewers.

Tweaking the standard auditorium seat

In addition to the large-scale alterations at its VIP locations, the company made a number of changes to its seating:


(Illustration by Remie Geoffroi)

1. Built for two

Seats are arranged in pairs, another nod to date night. The middle armrest can be stowed for a loveseat effect.

2. More snacking space

A sliding tray on the armrest is a custom modification to the seats. Trays swivel out, putting snacks (served on a real plate, not a cardboard tray) within easy grabbing range.

3. Lean back experience

The chairs offer La-Z-Boy-style reclines (raised footrests and all) with arm-mounted power controls.

4. Popcorn container

VIP theatres boast specially designed rigid cardboard popcorn boxes that stand upright on the trays.

5. Cups don’t runneth over

Cupholders—three for every two seats—have special slots for holding wineglasses with stems (another menu item available only in VIP).