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New ArcLight to ban blurbs

Screens spare patrons pitches

At least one element will be missing from the usual multiplex mix when Pacific Theaters debuts its flagship multiplex ArcLight Hollywood on Friday: onscreen advertising.

Exhib aims to create a state-of-the-art experience for discriminating moviegoers, so, even though two or three ads run prior to trailers at most L.A. theaters — including Pacific’s new Grove multiplex at Farmer’s Market — ArcLight patrons will be spared product pitches.

“ArcLight is based on the premise that the environment in which a film is shown can add to the power of the viewing experience,” Pacific chief Christopher Forman said. “Advertising, in our opinion, is something that takes away from the moviegoers having a complete experience of the sort the filmmaker intended.”

Onscreen ads remain a programming staple at other venues because they offer a significant revenue stream, Forman acknowledged.

Indeed, rival exhib AMC Entertainment and tech vendor National Cinema Network just announced the installation of 105 ad-projection systems in five Kansas City, Mo., theaters. Move follows AMC’s earlier implementation of the technology in Gotham and L.A. venues and extends an industrywide creep of onscreen advertising.

“It’s an important revenue stream for us, and moviegoers’ acceptance has grown,” AMC spokesman Rick King said.

NCN’s digital projection technology “is not of a caliber that we would use for feature films,” King said. But the system could be used to add videocasts of the occasional sporting event or concert to theaters’ programming mix.

Into the black

Meanwhile, the avoidance of onscreen ads isn’t the only way Pacific seeks to coddle the discriminating cineaste at ArcLight. Venue auditoriums sport a black-box design, featuring a midnight blue color scheme and the complete absence of gargoyles or other decorative flourishes to cut ambient noise and focus audience attention up front.

“The idea behind the black-box design is that nothing in the theater takes away from what’s on the screen,” Forman explained.

As for whether the resulting conditions might be too dark for older patrons to negotiate, he added, “It’s our intention not to seat people once the film is started.”

Other upscale design flourishes include extra-wide seating and leg room, and THX-designed auditoriums and sound systems.

Of course, all this deluxe attention comes at a price: All-reservation adult ticketing at ArcLight goes for $14 a pop, with three hours of parking included (Daily Variety, March 14). ArcLight patrons have the option of securing “annual memberships” to the theater, which effectively lowers the cost for viewing pics at certain showtimes.

Memberships — available free-of-charge, either in person or online — allow patrons to purchase weekday and off-peak weekend tickets for $11 apiece. ArcLight senior citizen members can buy daytime ducats for $9.75 Monday-Thursdays, while all children pay $9.75 any evening or $7.75 for daytime shows.

ArcLight, located next to Pacific’s historic Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, plans to program a heavy dose of arthouse fare for its 14 screens. The first batch of titles also heavily emphasizes Oscar-nominated pics.

Opening titles include the re-release of “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” which also will play in the Cinerama Dome. Other pics set to play over ArcLight’s inaugural weekend include “Black Hawk Down,” “Training Day,” “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “40 Days and 40 Nights,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “Storytelling,” “Monsoon Wedding,” “In the Bedroom” and “Mulholland Drive.”

Filmic feasting

A large lobby cafe and bar will carry a relatively upscale menu, and an adjacent retail complex will add to nearby offerings eventually. Slated tenants include restaurants and a health club.

The Cinerama Dome, ArcLight and the related retail space are part of a $100 million L.A. redevelopment project dubbed Dome Entertainment Center. L.A.’s Community Redevelopment Agency issued tax-exempt bonds to finance construction of a parking garage that’s part of the 220,000-square-foot project.

“This is the first of what we hope will be many (ArcLight theaters),” Forman said. “The next one is planned for Bellevue, Wash., and after that we’d like to build them all across the country.”

The expansion plan is especially significant for Pacific, as the privately held L.A.-based firm has been a strictly regional exhib. And aside from its ArcLight theaters, that’s the way things are likely to stay.

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