When ArcLight Hollywood first opened in March 2002, moviegoers questioned whether the amenities offered by the shiny new movie palace justified ticket prices that were higher than conventional theaters.
Today they not only line up eagerly, they do so regularly at four locations in the greater Los Angeles area.
And with expansion plans that include ArcLight screens in both La Jolla and Washington, D.C., suburb Bethesda, Mary., the idea of a full-service venue for both the devoted cinephile and the casual buff appears to have legs.
The La Jolla venue is set to open this holiday season. The lease, and the go-ahead for development, have just been recently set for the Maryland location, with an expected opening in 2014. While these are considered two high-income areas, the question is whether the same concentration of movie aficionados is present in those places as exists in the Los Angeles area.
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“You can look at the top 25 demographic areas in the nation and the moviegoing habits are similar to L.A.,” says chief brand officer Nora Dashwood. “These areas (La Jolla and Bethesda) have people who like to go out, who like to be entertained. The demographic features the same amount of disposable income, which is one of the areas we look at.”
ArcLight established its brand on the strength of its extras, which include reserved seating, more comfortable seats with clear sight lines and cup holders, premium projection and sound, no commercials, and an introduction of the movie by an usher, as well as special events such as Q&As with filmmakers.
In and around L.A., buzz spread among moviegoers, and ArcLight has grown to include locations in Sherman Oaks, Pasadena and the beach cities (in El Segundo). Dashwood is confident the same positive word of mouth will circulate around the new venues and cause customers to queue up and pay the higher ticket prices.
“We certainly had the same experience with ArcLight Hollywood. Nobody had heard of it before,” she says, “but word got out through marketing, publicity and outreach. Now we’re consistently referenced across the country, on the East Coast as well as here.
“The experience creates the word of mouth. People pay $5 more to see a film in Imax. People are used to the price structures out there. I don’t think price is the barrier.”
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