Victoria's venerable Odeon gains luxury seating

Victoria’s oldest movie theatre is getting its most significant upgrade in 20 years with today’s announcement by Cineplex Entertainment that all of its standard seating will be replaced with reclining luxury seats.

By early next year, all seven of downtown Cineplex Odeon’s auditoriums will have been upgraded to let moviegoers “sit back, relax and put their feet up,” the Canadian film exhibitor announced this morning. It is only the second of Cineplex’s Canadian multiplexes — after Kelowna’s Cineplex Cinemas Orchard Plaza — to become an all-recliner multiplex.

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The removal of seats in auditoriums 6 and 7 began Monday, with the installation for the first wave of luxury seats set to begin today, said communications director Sarah Van Lange.

The theatre will remain open during the transition, with auditoriums being reopened individually upon completion of each upgrade.

Plans to install the high-back extra-wide seats have been in the works for some time, said Van Lange, adding the first two theatres offering luxury seating should be operational by early November. “To stay competitive, our business is always looking for new and innovative ways to enhance the moviegoing experience, so this was one way we were able to bring it to the Victoria community,” she said.

Cineplex has been steadily rolling out a number of new options that redefine the movie experience, most recently plans for its first 4DX auditorium, slated to open soon in downtown Toronto. The 4D technology developed by South Korea’s CJ 4DPlex augments onscreen action with environmental effects such as wind, rain, fog, lights, scents and bubbles for filmgoers seated in chairs that move in sync with the action.

The luxury seating is the latest in the chain’s series of options including D-Box motion seats, available at SilverCity, and the VIP theatres it operates in larger markets.

Because of the space required for the roomy recliners, the Odeon’s capacity would be reduced significantly — from about 1,800 theatre seats to closer to 1,000, Van Lange said.

“Attendance at the theatre has remained consistent and fluctuates naturally with the films we present,” she said, noting the main objective was to provide “a special experience” for moviegoers.

“The Odeon has been in continuous operation since 1948, so we thought that after nearly 70 years of entertaining the community, it was time for a refresh.”

The last makeover for the venerable Yates Street cinema that opened Feb. 17, 1948 was in 1997 when it was transformed from a triplex into a multiplex with curved screens and state-of-the-art sound.

The installation of seats that recline at the touch of a button shouldn’t be confused with the exhibitor’s premium-priced VIP Cinemas experience, Van Lange said. Adults-only VIP Cinemas, which have a licensed lounge and in-seat dining options, traditionally feature lounger chairs, which have an adjustable back but do not fully recline.

“People assume [the VIP experience] is about having a glass of wine or people bringing you food,” Van Lange said. “From a guest perspective, it being adults-only is one of the biggest differentiators we hear about.”

There are no immediate plans for ticket price increases, she said.

Patrons at local Cineplex theatres, including Westshore Cinemas, did not experience an admission price increase — between 21 and 52 cents — that took effect Oct. 1 in other markets.

Current admission prices at Cineplex Odeon vary depending on factors including a customer’s age and movie formats. General admission to Cineplex Odeon presentations is $10.50, with a $3 premium for 3D fare. Children aged three to 13 are admitted for $8.50 and seniors for $8.99.

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