Study Shows Luxury Cinemas on the Rise

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Luxury cinemas are experiencing a global proliferation, largely due to the rise of the upper-middle class, maintains an assistant professor in the School of Arts, Technology and Emerging Communication.
Dr. Juan Llamas-Rodriguez recently published an analysis in the Journal of Cinema and Media Studies that examined luxury cinemas, particularly those associated with the Mexico-based Cinépolis, the fourth-largest film exhibitor in the world.
“It’s a model that is trying to tell people that they can be part of this global, upper class,” he said. “You see it in the way patrons are pampered, and not everyone can afford to be pampered.”
Llamas-Rodriguez said the luxury cinema experience is becoming increasingly standardized in providing an equally luxurious experience transnationally. Cinépolis, for example, has a presence not only in Latin America, but also the U.S. and India.
Llamas-Rodriguez said the modularity of the design of luxury cinemas that allow them to be duplicated in a variety of countries has a downside. It comes at the expense of audience satisfaction, he said, noting that there are some issues that can distract patrons from the film, such as underwhelming customer service that doesn’t match the comfort and luxury of the theater design itself.
“In aiming for more glitz besides the film screening, theaters run the risk of such fanfare overwhelming, or even displacing, the original incentive for going to the theater: movies,” he writes.
Cinépolis’ struggle to create a “global cinematic experience” illustrates the challenges facing film exhibition and critical theory in an era of multiplex expansion and media platform proliferation, he explained.
Dr. Juan Llamas-Rodriguez
“Any luxury cinema shouldn’t remind you of where you are in the world; it should just remind you of luxury – independent of anything you are watching on the screen,” he said.
Llamas-Rodriguez said many of changes in the theater experience over the years have come because of a perceived threat that new technology will take away customers. He said it happened in the 1950s and 1960s when television was introduced and is happening again with the rise of video streaming services.
“As with most disruptions, there will be a moment of disruption and then things continue. Once that stabilizes, there’s less of a push toward new things because audiences become comfortable again with the model,” he said. “The multiplex will continue to adapt.”
–Phil Roth

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