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Originally published March 23, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 23, 2008 at 12:34 AM

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Movie theaters lure viewers with luxury

Even as movie attendance remains flat nationally, Cinetopia in Vancouver sometimes has to turn away moviegoers on Friday and Saturday nights...

The Oregonian

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Even as movie attendance remains flat nationally, Cinetopia in Vancouver sometimes has to turn away moviegoers on Friday and Saturday nights.

Owner Rudyard Coltman thinks he's just begun to tap into the grown-up market for quiet theaters with comfy seats, digital super high-def projection and a wine bar.

Luxury theaters are spreading as owners try to compete with high-end home entertainment systems, and customers are willing to pay a premium for premium services, said Jeff Bock, an analyst for Exhibitor Relations, a box-office tracking firm

"They're definitely catching on in metropolitan areas," Bock said.

Since opening in July 2005, the Vancouver Cinetopia has seen attendance increase 35 percent to 40 percent each year, Coltman said.

"It doesn't show any signs of slowing," he said.

One new Cinetopia location is proposed to be the first anchor tenant for the Everett Riverfront, a 225-acre urban village planned along the Snohomish River north of Seattle. That location is planned for 16 theaters.

Moviegoers pay more at Cinetopia: 75 cents more for the larger auditorium and $2 for the living-room theater. The maximum ticket price is $10.25 for the auditorium and $15 for the living room.

For that, viewers get wider leather seats, more legroom and a clear view over the person in front. In the living-room theaters, wait staff serves from a full menu and beer and wine list.

Cinetopia is an example of a diversifying market. Moviegoers spent $9.6 billion nationally in 2007, but attendance has been flat over the past three years, Bock said. Theaters are looking to improve a business model and technology that has changed little in the past 50 years, he said.

The bigger trend will come as theaters go to digital and 3-D in the next year, said Wade Holden of SNL Kagan, a media research firm. But it's all part of trying to lure customers.

"In this day and age when we have DVDs, on-demand video and all sorts of new home-entertainment technology, it's become very important for theaters to distinguish themselves," Holden said.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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