A Fancy Dinner With Your Movie (and No Popcorn!)

But you can chow down—and booze it up—at this posh new cinema.

Recession? What recession? At a time when many of us are renting two-for-one DVDs at Blockbuster and curling up on the couch with Chinese takeout from Safeway, a deluxe new multiplex is betting on a very different model of moviegoing. After its soft opening two weekends ago, Gold Class Cinemas in Redmond is now offering new, first-run movies with drinks and upscale finger food that could run you $200 per couple.Nationally, places like the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas, have succeeded with new and repertory titles, beer, and popular prices for food and tickets. But the food-and-movie concept has an erratic history in Seattle. The poorly located old Aurora Cinema Grill at 130th Street featured sloppy burgers and second-run titles before folding in 2002. Belltown's Big Picture and the Big Picture Redmond offer lower ticket prices ($11) for first-run movies and booze, but no food unless with private catered events. The Central District's three-year-old Central Cinema is more of a modestly priced pizza joint with beer and wine; the programming on its projection video screen (with $5 tickets) is, at best, eclectic to random.Yet Gold Class is aiming at an entirely different sector of the market, betting that moneyed moviegoers will pay more to see a movie away from the mob (or their kids at home). Here's my unproven industry rule-of-thumb: For every inch that flat-screen TVs increase in size, Hollywood ticket sales drop another percentage point. With fewer customers coming in the door, theater operators—who make most of their money on candy and soda—have to extract more revenue per patron. How much more? Take a deep breath, and ride with me to the Eastside.My date and I arrived at Redmond Town Center on a recent Sunday night. The old AMC multiplex died earlier this year, and the empty space has been completely refurbished by Village Roadshow, an Australian media conglomerate with one other such venue in the States and 50 more planned.Valet parking is supposedly included in the ticket price ($32 per person, $22 matinees, plus online booking fee), but as we drove into the parking lot, I didn't see any attendants. Fortunately, on opening weekend, parking was easy to grab on the curb. Discreet signage leads to the outdoor mall's upper level, where the Gold Class lobby resembles the W Hotel or a comparable Euro-boutique. There's a bar on one side (open to the mall-shopping public, shhhh!); on the other is a lounge with a fireplace and low furniture. Vintage black-and-white set photos adorn the walls. The lighting is expensive; the Venetian blinds are made of wood. Polite, black-uniformed staff, hovering solicitously around the ticket kiosk, also put you in mind of a private jet terminal.We opened a tab with our tickets to Pride and Glory, a cop melodrama starring Edward Norton and Colin Farrell, then were escorted to the lounge and presented with menus. A new server swiftly appeared to take our drink orders. A Ketel One martini was crisp and well-presented; a cold pint of Mac & Jack's came in a tall glass flute. This was not the place for plastic soda cups or styrofoam tubs full of popcorn.In fact, there is no popcorn on the one-page menu, which is divided into "bigger," "smaller," and "sweeter" (i.e., dessert). Gold Class has its own kitchen, and almost everything it serves is designed to be eaten by hand or poached from your date's plate. You could describe the cuisine as luxury appetizers, ranging in price from an $8 salad to a $19 steak sandwich. "When would you like your food to arrive during the movie?" we were asked. How long was the movie? We had no idea, so we requested the appetizers during the credits and the rest halfway through. Our server returned to usher us into the theater, carrying our drinks for us.Up at the ticket counter, we'd been asked to select seats from a computer display, like airline or concert seating. But when we entered our theater, we were the only patrons among 40 plush red overstuffed seats, spaced widely apart on terraced platforms so that servers can easily deliver orders. Then, as if flying Air France, we were given a demo of the hidden purse compartment, recliner controls, and glowing green call light. Between us was a burnished metal tray—not like your tacky TV tray—where our drinks were set. (Forget snuggling: The wide seats are separated by about two feet of immovable armrests.) "It's like the private screening room for some Hollywood mogul," my date whispered.The crabcake quartet starter came in four neat, white Chinese soup spoons. In the dark, with Norton and Farrell already brawling and boozing on screen, that meant carefully slurping down each crab spoonful like an oyster. The lemon-infused morsels were fresh and well presented, but also gone in four swift $4 gulps.An hour later, as cops and drug dealers blurred together and we noticed we were starving, our server returned. Perhaps we shoulda hit the call button, but movie etiquette somehow inhibited us. In the empty theater, we even could have called out for him—but still didn't. Manners!The wagyu beef burger duo he finally delivered was a mini two-pack suited to quick bites in the dark (and the tiny tray they were balanced on). The burgers were topped with bacon—and bacon of any kind is always a good idea. But the accompanying gaufrette potatoes, aka waffle chips, began showering our immaculate seats with salt and crumbs. We were aghast—this furniture was nicer than our home seating, which doesn't even recline. A better choice for the dark was the mushroom-and-brie pizza, precut into easily grasped squares with various fungi securely baked onto the thin crust.However, midway through a marathon about hard-drinking Irish cops, where were our new drinks? Our server had darted in politely, crouched down so he wouldn't block the views of the other nonexistent moviegoers, and darted out without so much as an offer. We had no menu, nor the light to read one. And Gold Class is all about the booze list: full bar, wines by the glass ($7–$20), and bottle service running from $31 for a California chardonnay to $295 for a 1999 Dom Perignon. (Only one state winery, Ken Wright Cellars, adorns the menu.) Were we supposed to preorder everything in the lobby, or are the servers supposed to come in with a flashlight so we can peruse the menu choices again? Surely they're not trained to recite the items while the movie is playing. Questions, more questions.Our tab arrived with the final credits—again, hard to read and sign in the dark—and we might've lingered for a second round in the bar if it hadn't been so empty and if we hadn't had to drive home across the lake. Total damage: $62 for food and beverages, plus $15 tip, plus twice $32 for the tickets, which adds up to $141 for a quality experience seeing a mediocre film.That's comparable to a date at Canlis, which doesn't carry the penalty of a shitty movie. (To be fair, nothing good opens on Halloween weekend.) This is a place for special dates and affluent couples, with under-21 viewers prohibited. Quantum of Solace, the new 007 picture, is certainly livelier than Pride and Glory, but it's hard to see many couples buying the theater's special Quantum package. The theater debuts at what seems the worst possible time for premium goods and services, and the whole venture might better fit Pacific Place or Bellevue Square.When I asked the Gold Class concierge about its James Bond promotion, he said 200 seats had already been reserved for Quantum two weeks before opening. By my math, that's already about $28,000, which rents a lot of DVDs and buys a lot of takeout food.Price Check

  Ketel One martini $7

  Crab cakes $17

  Burger duo $17

  Mushroom-brie pizza $16 bmiller@seattleweekly.com

 
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