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Cinepolis-Jupiter-Interiors
Cinepolis Jupiter Interiors. © Jack Bates Photography

For many years movie theaters trumpeted the bigger screens, 3D iMax, and better, crisper sound, while jamming more screens into the megaplexes. The last major improvement was stadium seating so that big haired or big hatted person in front of you wasn’t blocking your view. What remained the same was the cheesy neon lit black lobby with industrial carpeting, hard benches to sit on and the usual popcorn and candy and soda, then add in noisy kiddie video game machines for a truly less than sophisticated night out. No wonder home theaters and staying in has been so popular.

But now a new breed of theaters aims to change all that with the grand opening of Cinepolis in Jupiter and iPic in Boca Raton.

As movies theaters go luxe, Cinepolis opened July 2nd across from the new Harbourside complex after gutting and totally rebuilding the sticky old Paragon Cinema that was there for decades. It has 50,000 square feet, 14 screens and 1,460 seats. That’s Cinepolis Jupiter by the numbers, but that only tells part of the story.

The lobby at Cinepolis Jupiter
The lobby at Cinepolis Jupiter
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I got a tour opening week by manager Mike Reed, who was previously a restaurant manager.

“This is really an upscale restaurant with full bar that shows movies,” he enthuses as he leads me around the lush lobby with wood paneled walls, chandeliers and slate floors. “I can’t think of it any other way because the emphasis is on providing more of a quality dining out experience while you see a great new film.”

The lobby is more like a hotel, with a full bar and flat screens showing sports and news. The ticket counter is set against the back wall, a full bar with stools and high tables sits against one wall. Leather couches and overstuffed chairs dot the space, inviting lounging without even having to buy a ticket.

“We are welcome to people just coming in for a drink or coffee or lunch without seeing a film. We have wifi and lots of seats. It’s a whole new concept that I think people are going to enjoy,” Reed says.

The space is divided in half, as 6 of the 14 screens are “Cinepolis Luxury Cinemas” auditoriums where audiences enjoy fully reclining brown leather seats and swiveling glass tables with cup holders. With the touch of a button, the seat reclines and a wait staff takes orders on a wireless tablet from a gourmet menu and specialty cocktail list that is at every seat. You run a tab like at a bar. The seats are spacious and wide and the armrest in between can be raised up for a date night. There are only 50 seats per theater, giving a much more private feel to the experience.

Lighted-drink-menu-at-Cinepolis
Lighted drink menu at Cinepolis

The other side of the theater has 8 screening room theaters that feature comfortable seating and access to the same menu and the lobby bar but the chairs are more side by side without the tables in between every two seats. Menu offerings at Cinepolis locations include sushi, artisan cheese plates and chocolate fondue as well as themed cocktails, and flavored popcorns like Cheddar or Sriracha that come in paper lined cones tucked into spiral wire holders. Everything is designed better and the whole place has that new car smell.

Cinepolis started in Mexico of all places in 1971, and is still owned by the same family. It’s now the 4th largest movie chain in the country.

“Our other goal here is to have special events,” says Promotions Manager Erick Proenza, who also works with the Cinepolis Theater in Coconut Grove.” We can have private parties for groups from 10 to 400, with catered food, private screenings and their own bar. In other locations we’ve had birthdays, anniversaries, corporate events, you name it. It’s a really fun, upscale atmosphere like a hotel. We have themed drinks for each film, this month we’re featuring the XXL Martini to pair with the Magic Mike XXL film, it’s Grey Goose Citron vodka with muddled raspberries. The drinks will change with every round of films.”

Tickets are pricier than at most chains, but the experience is way better.

Down in Boca Raton the IPic Theater has a similar concept going on, with the Tanzy Restaurant next door to the theater offering “grab and go” foods that can be taken into the theater. You can also purchase beer, pizzas, and special cocktails as iPic takes the art of drink making to another level. Every cocktail at iPic is crafted from fresh locally sourced ingredients from fruits to herbs and custom house made infusions. They make their own juices and mixers and specialty drinks such as Italian mojitos and show-stopping liquid nitrogen mixology prepared by award winning mixologist and sommelier Adam Seger. Food include lobster rolls, chocolate lava cake and fish tacos.

iPic-theater-at-Mizner-Park
iPic theater at Mizner Park

IPic located on the upscale Mizner Park and has 2 levels of comfortable seating in the 8 theaters that seat 50 to 86 guests. There are Premium Plus sections that seat 14 to 26 guests with in-cinema food and beverage service, digital projection, state-of-the-art technology and PowerPoint presentation capabilities for corporate meetings.

The theaters are designed with low key lighting, earth tones and quality floors, stone walls and granite counters. The black clad staff is professional and trained for more of a service oriented experience. The theater has been so successful they are looking to open another location in Delray Beach.

For unusual décor that borders on pure kitsch, the Muvico Parisian 20 at CityPlace in downtown West Palm takes the gilded cake.

Kitschy-decor-at-Muvico-CityPlace
Kitschy decor at Muvico CityPlace

With oriental carpets, grand staircases, paintings of cherubs and Grecian women in flowing togas soar high above the open atrium. There are columns and fancy ornate touches everywhere you look. It’s a slightly campy theater that feels more like a trip to Las Vegas than Italy. There is a bar and lounge on the second level but was not open on a 2 recent visits. The usual popcorn/candy/soda counters remain and lounging is not encouraged. It does have the iMax screen, new D-Box seats that shake, and they give you 3 hours free parking validation in the CityPlace lot. But it is showing some signs of age and wear.

Surrounded by upscale bars and restaurants, maybe it’s time for Muvico (now Carmike Cinemas) to redo some of it’s theaters into a more sophisticated movie going experience, a trend that is paying off handsomely at Cinepolis and IPic.

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Sandra-Schulman Sandra Schulman is an arts writer, music and film producer. Born in Miami, her work has appeared in Billboard, Variety, Rolling Stone, Ocean Drive, Country Music Magazine, The New York Daily News, News From Indian Country, and Entertainment Weekly. She was an entertainment columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for 8 years. She has authored three books on pop culture. She currently lives in West Palm Beach with her blue eyed whippet. Sandra Schulman’s column appears weekly. Contact her at sandraslink@gmail.com.

Movies Theaters Go Luxe. But Muvico at CityPlace, West Palm Beach is showing some signs of age and wear. Some changes are needed to take place.