National Amusements Advances Entertainment on Every Level

“My favorite part is watching people enjoy it,” says Shari Redstone, president of National Amusements, Inc. (NA), about her latest and most impressive venture to date, the new Showcase Cinema de Lux at Patriot Place in Foxborough, Mass.

“We really brought the entertainment back to the experience of going to the movies, the social component,” Redstone enthuses. “I love to see that something we have worked on for so long resulted in really creating an environment that is conducive to people getting together.”

By contrast, in the past, “theatres were really being built to get people in and out fast and for efficiency,” Redstone contends. “The whole point of going to a movie is to talk about it…how it makes you feel. Even if the conversation [then] goes in a different direction, it’s the movie that has sparked it. Yet theatres weren’t built to allow people to do that. We now have this great venue where people meet and are having fun and conversations. It’s the social aspect of what we have created that I like the best.”

While the Cinema de Lux brand (CDL) has already brought upgraded amenities and a much-enriched out-of-home experience to other National Amusements theatres across the country, not to mention the best in cinema to Latin America, the United Kingdom and Russia, the August 6, 2008 official unveiling of this 3,000-seat, 14-screen development is yet another step forward. Located at Patriot Place, a stadium primarily designed for the New England Patriots football team and major league soccer games of New England Revolution, the new multiplex and adjacent Showcase Live! entertainment venue are destined to become the anchor attraction in a 1.3 million-square-foot (121,000 sq. m.) super-regional lifestyle center. With in-theatre dining and 21+ beverage choices in four Lux Level auditoria, and exciting plans for the Live! component, as outlined in the accompanying article, it should come as no surprise that team owners, real estate developers and NA partners Robert and Jonathan Kraft laud Shari Redstone as “a brilliant visionary.”

For her part, “It’s just so much fun, it’s wonderful,” Redstone declares. “I love what I do and I work with such great people. It’s amazing to be part of something so new and creative that people seem to love so much.”
What’s not to love about a wide-open lobby, where—instead of those rather utilitarian ATMs—customers can pick up their tickets and pre-order concession items from flat-panel touch-screens sitting on cherry wood counters? (There are plenty of box-office attendants too, of course.) Behind the high-backed counter’s very elegant curves and flanked by lush greenery, the first of several seating areas awaits patrons, along with a baby grand piano. The view from the semi-circular banquettes is complete—not only for watching people but also for multiple video projections on the upper walls. (For a list of select products and technology used, please refer to our sidebar.)

As the all-covering dome harmoniously changes its richly rendered colors, Lux Level customers are greeted by a dedicated attendant before ascending to the mezzanine level. The exclusive lounge above features a full bar and private seating to enjoy, before entering the Lux Level auditoria and afterwards. As exclusively previewed by NA’s senior VP of operations Bill Towey in the March 2008 FJI, the Lux Level concept features in-theatre dining and beverage service delivered to custom-designed, super-wide pleatherette couches with moveable armrests and swivel dining trays.

The Lux Level design at Patriot Place was envisioned and executed by British architect Julian Taylor, with whom NA had worked on their U.K. sites and who also provided the overall look and style for Showcase Live! According to Redstone, “The exciting part is that we created many different seating areas—some of them have love seats, some are armchairs with low tables, others are located in a booth—so that everybody can find a place where they feel comfortable… The spaces are really personalized and even though it is a big theatre, it becomes a very intimate environment.”

By far the best seats in the house, at least outside the auditorium, are found flanking the class railing of the Lux Level. Never has a movie theatre lobby looked so good from a bar stool. But even downstairs, on either side of the over 100-foot-long center concession stand (30.5 m.), project architects SPG (3) created additional waiting areas: a lounge-style living room with flat-panel monitors, sofas and chairs on the left side, and, for truly enjoying the wide selection of available snack choices, table and chairs on the right.

Representing a more upscale yet still relaxed version of the popular Chatters at other CDL locations, Studio 3 is the new full-service bar and restaurant concept featuring American appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, pizza and more. While the latter all come from the quick-service specialty concessions counter—Lux Level and Showcase Live! have their own kitchens—the accompanying choice of beverage includes beer, wine, top-shelf liquor and numerous signature drinks. Two dedicated function rooms complement the hospitable ensemble that also includes more traditional bench seating throughout. (For the opening, one room was set up for a business meeting and the other for a birthday party.)

Just reading about all those options—and we haven’t even addressed all the digital signage, nor the game arcade—may overwhelm the reader. “The world is full of choices,” Redstone believes. “People will tend to find their own spaces—whether they will get into the habit of going to the Lux Level bar or to the one downstairs, whether they want a more private sitting area or whether they want to be part of a group. Hopefully, every time they come back, our guests will discover something new and exciting. At the same time they can also have their very own place of comfort. It’s finding that balance which makes Patriot Place so unique,” she concludes. “It is about creating a community entertainment destination and making Patriot Place the only place to go.”

Going forward as a company, “whether in the United States, in the U.K., in Russia or anywhere else, people have made it clear what they want,” Redstone asserts. Namely, “they are looking for a quality entertainment experience and they are willing to pay for it. Anything we build that doesn’t give them what they want would be a mistake. So, in the affirmative, I absolutely believe in this concept [and] there will be more retrofits where possible.” However, she cautions, “it is difficult to create this entire experience without building it from scratch.” Despite the “tremendous success” of the Lux Level upgrade at Showcase Randolph, Mass., “we really didn’t have the ability to do a bar and seating arrangements like we have here at Patriot Place. It’s a different use…that makes it hard to turn the space into something so very special like this.” Nonetheless, given its portfolio of prime locations, NA will certainly continue “to go back in to do whatever we can to upgrade the experience.”

After all, she continues, “the Lux Level seats are always the first seats to be sold out. We have the highest per-caps that are four and five times [those] of our traditional movie theatres. People really enjoy it and this all adds so much to the experience of watching a movie with others.”

Going Lux also adds a premium of 20 to 25% to real estate and construction costs, Redstone admits. “But it is absolutely worth every penny. At the end of the day, people have a lot of choices. I think they will pay for a quality moviegoing experience and they will pay for a discount experience… There is really no place for mediocrity. You either have to dream big and build big or you have to realize that you are really just going to be operating a core moviegoing experience.”

For Redstone, “going all the way is the excitement of showbiz, because the best showbiz is people interacting with each other. I love watching people enjoying themselves and this is the business I want to be in. It is different from the core moviegoing business because we are creating an experience and a destination. That’s the excitement of it to me.”