Anyone who’s ever let out a big “harumph!” at movie theatre patrons munching on Burger King and Taco Bell during a flick isn’t going to like this. Beginning Dec. 10, Cineplex Odeon is poised to allow alcohol in designated auditoriums at Varsity Cinema, pending approval from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. Booze is currently served in their licensed lounge area, and if they are allowed to proceed with this pilot project, you could knock one back in one of their 40-person VIP theatres (where you pay a $5 premium to enjoy roomier seats and be served like a king).
We uptight puritans have just a few questions. Are they planning on beefing up security to prevent minors from scoring drinks? Who’s going to make sure people don’t come out of Quantum of Solace completely sloshed, then speed home and crash into a meridian? And most importantly, will allowing people to get liquored up turn that big loud-talking, text-messaging, movie-ruining asshole beside you into an even bigger loud-talking, text-messaging, movie-ruining asshole?
Cineplex spokesperson Pat Marshall sounds weary from fielding questions loaded with “misinformation” all day. “We’ve been serving alcohol in many of our theatres across the country without incident for many years. This is just an extension of our preexisting services.” Marshall emphasizes that theatre staff are Smart Serve–certified, meaning they’re trained to spot underage drinkers and potential drunk drivers a mile away, and the VIP auditoriums are strictly 19+. “People ought to be more upset about what goes on at the ACC, with adults drinking around children.”
Contrary to some media reports, the move isn’t intended to boost revenue for a struggling chain, according to Marshall. Despite the downloading trend and this recession thingie that is supposedly going on, the theatre industry is enjoying one of its best years to date, with last summer setting box-office records. “People need escapism in times of recession, and they tend to pull back on spending money on hundred-dollar concerts and hockey games and go to movies instead. Where else can you enjoy a $100 million experience for $10?” (Seems to us ticket prices are usually higher than that, but fair enough.)
Just as patrons already “vote at the box office” to show whether they like a certain movie, says Marshall, now they can vote at the bar. “They can either buy a drink or not buy a drink, and that will let us know if they like the idea or not.” If it goes through, the trial period is expected to run until Nov. 30, 2009. Hey, it seems to work in Alberta.
Poster of Strange Brew via Dr. Z’s.