Head to the box office, buy some popcorn and experience watching movies in a new stylish, and comfier, way.
Wehrenberg Bloomington Galaxy 14 Cinema, located at 1111 Wylie Drive, is nearly finished installing DreamLounger recliner seats to every auditorium, except one reserved for IMAX showings. The IMAX auditorium is not qualified for the renovation due to occupancy restrictions.
The completion date is Oct. 20.
The project began the middle of July and consists of three phases, each one a month long. For the first two phases, four auditoriums were shut down, and in this final one, five are closed. Each phase consists of taking out the old seats, reworking the electrical system, laying out cement and carpeting and installing the recliners.
With the push of a button, as the name suggests, moviegoers can recline their seat to their preferred level. The red, leather-like loungers include cup holders and have seven feet of legroom between the rows.
“As far as my experience goes, it’s the best seats that we have in Bloomington-Normal,” Dustin McMullen, Wehrenberg Bloomington Galaxy 14 Cinema general manager, said.
As each phase has taken up a number of auditoriums, it has affected how long films are showing at Wehrenberg Bloomington Galaxy 14 Cinema.
“Right now, you can hold a movie for three to four weeks. We’re turning over some movies after a week depending on how well they perform,” McMullen said. “We also offer Indian films. We devote at least one to two screens to that as well, so that is depending on the demand as well.”
“It comes down to having the right movies at the right spots. The last thing we want is turn people away, but unfortunately it happens,” he added.
Previously, the theater had 2,200 to 2,400 seats. When all the DreamLoungers are installed, the number drops to 1,100. The biggest auditorium will hold 116 seats, with additional ones reserved for handicapped accessible. This is at least a 60 percent decrease in seating, where auditoriums held 293 patrons previously.
However, moviegoers can now reserve their seats prior to a film’s premiere or showing. Although space is limited in auditoriums, McMullen believes “even through you’re filling less, this will drive up the demand to see movies.”
“As a consumer, if you wanted to purchase your tickets in advance, we have tickets for “Thor” right now, you can buy your tickets now knowing you’re going to be sitting in the middle of the auditorium as you want,” he explained. “As we get closer [to the premiere date], the seats are going to start from the back and fill to the front.”
“Part of the shift in the consumer purchasing throughout our company is when we do move to assigned seating and people are purchasing tickets in advance, they’re coming closer and closer to show time because they know they have their seats and they don’t have to worry about getting there so early just to get a decent seat,” he added.
Several theaters throughout the country have installed DreamLounger recliner seats, including those owned by Marcus Theatres and AMC, and while moviegoers do appreciate the comfortability, they worry about how they will enjoy a film if they do not get to pick a seat they like.
“I like the seats a lot, but the only problem is that if a theater is sold out, I would rather not see a movie than sit in the front row in a recliner chair because I feel like it is too close to actually be able to enjoy the movie,” senior mass media communication major Anthony Irsuto said.
McMullen believes that although prices are comparably higher at Wehrenberg Bloomington Galaxy 14 Cinema than other movies theaters in the Bloomington-Normal area, the shift to recliners will justify the dollar amount.
“With the IMAX, you charge more because you’re getting the IMAX experience,” he said. “Now we want to make sure that we can justify our price points by saying not only are you getting a good product on screen, but with the relaxation that you’re getting with the DreamLoungers, we want to make sure that we’re number one in town with that as well.”