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What's a premium seat worth to you, Winnipeg?

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The premium seats will be akin to those at McGillivray's VIP Cinemas in Winnipeg.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

The premium seats will be akin to those at McGillivray's VIP Cinemas in Winnipeg. Photo Store

Would you pay an extra $2 for the privilege of getting better seats in a movie theatre?

The average Winnipegger would likely say, "That kind of thing might go over in Toronto..."

In fact, Toronto is exactly the place where Cineplex is planning a pilot project at a single auditorium in the Varsity Cinemas at the corner of Bay and Bloor streets. Movie patrons will be asked to pony up two extra bucks for the prerogative of sitting in the prime middle rows.

It helps the seats will literally be better than the other seats, akin to the larger, leatherette club seats in McGillivray's VIP Cinemas here in Winnipeg.

Pat Marshall, Cineplex vice-president of investor relations, explains the rationale for the project in a phone interview from Toronto, saying the strategy comes as a result of the way Canadian moviegoers have embraced the reserved-seating option at Cineplex's VIP, Ultra AVX and Imax theatres.

"People love the fact that they can book a reserved seat," Marshall says. "So we asked if there was another way that, for a nominal charge, we could offer this and see if it was something they liked."

Like Cineplex's other innovations, the idea will be tested, in this case in a single cinema in the Toronto market later this year. It remains to be seen if the idea would ever make it to Winnipeg.

But if it did, would Winnipeggers support that kind of thing? While re-asserting that no such plan is in the works for local theatres, Marshall thinks they would.

"I think for some of our guests in our Winnipeg market, it will absolutely be a welcome addition to the offerings we provide," Marshall says.

Bear in mind: Pat Marshall is no out-of-touch Torontonian. She spent the first quarter-century of her life in Winnipeg's North End and her cultural frame of reference includes Jeanne's cakes and Salisbury House nips.

And she has a point. Winnipeggers' legendary thriftiness has not been in evidence at Cineplex's McGillivray multiplex, where Marshall says the premium VIP cinemas are outperforming that location's non-premium cinemas.

The pricier reserved-seating options at Polo Park's Imax Theatre and St. Vital's AVX cinema are also doing brisk business.

Hence, premium seats in regular auditoriums might work "for some," she says. "It's not for all."

I suggest to Marshall that Winnipeggers might be more amenable to getting discounts for less desirable seats, such as those at the far end of the first or second rows.

"Your definition of a prime seat could be very different from mine," she responds.

"I remember speaking to filmmakers early in my career and hearing that your selection of a seat depends on your age.

When you're young, you want to sit close to the screen and be right in the middle of it. And as you age, you tend to move further back. By the time, you're a senior, you want to move as far back as possible.

"So middle seats are not always the first choice for all."

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

What do you think about paying $2 more for premium movie seats? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 16, 2014 D2

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About Randall King

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

His dad was Winnipeg musician Jimmy King, a one-time columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press. One of his brothers is a playwright. Another is a singer-songwriter.

Randall has been content to cover the entertainment beat in one capacity or another since 1990.

His beat is film, and the job has placed him in the same room as diverse talents, from Martin Scorsese to Martin Short, from Julie Christie to Julia Styles. He has met three James Bonds (four if you count Woody Allen), and director Russ Meyer once told him: "I like your style."

He really likes his job.

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