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Some give a thumbs-down to new Ward theater service

  • ANDREW GOMES / AGOMES@STARADVERTISER.COM

    A wine and beer concession at Consolidated Theatres in Ward Village is inside a wing of the complex that contains six screens and is part of a new experience known as The Premiere. Films shown there are restricted to viewers who are at least 21.

The biggest movie theater complex in urban Honolulu recently debuted the first act in what was billed as an enhanced cinematic experience with reserved seating, wine, beer and premium food. But some moviegoers are panning the changes.

Consolidated Theatres opened what it calls Act One of The Premiere on March 18 at its 16-screen Ward Village cinema.

The company proclaimed the upgrades would further its long history of providing stellar entertainment in Hawaii. Some customers, though, are upset at how Act One has unfolded with higher ticket prices and some films that are off-limits to anyone who isn’t at least 21 years old.

“We won’t come back,” said Ginny Edmunds, a Niu Valley resident who paid $13.75 to watch “Eye in the Sky” last weekend with her husband, John, and some friends.

The Edmundses typically would have bought $8.50 tickets for seniors, but the only showings for “Eye in the Sky” last weekend at Ward were dedicated to the new six-screen Premiere wing where patrons receive reserved seats, must be at least 21 years old and may purchase wine and beer.

“We didn’t know before we got here that was going to be the choice,” Edmunds said. “We were not happy.”

The rub for the Edmundses and other customers is that some films are shown only in the Premiere wing, which bars anyone under 21 and requires those over 21 to stand in a separate line to have their ID checked and receive a wristband regardless of whether they intend to buy wine or beer.

“They didn’t give you a choice,” said John Edmunds, adding that it was ridiculous that they had to wait in the line to show ID when they qualify for senior discounts and didn’t want wine or beer.

On the same evening, Silvia and Tony Rodriguez, a young married couple from Mililani, bought tickets for “Criminal.” But after entering the theater lobby to have their IDs checked, they found out they couldn’t see the film because they were only 20. So they got a refund and headed home instead of trying to see a different movie or waiting three hours for a 10:40 p.m. showing not restricted to Premiere viewing.

The unwelcome side effects of Act One are being felt just as a rival upscale theater experience has been launched in Kapolei, where Regal Cinemas opened a 12-plex at Kapolei Commons on Thursday with creative food offerings and horizontally reclining seats with minitables and padded footrests. Regal plans to eventually sell wine and beer, too.

Consolidated, a subsidiary of California-based Reading International Inc., contends that the early response to Act One at Ward Village has been positive.

“Guests are enjoying the creative options on our menu, especially the Okonomiyaki Fries and Banh Mi Hot Dog,” Lindsey Chun-Hori, promotions and events manager for Consolidated in Hawaii, said in an emailed statement.

Pearl City resident Ashley Russell, who recently saw “Criminal,” enjoyed the Premiere offering with three friends who ordered tickets online. The reserved seating was a benefit, she said, and though her group didn’t order beer or wine, they said they appreciated watching a movie without kids in the audience.

Consolidated announced Premiere plans in January. As part of the first phase, or Act One, a premium food menu was added, along with reserved seating and a wing of six screens restricted to adults over 21 who may purchase and consume beer and wine.

New menu, local flavors

The new food menu includes four versions of french fries ($7 to $8.50), tempura fried green beans ($8), lilikoi chicken or barbecue pulled pork bowls ($8.50), chicken tenders with fries ($9), pizza ($7), edamame ($7.50) and nachos ($6.25). The banh mi hot dog ($7.50) is a beef hot dog topped with cilantro-lemon aioli, fresh jalapenos, pickled vegetables and slaw.

Glasses of wine cost $9 to $13. Beer, mostly from microbreweries, costs $8 to $9. The beverages are served in heavy plastic versions of stemless wine glasses and pint glasses.

Consolidated emailed many customers about how the new program would operate, though much of the moviegoing public remains unaware.

Also, the emailed instructions that are also posted online are oversimplified and don’t mention that a patron might have to wait in four lines — one to buy a ticket, one to have ID checked, one to order food and one to order wine or beer. The instructions also don’t mention higher ticket prices.

Nonmatinee ticket prices for Premiere screenings are $13.75, compared with regular screenings that cost $12.25 at the Ward theater and $11 to $12 at other Consolidated theaters on Oahu. Movies shown in Ward theater’s Titan XC auditorium, which features a bigger screen, better sound and wider seats, cost $17.25.

Besides prices, Premiere showings present individuals under 21, or groups that include some people under 21, with a new wrinkle to choosing which movie to watch and at what time.

Off-limits screenings

Some films are only shown in the Premiere wing. Recent examples include “The Perfect Match,” “London Has Fallen,” “Deadpool” and “The Brothers Grimsby” — all rated R.

Other films are shown in both Premiere and regular theaters, including “Barber Shop: The Next Cut,” which was recently shown at five different times on a Premiere screen and four times on a regular screen. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” was recently shown seven times on a Premiere screen and 11 times on a regular screen.

Signs at the theater advertise Premiere movies as “21+,” but ticket agents often have to explain what that involves. Even some people over 21 are being caught off guard buying tickets for a Premiere show and then not having a proper ID to get into the auditorium, according to one ticket agent.

Consolidated said the terms of its liquor license require all guests consuming beer or wine to remain in a dedicated 21-and-over area.

For customers who don’t order beer or wine, they are essentially paying more for reserved seats in the Premiere wing.

Consolidated has touch screens at each ticket window so customers can select their seats, and a seat number is printed on each ticket. In the theater, rows are lettered, and each seat is numbered by a small plaque that can’t be seen once the theater is darkened. Buying tickets online, which costs an additional $1.50, also allows customers to select seats.

Wrinkles remain

Consolidated acknowledged it might have to iron out some aspects of its Premiere program. Meanwhile, Act Two is planned for next year.

The second phase of Premiere will include more food and beverage upgrades, lobby renovations, plush oversized electric reclining seats and the addition of a second Titan XC auditorium.

Act Two improvement work is scheduled to begin at the end of this year. Consolidated did not respond to a question on whether ticket prices would rise further with Act Two, but Chun-Hori said the company’s flagship Honolulu theater will become even better.

“We are excited to share these new amenities with our guests and will be launching additional features and amenities to enhance the guest experience in 2017,” she said.

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  • What a rip. $7.50 for a hot dog??? $13.75 for a bad flick??? And they wonder why they are dying out and will soon be like drive ins.

    Go to a bar for a drink. Go to a theatre for a movie.

    • How would you combat the raise in minimum wage? Dont you think its novel that instead of lying in their own grave its admirable that consolidated is at least attempting to try different revenue streams?

      • superawesomekaratekid – I like your come-back statement – you’re right, they’re trying new stuff, give ’em credit; the public has a choice and will vote with their feet. It’s nice to see some positiveness and reality in commentary – vice the usual easy-to-do tired criticism that is the only mantra of some.

        • Modern, tech savvy people don’t even bother with theaters anymore. This is catering to the boomers, who don’t understand tech, and have money to burn. Perfect. Enjoy the frustration.

    • I say skip act 2. Go straight to act 3. A recliner in my living room. surround sound by Bose. A pause button if I need to use the bathroom. My slippers won’t stick to the floor. Armrests with only my germs. No drinking and driving afterwards. And none of my money going to yet another mainland conglomerate. Nice try consolidated, or whoever you are these days. (Isn’t it time you get rid of the Hawaiian introduction too)

      • “everything in moderation”, though…sure ‘home base’ is where we can always go to and enjoy. but there is nothing like the big screen experience. similar to live music in person, you won’t get an experience like that by listening to ‘prerecorded’ music at home, or attending live sporting events for that matter.

        Home is always one’s palace, of course, but never ever discount the the big screen / live experience as well. Either, or, both are priceless….why not do BOTH??

    • I guess this new Ward Theater is designed for the wealthy people moving into the new high-rise condos in Kaka’ako. This theater along with the new upgraded Ala Moana Bech Park, upgraded Kewalo Marina and the large Whole Foods Market will be the new playground for the rich in the heart of Honolulu. If you can’t afford it, you need to watch movies in your own neighborhood theater, or stay home and watch TV.

      • True. In the end, it’s the politicians and developers trying to put in the amenities to attract the high tech workforce and hopefully their companies. From what I understand, there is research that shows Hawaii scores very low in this area. Surf, sand and Hawaiiana mean little to this workforce. No pro sports team, but at least want live concerts, musicals, fancier restaurants, movie theaters, etc. Why do you think Blaisdell is being pushed for redevelopment? Too small and old to stage concerts with current artists and musicals. We’re lucky to get Book of Mormon.

  • While I would not indulgence in something like this (it’s all about the “benjamins” for me), my daughter and son in law enjoy this little luxury as part of their ‘date night” sans the kiddos. If there’s a market for this, it’s cool and to each their own.

  • $ Cost on Act One, $ Cost of snacks a somewhat confusing policy and implementation of same. Personally wife and I have opted to avoid the going to Consolidated and Regal cinemas for quite some time. Behavior somewhat annoying (i.e. use of handheld devices, talking during showing, sick people who don’t know how to cover up…) In my opinion, customer traffic to the theatres have been going down and what you see in terms of “value added” services are a means to draw back customers and increase profits…however, I don’t believe it is enough the offset the reasons for the diminish in #’s and profit (don’t forget overhead; minimum wage +). Hence, we wait patiently and view same in the comfort of home theatre when available…by the way some of the classics are worth viewing in the meantime…just saying.

  • For every crybaby who whines about the new 21+ service, there are at least two more people who love it. I never go to a theater unless it’s at someone else’s invitation because of how terrible it is to be watching a movie in a room with young people, especially babies (Hire a babysitter, what’s wrong with you?). If someone brings up to me that they want to watch a movie, I will do everything I can to direct our visit to this Ward theater.

  • Does anyone remember the Inter-Island flights, when THE MOKES, after consuming multiple cocktails, INEVETABLY–would begin an argument and start POUNDING on one another? “Coming to a Theatre, near YOU!” It might be prudent to just provide permanent parking-stalls for several EMS Ambulances on the premises.

  • With the quality of movies lately on a downward spiral and the cost as high as $17.25 I am less and less compelled to bother. Wait in 3-4 lines? Nah… I was happy with a good movie and some popcorn, even though the popcorn is $7+ now. I’m sure that extra $$ isn’t going to anybody other than management/CEO either…

  • So, those who are going for this….this is all happening in the same place where people are complaining how hard it is to pay the rising rents? Same place? Same people?

  • Me and my wife go to weekday afternoon matinees for $7.50 each where there’s almost no one in the theater than with the money we saved, enjoy an early dinner afterwards at a nice restaurant. The “premium” experience for us is enjoying the movie AND a nice dinner for less than what you would have to pay to get the overpriced drink and food in the theater.

  • There are plenty of restaurants around the Ward Theaters where people can eat before or after a show. Many people were already doing that. They can watch a movie without continuously drinking and chowing down. Besides, drunk people in movies can be a problem. Consolidated just wants to compete with the restaurants.

  • We gave up on trying to go to a movie here because we couldn’t find a parking space — Sounds like we might have been lucky that we didn’t find one.

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