Regal Hamilton Place 8 joins the luxury movie theater trend

Staff Photos by Doug Strickland
photo Special prices for tickets and concessions will be offered during the grand re-opening of the Regal 8 at Hamilton Place theater.

If you go

› What: Regal Cinemas Hamilton Place 8 grand opening› When: Preview events, Monday-Wednesday, Sept. 5-7; Grand opening, Friday, Sept. 9› Where: 2000 Hamilton Place Blvd.› Admission: $3 for preview events› Online:

Sit back and help out

Proceeds from the three days of preview movies — Monday-Wednesday, Sept. 5-7, will go toward the Kidney Foundation of the Greater Chattanooga Area and the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga’s 7-16 Fund, which helps the educational needs of those affected by the terrorist shootings on July 16, 2015. WRCB-TV/Channel 3 is sponsoring Monday, Sept. 5, iHeart Radio is Tuesday, Sept. 6, and the Chattanooga Times Free Press is Wednesday, Sept. 7.

Even with giant TVs and great-sounding theater systems in many homes, there is still something different and exciting about seeing a movie at the local complex.

But those home-based theaters offer their own advantages: People can watch movies for free, get their snacks for free (well, yeah, they have to buy them first at the store) and stop and start the film when the bathroom calls.

In this new world where people sometimes must be peeled out of their living rooms, movie theaters must make their experience even more special - improved digital pictures, comfortable chairs, specialty foods, a waitstaff to bring you food and drinks, easier ticketing options.

The Regal Hamilton Place 8 theater at the mall is ready to drop its bait in the water. The theater, which closed in August 2015 for renovations, reopens Monday and will feature, among other things, king-size recliners with padded footrests and electric controls to help find the most comfortable position for your back.

To celebrate the reopening, the theater will have three days of preview films with $3 tickets, $3 popcorn and $3 drinks. The official grand opening is Friday, Sept. 9, and, between Sept. 9 and 15, an admission ticket will get movie-goers a free small popcorn and small drink.

"We are excited to bring our luxury recliners to the new Regal Hamilton Place theater," says Richard Grover, vice president of marketing and communications at Regal Entertainment Group, based in Knoxville. "Guests visiting this state-of-the-art entertainment destination can now kick their feet up in our brand-new recliners and enjoy the latest offerings from Hollywood."

In addition to the comfy accoutrements inside, the days of standing in line outside to buy a ticket have been replaced with online or smartphone ticket buying and rewards clubs that offer special pricing or priority seating for special events such as blockbuster premieres or concerts.

Noshing on popcorn or chocolate-covered raisins has also been replaced in some theaters with higher-end dining experiences. Oh, the raisins and popcorn are still a big part of going to the movies but, in some places, you can choose between a variety of popcorn flavors such as caramel and nacho cheese.

"Most theater chains are creating destination theaters," Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for entertainment viewership company Rentrak, told the Times Free Press last August. Movie-goers will "spend an evening and have a complete night out from one destination."

At Carmike's Majestic 12 in downtown Chattanooga, for example, you can mix your own soft drink from 120 flavors from the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines or order a spinach-artichoke dip and specialty sandwich in the Ovation Club, a separate theater space with a higher ticket price - $3 to $5 more - a bottomless bowl of popcorn as well as burgers, pizza, desserts, sandwiches and soft drinks. Oh, and beer and wine.

Theater chain AMC, which bought Carmike Cinemas for $1.1 billion in March, is opening more high-end theaters nationwide to create a "dinner and a movie" experience in one location, Corporate Communications Director Andy DiOrio told the San Diego Union.

"We understand that the couch can be the biggest competitor," he explained.

Chattanooga's Arch Willingham and his wife, Christine, enjoy going to the Majestic in part because of the amenities.

"We've always enjoyed going to the theater downtown because it's close to downtown businesses [like restaurants], the seats are comfortable, the place is clean and they are super friendly.

"My wife also ranks popcorn much higher than she does me and there's some kind of deal where they get popcorn for a year for some discount if you bring your own bucket (or something like that) and that seems to be another magnet for getting us to go there."

Bob Moore and Ann Ball also are regular movie-goers and, while they say they appreciate comfortable chairs, a great picture and quality sound, it's the movie itself - well, the snacks, too - that draw them.

"It's fresh popcorn and good movies that make me go to the movies," Ball says. "The recliners are fine, but they are not what draws me and, honestly, some are so big for the big guys that they can be too big for a small woman.

"For me, I just like movies and being in that big dark room and hearing that big sound. I'm a sucker for movies," she adds.

Ball sees a movie every Friday, while Moore says he is very selective and only goes when there's a film that he has vetted and wants to see.

"I read every review and do my research," he says. "I don't want to give up two hours and be disappointed."

He also only goes for cheaper matinee showings several days after opening day. He'd prefer to watch in an empty theater, if truth be told.

"I can't have someone sitting behind me," he says. "I like an empty or almost-empty theater.

"I think a theater should be for watching a film and taking in every sound and visual and not having even one distraction," he says. "I'm all for comfort, and movie theaters need to compete with home theaters, but certain things like specialty foods and drinks and service are too much. Why can't it just be about the movie or film experience?"

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.