Reclining seats, bar added to Dennis, Falmouth

SOUTH DENNIS – What would it take for Cape Codders to return to theaters in huge numbers? Plush reclining seats? Alcoholic beverages in a full bar? Have dinner while they watch? Places you can reserve?

These are all amenities Bill Hanney is betting nearly $1 million on for a phased renovation of 10-screen entertainment theaters to transform the long-running movie theater by this fall into a Mid-Cape outlet hub. for couples, groups of friends and families.

According to his plans, what was a large video game area should become an on-site bar/café, with around 30 seats at tables for people to gather for drinks and food before or after a movie, said Hanney. . Or patrons can order beer, wine, cocktails and food to take with them into the theater, to be set up on their individual trays on the recliners at the location they have pre-booked.

Bill Hanney is converting the 10-screen Entertainment Cinemas in Dennis to have Cape Town's first reclining seats, and plans to add a bar and cafe to the complex.  He is pictured sitting in one of the new recliners that will be installed at the Falmouth Cinema Pub.

“A theater of destination”

Hanney said he applied for a full liquor license and would bring a machine to mix a variety of cocktails to customers’ specifications, with ID required at a few different stages to purchase. There will also be sound and picture quality improvements in cinemas during the refurbishment, although the existing equipment, he said, is already of superior quality.

“The plan is to become a destination theater. … I want it to be the best theater on Cape Cod,” Hanney said, noting Cape’s central location, ample parking and easy freeway access to its location next to the Patriot Square shopping center on the route 134. “You want to be the best mousetrap in town when you can and that’s what I hope to do with this place.”

National trends

The transformation, and the addition of recliners to the Falmouth Cinema Pub which Hanney also owns, would make these two cinemas the first in Cape Town to join the movie trend of recliners, reserved seating and expanded refreshments. These add-ons had become a staple in Boston and other parts of Massachusetts and across the country before the pandemic shutdowns, with giant movie theater chains AMC Entertainment and Regal Cinemas first announcing multi-year plans for widespread renovations of recliners in 2014.

Global box office receipts in 2021 were still 48% below the average of the past three years before the pandemic, according to media analytics firm Gower Street. Film industry analysts have said giving moviegoers what they can’t get at home, citing reclining seats and dining options in particular, could be key to bringing in people – especially fans. older – to the wards, according to several recent national reports.

“The (movie) industry today has changed a lot, and the pandemic kind of did that to us, which is really unfortunate,” Hanney said. “It taught everyone to look at entertainment in a different way. They all bought the big screen 70-inch TVs and all watched the movies at home. And the movie companies did something that they wanted to do forever” by releasing movies on streaming services.

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“They realized movie theaters weren’t a big part of their game plan anymore,” he said.

Hanney noted that the studios have backed off somewhat, but not enough in his view — like when the movies he plays in his theaters are also already available to watch at home. “We were a semi-struggling industry before the pandemic.”

Owner Bill Hanney plans to convert a former Entertainment Cinemas arcade in South Dennis into a bar and cafe, with booze and dinners customers can eat there or take to their movie theater seats.

For long supporting his plans, Hanney praises his owners, the Chamberlain family of Dennis, who helped him build the theater complex 30 years ago, and called for him to return after the property was became Hoyt Cinemas for several years. The Chamberlains saw it through the conversion to stadium seating in the mid-2000s and were also “magnificent” and sympathetic owners during the pandemic shutdown, Hanney said. “You couldn’t have a more committed family to Dennis.”

What about recliners?

Falmouth moviegoers will actually see the new recliners first, and refurbishment is expected to begin there by the end of the month, either closing two cinemas at once or briefly closing the entire theatre, Hanney told the week. last. Then the team will likely move to flagship Dennis in September, closing two theaters at once and keeping others open until everything is ready – he hopes – by the busy movie season. vacation.

Adult food and drink was already part of the equation at his Falmouth Cinema Pub until before the pandemic, but Hanney said he was unable to get enough help in the kitchen to let this happen since it reopened. Converting that four-screen theater to recliners and refurbishing the kitchen could cost an additional $400,000, Hanney said.

“What I want to marry there is the cozy movie concept and the full-service concept,” he said, while South Dennis’ menu will feature more pub-style fare.

Hanney also owns Edgartown Cinemas on Martha’s Vineyard, but said he has no plans to add recliners there at this time.

A sign at Entertainment Cinemas in South Dennis announces the new reclining seats that are expected to be installed in all theaters by the holiday season.

What’s in the other movie theaters

The closest cinema to Cape Town with large reclining seats was the Flagship Premium Cinemas Wareham. That location, however, closed in January when energy company Eversource purchased the Doty Street property. In fact, Hanney purchased hundreds of no longer needed recliners from Wareham to install in his Falmouth cinema.

In the greater area, the AMC Dartmouth Mall 11 theater also offers recliners. The only Massachusetts location where Regal Cinemas, which has movie theaters in Hyannis and Mashpee, offers recliners at its Fenway Theater in Boston, according to its website. Cape Cinema in Dennis has upgraded to seating during the pandemic shutdown, but not to recliners.

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There are recliners, however, at some of Hanney’s movie properties in other areas: Before executing that plan on Cape Cod, the part-time Brewster resident similarly remodeled movie theaters as it owns in Leominster and South Kingstown, Rhode Island.

And the changes there have already succeeded in attracting bigger crowds, Hanney said. He admitted he was skeptical of the formula, however, when he first considered it.

Fewer seats, more screenings, same ticket prices

Because recliners are long seats, they take up twice the space of a typical movie theater chair. So the number of people who can see each movie screening should be reduced by about 50%, Hanney said. (However, he initially plans to leave some of the usual seating at some Dennis theaters to accommodate large crowds on rainy summer days.)

South Dennis’ 10 screens now have about 1,500 seats, so with that number nearly halved, Hanney said, he also expects to add more sitting hours — especially for big movies — so that people can make the reservations they want.

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“This formula may sound crazy because it sounded like it to me, but you’re spending millions of dollars to cut your seats in half to do twice the business. And that’s what happened,” a he said. “Logic doesn’t apply to this, but every theater that’s done (the change) has done (this kind of business). So who am I to turn the tide?”

Hanney said he was not considering changing prices for customers, which are now $13.75 for an adult ticket.

“We don’t have to change the prices because if you’re the best mousetrap in town, you get everyone. Your increase is in capacity, not price,” Hanney said. “I don’t think with all the competition in the industry with movie companies that you need to make it harder for people to come and see a movie. It has always been an industry that has been affordable for ordinary people.

Contact Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll at [email protected] Follow on Twitter: @KathiSDCCT.

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