Commitment to Guest Service Drives Cutting-Edge Technology at Melbourne’s Premiere Theatres
Do moviegoers really notice or appreciate a brighter image or better sound? Can patrons pick up on the difference in resolution between 2 million or 8 million pixels on screen?
While the average person may not be able to pinpoint exactly why a film looks or sounds so good, they know when they’re having a positive movie watching experience, and that’s what matters, say the folks at Premiere Theaters at The Oaks in Melbourne.
Pete Woods, a partner in Premiere Theaters, chalks it up to human nature. “If you go into a movie and there’s flawless, bright projection, nobody’s going to say, ‘Gosh, there’s no scratches, there’s no jitters.’ People are just paying attention to their date or to the film.” Nevertheless, said Woods, “It’s what we’ve got to do.”
In this case, “doing it right” means a commitment to offering patrons the latest and greatest in cinema technology and the best possible guest service. In 2005, Premiere Theaters became one of the first theaters in the world to install digital 3D equipment. In 2007, it became the first theater in the world to use Dolby Digital Cinema systems in every auditorium. Now, the theater has upgraded once again with the installation of state-of-the-art Barco 23B and 32B 4K projectors, the latter of which holds a Guinness World Record as the world’s brightest projector.
In the movie business, the brighter the better, explained Murrish. “With projection technology and in particular with 3D, light comes at a premium. If you don’t have enough light on screen, you can’t tell what’s going on. It’s just dim and it’s not as much fun to watch. These projectors are like flamethrowers. They have so much light, we actually have to turn them down.”
Much like a sports car, replacement parts for the powerful projectors are expensive. “Typically the bigger the lamp, the shorter the life,” Woods explained, but when it comes to quality, he refuses to compromise. “We don’t like to cut corners anywhere. We’re fanatics when it comes to putting light on the screen.”
General manager Jim Murrish summed it up, “If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right.”
As well as more light, the new 4K projectors also offer four times higher resolution on the screen than the 2K industry standard. That means 8.8 million pixels versus 2.2 million pixels. “There isn’t any better equipment available on the market today,” Woods said.
When the movie industry is ready to release films in high frame rate, Premiere Theaters stands ready and waiting to play them. To date, “The Hobbit” has been the only movie filmed in the 48-frames-per-second (FPS) speed, and that version was only released to selected theaters during the holiday season.
Building a Legacy
The commitment to offering the latest and greatest in movie quality began 10 years ago. Formerly owned by Regal Cinemas, the theater had fallen into a state of disrepair and had lost considerable market share to other area theaters before Pete Woods and Rob Kurrus partnered to bring it back to life in 2003. An extensive remodel included the addition of a second floor and balcony, luxurious stadium seating in each of the 10 auditoriums or “houses” and a combined ticket and concessions area that saves customers from waiting in two separate lines. “I guess we just have a problem with lines,” joked Woods.
From the beginning, Woods and Kurrus wanted their guests to have a voice in creating “their theater.” They asked seat manufacturers to send samples, then lined the lobby with seating options and asked guests to vote for their top pick. The winner? An oversized rocker with retractable arm rests.
“Everything we’ve done, we’ve tried to be on the cutting edge, state-of-the art,” Murrish explained. “We want to bring the very best experience we can to our customers. Over the last 10 years, that’s driven everything we’ve done.”
In 2012, the Premiere team experienced a tragic loss when Kurrus and two theater managers, Justin Gaines and Chris Franklin, died in an airplane accident. Woods and Murrish spent many months looking for ways to honor the memory of the three men, and soon realized the best legacy was to continue on the path of innovation.
While Woods speaks fondly of each auditorium, he is most proud of House 10, the theater’s largest with 300 seats. In the past year, Premiere installed a larger, high-tech silver screen and screen frame, along with the world’s brightest projector. Those improvements, along with the comfortable rockers, and coming soon, high frame rate films, make for an unparalleled movie watching experience. And that, he feels, “is the best way to remember our friends.”
“We want people to be able to come out, have a good dinner, go see a movie, come back afterwards and have dessert or coffee. People will always want to have a night out. We want to make it the best night out that we can.”
More than Just Movies
The theater’s commitment to guest satisfaction is readily apparent at the concession stand, where customers can not only purchase their tickets but can also choose from not-so-traditional movie fare including chicken fingers, curly fries, churros, all-natural fruit smoothies, gourmet coffees, house-made glazed nuts, fresh caramel corn, Grimaldi chocolate covered potato chips, and of course, Orville Redenbacher popcorn.
Guests also can purchase their tickets from one of two freestanding kiosks or buy them online at Oaks10.com or Fandango.com, without paying an additional online convenience fee. “We don’t feel like that’s something our customers should have to pay for,” Woods reasoned. “They don’t even have to print a ticket,” added Murrish. “They can just show their phone to the ticket clerk who simply scans the online bar code.”
Outside the theater, food options include Pane E Vino Italian restaurant and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and The Oaks is seeking an operator for an upscale dining concept for which the plaza has already created an outdoor dining terrace. These expanded dining options are yet another way to enhance their customers’ overall entertainment experience, believes Woods.