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(Yonhap Feature) Luxury cinema gains popularity among high-income moviegoers

All Headlines 09:00 June 17, 2007

By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, June 17 (Yonhap) -- It is not common to view a film in a posh, spacious cinema while resting on a comfortable French-made, luxury leather sofa with an endtable. It is even less common if a quality five-course meal accompanies the experience.

A new cinema equipped with a luxury restaurant is gaining popularity here among high-income movie-goers, despite its super-high ticket price.

The 30-seat theater named "Cine de Chef" has drawn over 2,000 viewers only a few months after opening in Seoul's posh southern residential area, said Kim Il-jin, a publicity official of CJ CGV, one of the country's thriving multi-screen cinema chains.

When viewers buy a ticket to the theater, located in the basement of the CGV building in Apgujeong-dong, they are first guided to a high-ceilinged Western restaurant with an upscale designer interior. After dining on a five-course meal including the main dish of their choice -- tenderloin, mutton or lobster -- they watch a film in the luxury screening room next door.

The average price for doing all this is 80,000 won (US$86) per person, more than ten times the price of an average movie ticket.

However, Kim stressed that the price is reasonable because it includes lunch or dinner served by five-star hotel chefs, parking and other services.

"Couples usually spend more than this when they go out for dinner at a luxury restaurant and a cultural performance like a musical," he said.

The average occupancy rate for weekend evenings has already reached 80 percent. Films were shown before sold-out audiences on Children's Day and Parents' Day, on May 5 and 8 respectively, when South Korean families usually enjoy picnics and other fun activities, he added.

Most of the clients are high-income businessmen in their 30s and 40s accompanied by their family members or business partners, but a growing number of young people come to see their lovers or to mark special family events, the official said.

Several films have been screened so far. Among them are two Hollywood hits, "Spiderman 3" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: At the World's End." "Hwangjiny," a Korean film about the life of a "kisaeng" or female entertainer who sang, danced, and played musical instruments for wealthy clients during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), was also screened.

Kim Seong-wu, 35, agreed that the price is not too much for company workers like himself.

"I first doubted the quality of food served by a movie theater," he said, recalling his recent visit to the theater along with his girlfriend. "But the food was really nice. It would have cost the same amount of money if I had gone to a hotel restaurant for a date."

Businesses are also big fans of the trendy theater-restaurant, with dozens of foreign and domestic firms such as BMW, Chaumet and Shinsegae Department Store reserving tickets in quantities to serve their customers, CGV's public relations officer, Kim, said.

Some, however, are critical of the popularity of the luxury theater, saying that it does nothing more than fulfill upper class people's desire to show off their wealth.

"This also explains why tickets for performances of popular foreign orchestras or musical troupes sell well here, despite their high prices amounting to hundreds of thousands of won," said Kim Jong-hui, a cultural critic. "The more expensive a ticket is, the better it sells."


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