On the Dubai Metro, you have silver and gold class for commuters. Depending on your balance, the customer service you receive will differ at the bank. And when taking to the skies, travellers are neatly divided into classes based on the price of their tickets. But would you pay a premium for a more comfortable seat at the movies? In recent years, going to see a film has evolved well beyond the packed theatre, the sticky floors and that noisy neighbour barking into his mobile phone. A new breed of cinema has emerged that offers luxuries such as fully reclining seats, tiered rows for unobstructed viewing and a more intimate, private theatre. Moviegoers can even have food delivered to their seat, with popcorn, burgers and hot dogs silently delivered to your private table. Of course, all of these perks come with a price. For those who are serious about movies, Jeffrey Todd reviews three theatre experiences.
CineStar Gold Class
The set Although the company operates 50 screens across the UAE, only five are classified as Gold Class, or "the ultimate cinema experience". Located in a separate area of the movie complex, viewers are led through a separate entrance and into a private lounge area and concession stand.
The props Gold Class moviegoers are escorted to their assigned seats by ushers with tiny flashlights. Each one is spacious, tiered and distinct, so you're in no danger of bumping legs or straining to see over someone's head. The term "seat" should be used loosely, as it reclines entirely with an elevated foot rest. There's also a table with a small button, allowing you to ring servers if you wish to order popcorn, or perhaps a gelato.
The big picture There are only a handful of seats in this exclusive cinema. So if you want to separate yourself from the crowd and ensure a quiet, comfortable movie experience, Gold Class is the ticket. Keep in mind, however, that only specific films can be seen in these theatres and there are fewer time slots.
The set Relatively new on the movie scene, Reel is "the first boutique cinema in the UAE", marketing itself as a business-class theatre. Unfortunately, it's only available in Dubai at the moment, with venues in Dubai Mall and Marina Mall.
The props There is a comfortable lounge and ushers will escort you to your seat as if you're attending a stage performance. The seats are much larger than in a conventional theatre. But it's important to note that, while they do recline, they will not stay there if you're not putting weight on it. There is also no elevated foot rest. You can have food brought to your seat, but there is no button on your table to summon a server. You'll have to do it the old-fashioned way.
The big picture Reel offers many of the merits of Gold Class, with a very comfortable seat and far fewer people in the theatre. If price is an issue, the business-class cinema could be a more reasonable option. Want more? Check out the Platinum Movie Suites, available only at the Dubai Mall location. For extra charge, you'll have access to larger, more comfortable leather seats and full butler service.
The set As the largest chain of cinemas in the Middle East, Grand Cinemas has 19 multi-complexes in the region, housing more than 165 screens, with plans to bump that number up to 212 by the end of 2011.
The props The venue is what you might expect in a conventional theatre - without all the bells and whistles. The screen is large and the seats are adequate. And because it appeals to a wider audience, there are plenty of deals out there for avid moviegoers. VIP cardholders at Mashreq Bank, for example, benefit from a buy-one-get-one-free promotion at the box office. The bank also offers a MasterCard, whereby you receive a 50 per cent discount on all tickets, up to a maximum of eight tickets a month.
The big picture If luxuries aren't important to you, or your main criteria is price, then the standard movie experience is the way to go. Plus, unlike the more exclusive cinemas, you'll be spoiled for choice when it comes to the variety of films and show times.