Cinemas add adult beverages to their menus to help them compete

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Cinemas add adult beverages to their menus to help them compete

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Ty Greenlees
Rave Cinemas Dayton South 16 at 195 Mall Woods Drive off Ohio 741 near the Dayton Mall is now serving adult beverages, including wine, beer, and frozen spirits-based drinks, as part of a test-marketing effort to determine whether the strategy will spread to other Rave Cinemas.

In the spotlight

The drinks menu at Rave Cinemas Dayton South:

DRAFT BEER ($6 for 20-ounce cup)

Bud Light, Sam Adams Seasonal, Yuengling Lager and Yuengling Light

WINE ($7 for 7-ounce pour)

Woodbridge Chardonnay, Woodbridge Merlot, Woodbridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Beringer White Zinfandel, Beringer Red Moscato

SPECIALTY DRINKS ($8 for a 16-ounce cup)

Frozen Bacardi and Coke

Frozen Margarita

Source: Rave Cinemas Dayton South

Cinemas in the Miami Valley and southwest Ohio are turning to alcoholic beverages to attract adult moviegoers, boost concession sales and compete against an ever-expanding menu of cable television and Netflix-style at-home entertainment options.

Officials at Dallas-based Rave Cinemas — the fifth-largest American theater chain that owns or manages 62 theaters with 939 screens in 21 states — are closely watching the most recent addition to the list of cinemas offering adult beverages that moviergoers can take with them into theaters: Rave Cinemas Dayton South at 195 Mall Woods Drive near the Dayton Mall started serving wine, beer, frozen margaritas and frozen rum and Cokes more than two months ago.

The Rave Cinemas at The Greene in Beavercreek previously had a bar that offered alcohol, and in the spring of 2011, it began allowing adult patrons to carry drinks purchased at its bar into a handful of its theaters on Friday and Saturday nights. The experiment worked well, and now, moviegoers at either Rave Cinemas location who have valid ID can purchase drinks and carry those drinks into any showing in any of the cinemas’ theaters, Klaene said.

“We are a pilot project here,” said Rave Dayton South General Manager Jeff Klaene. “If it works well here, where we did not previously have a bar, this model could be rolled out at other sites” in the theater chain, Klaene said.

Customer response so far has been “very positive,” Klaene said. “Guests are still amazed that they can have a drink at the movies.”

Klaene said the introduction of adult beverages has boosted concession sales, although its impact on attendance is more difficult to gauge.

“While most of our customers are driven by the type of film, we have had a few mention to us that they will be coming here from now on because of the alcohol option,” he said. “It certainly cannot hurt to offer guests as many choices as we can to keep them coming to the movies versus all of the other entertainment options out there.”

The movie industry has felt the pinch from home-theater competition: The annual number of movies attended per person in the U.S. has dropped from 5.1 to 3.9 over the past decade, according to data collected by the Motion Picture Association of America. And while 2012 is shaping up to be a strong year for movie attendance, the 2011 North American box office ticket sales dropped about 4 percent from 2010 to $10.2 billion.

Advances such as high-definition technology and larger flat-panel television screens have narrowed the sensory experience between watching movies at home and viewing them in the theater, and industry analysts say that’s contributing to the movie industry’s downward trend.

Rave isn’t the only cinema to use adult beverages to help reverse that trend:

• The Neon movie theater in downtown Dayton was the region’s pioneer, starting alcohol sales in 2002. “The response was quite positive,” said Jonathan McNeal, manager of The Neon. “And we’ve seen a huge jump in sales in the last three years. I think it’s now at the top of people’s minds, and our prices are good across the board.” The cinema offers 20 beers by the bottle — mostly craft brews — as well as four wines and a limited selection of spirits-based drinks, McNeal said.

• The Little Art Theatre in Yellow Springs started serving wine, beer and spirits about nine months ago. “We did want to be competitive with other theaters, and our members and patrons had requested it,” said Kipra Heermann, a board member of the non-profit organization that operates the Little Art. Like other non-profits, the theater is looking for ways to generate revenue and become less relaiant on donations, Heermann said. The theater serves a signature cocktail called the “Little Artini,” but Heermann declined to reveal its contents. “If they want to know, they have to come to the theater to find out,” she said, laughing.

• Showcase Cinemas in Springdale in suburban Cincinnati — part of the National Amusements theater company — has alcoholic beverages on the menu of its Chatters restaurant, but does not currently allow guests to bring drinks into theaters during movie showings, according to Showcase spokeswoman Rachel Lulay. “Our liquor license allows for serving adult beverages throughout the theater complex, but we restrict to the Chatters restaurant except for special events” such as sporting event viewings, opera events or other “alternative content,” Lulay said via email.

So far, moviegoers have been responsible about their alcohol consumption in theaters: Police in both Miamisburg, where Rave Dayton South is located, and in Beavercreek, home of The Greene’s Rave cinemas, said they have not responded to any alcohol-related calls at either theater complex since those cinemas started serving alcohol.

Klaene said Rave employees take steps to make sure there is no abuse or underage drinking in the theaters.

“We card everybody, no matter how old they are, and if someone wants to order more than one, we need to see that second person’s ID,” he said. Rave has a wristband system to help ensure no underage patrons obtain alcohol, and staff is trained to refuse to serve anyone who is already intoxicated, the cinema manager said.

Asked if the Little Art had experienced any troubling incidents related to the serving of alcoholic beverages, Heermann said, “We have had none.”

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