The hype has been running pretty high on the new iPic Theater officially opening November 6 in River Oaks District. So when I arrived Thursday afternoon for a preview and a visit with iPic Entertainment president and CEO Hamid Hashemi, I confess to being a bit skeptical.
Skepticism misplaced. And the hype is not hype at all.
The eight auditoriums, seating a total of around 500 movie-goers, are the plushest thing I've seen since flying business class on Emirates Air. Hashemi would beg to disagree. He compares the premium seats (and there is nothing less than premium) to flying first class and the premium-plus seating as flying private.
With 11 locations around the country, iPic Houston is taking even greater strides in the luxury arena by including a restaurant/bar in the theater and introducing a new form of seating — the pod.
Chillin' in the pod
"This is the first theater in our company that we have this pod design that you are looking at," he said. "We've been working on this design for a little over a year."
We sat in one of the cozy, comfy seating arrangements for two on the glove-leather loungers, which recline to about 30 degrees. Premium-plus seating amenities include a storage area for shoes and handbags, pillows and soft blankets, hidden cup holders and a rotating table for food and drink service from the restaurant.
Push a button and an attendant — or ninja — is quickly at your side taking your order. (For those in the mere premium seats, no reclining and closer to the screen, food and drink are available for take-out from the movie theater grill.)
At the moment, the luxurious redolence of leather permeates the theaters. It's an appealing smell that we fear will soon be replaced by the aroma of popcorn, which surprisingly is free and unlimited in iPic theaters.
The theaters are not designed for the typical moviegoer who might be more interested in texting and chatting than in watching the movie, according to Hashemi.
"This is for people that are going out and they want to have a really great night out," he said. "When they buy a ticket here, every seat is assigned. This is a completely different experience. It is a very relaxed experience. People pay a little bit more because they value their time and their experience. You are in an auditorium with like-minded people."
In other words, this theater is geared to adults willing to pay a bit more for a much more civilized movie experience.
Benefits of membership
iPic has a free membership program with various incentives and offerings including a membership ticket price. With 1.3 million members, they must be doing something right.
Premium seats: Member prices are $12 Monday through Thursday, $14 weekends.
Premium plus seats: Member prices are $18 Monday through Thursday, $24 Friday through Sunday.
"It really becomes your nighttime single destination for your most common entertainments — eat, drinking and movies," Hashemi said. "This is the same thing that Starbucks did for coffee. This is that third place away from home. If Starbucks is the place your going to hang out in the daytime, this becomes your nighttime destination."
In short, it's "dinner and a movie" all in one place.