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I tried the luxury movie-theater chain Cinépolis. The premium perks didn't outweigh the huge drawbacks that come with them.

Author Julz Harvey in Cinépolis theater
I'm a huge movie buff who finally tried a luxury cinema chain. It definitely has perks, but I wasn't missing out on much.Julz Harvey
  • I'm a frequent moviegoer who tried out the luxury movie-theater chain Cinépolis for the first time. 

  • The ticket wasn't that expensive, but the food and service charges seemed a bit pricey.

  • The table-side service was convenient, but it got super distracting throughout the whole movie.

Last year I went to the movies over 60 times.

I usually see them at my local theater chain, AMC, but with fewer American adults going to the movies these days — less than before the coronavirus pandemic — some chains are pulling out all of the stops to draw people in.

And Cinépolis, a theater chain that offers a "luxury movie-going" experience, recently caught my eye.

It's been around since 1971 and is currently one of the biggest movie-theater chains in the world, with over 800 locations worldwide.

Here's what it was like to visit for the first time — and why I'm not sure I'll be back.

Purchasing my ticket online was pretty easy

Cinépolis exterior at night
I didn't have issues purchasing my ticket on the Cinépolis website. Julz Harvey

I wanted to see "Drive-Away Dolls" since it was the week of its release, but the Cinépolis near me didn't have screenings available. It was available at my local AMC, but Cinépolis has about half the screens, so it can't show every movie in theaters.

Instead, I went with my second choice: "Bob Marley: One Love."

I bought my ticket on the Cinépolis site on Friday afternoon for a showing that night. After I selected my movie and showtime, I chose the seat I wanted and paid for my ticket. Plenty of seats were available.

After fees and taxes, my $17 ticket cost just over $20. I'd expected it to cost a bit more since it was for a "luxury" experience — and a ticket to a regular screening at my local AMC around the same time would've cost $21.

I arrived early since wasn't able to order food or drinks in advance

Cinépolis lobby area
I got to Cinépolis 30 minutes before my movie's showtime. Julz Harvey

When I arrived, I had the QR code for my ticket pulled up on my phone.

But I didn't see anyone at the entrance of the theater, so I walked right in without having my ticket scanned. Maybe sneaking into showings isn't a huge concern for employees since you must reserve a specific seat.

Cinépolis theater four exterior
Cinépolis looked pretty nice inside. Julz Harvey

I got to the theater about 30 minutes before showtime, which is when movie previews actually begin.

Before the previews, Cinépolis showed advertisements for local businesses, movie trivia, and info about the theater.

View from seat in Cinépolis
Cinépolis showed some trivia before the previews. Julz Harvey

I thought it was nice that ads were for local places instead of big brands and massive corporations, which is the norm at other chains I visit.

The lounge seats recline all the way back for ultimate comfort

Chairs in Cinépolis
The Cinépolis seats were cushy and large. Julz Harvey

The theater had leather lounge chairs that reclined way back to an almost lying-down position. I was able to put my feet all the way up.

Author's feet up at Cinépolis
I liked being able to lie down. Julz Harvey

Notably, there was only one button to control the reclining levels of the seats.

There's no way to have your feet down but your seat back at Cinépolis — it's all or nothing. At my local AMC, I can control the recline of the footrest and chair back separately, which makes for a more comfortable experience.

Cinépolis seat backs
I'm glad no one was siting next to me. Julz Harvey

The seats are also set up in pairs and you can lift the armrest in between them. I thought this was a nice touch for couples.

Service came to me with the touch of a button

seating in Cinépolis
Each seat was supposed to come with a menu and a call button. Julz Harvey

At Cinépolis, there's no concession stand — the server assigned to your seat takes your order and delivers any food or drinks you request.

They put your card on file during your first order and can be called to your seat throughout the movie at the touch of a button.

Unfortunately, the button for my seat was completely missing. I had to use the button for the seat next to me, which wasn't a huge issue.

Missing seat button Cinépolis
I didn't have a button at my seat. Julz Harvey

I wonder what would have happened had someone else been seated there and I didn't have access to a button at all.

There were high-quality food and drink options, but the prices seemed high to me

Cinépolis food menu
It's hard to beat quality food and drinks delivered at the touch of a button from your own private server.Julz Harvey

I could order cocktails, beers, full entrées, desserts, or just snacks.

Many of the options sounded of restaurant quality. I saw lobster grilled cheese, rib-eye sandwiches, burgers, and even grain bowls. The prices also seemed like what you might find at a restaurant, with most dishes between $15 and $20.

Popcorn ($10.50) and soft drinks ($8.50) include free refills throughout the movie.

The fish and chips I'd planned on ordering weren't available, so I went with chicken tenders and fries for $15.50. I also got popcorn.

chicken tenders and fries at Cinépolis
I enjoyed my small meal at Cinépolis. Julz Harvey

The chicken tenders tasted high quality, and the fries were crisp and delicious. When I ran out of ketchup, it was easy to call my server and ask for more.

But I still felt the prices seemed a bit high for what I got.

Although it came with unlimited refills, my soda was about $9, and there was only one size available. If you didn't get at least one refill, you wouldn't be drinking your money's worth.

Large metal bowl of popcorn
If you don't want a lot of popcorn, you might be overpaying. Julz Harvey

The same thing applies to the bottomless popcorn — it's awesome if you really plan to chow down, but not a great value if you're not.

Lastly, at Cinépolis, you also have to factor in a tip for your server. I did a typical 20%. I could see how a date night or family outing at Cinépolis could get pretty expensive very quickly.

The on-demand service distracted me throughout the movie

Cinepolis server blocking movie screen while taking someone's order
The table-side service ended up being a huge distraction throughout the movie.Julz Harvey

It's pretty awesome to get a soda refill halfway through a movie without leaving your seat. However, it's not awesome to listen to the couple next to you order another round of popcorn during the middle of a pivotal movie scene.

The servers were also carrying around tablets with incredibly bright screens, which was distracting once the movie began and the theater got dark.

I found the movie wasn't super loud, perhaps because moviegoers need to be able to communicate with their server during the showing. I kind of missed the seat-shaking intensity I usually experience at movies.

It was also distracting to see so many people using their phone flashlights to examine their food and drinks as they got delivered in the middle of the movie.

About 45 minutes before the movie ended, servers brought out checks. This is usually a pretty high-stakes point in a movie and probably the worst possible time for staff to walk up and down the aisles of the theater, closing tabs and asking people if they need to-go boxes for their food.

That said, the near-constant presence of staff seemed to come with one perk: less bad behavior.

It seemed moviegoers were more likely to behave with theater employees walking around. No one talked during the whole movie, nor did anyone spend most of it taking flash photos of the screen (I've seen both many times).

But this also means it's much more difficult to commit some more beloved movie-theater sins, like sneaking in your own drinks and snacks.

Cinépolis would be great without other attendees, but I'll stick to AMC for now

Checkbook on table at Cinépolis
If I were the only one in the theater, the experience of having a private server would be immaculate. Julz Harvey

Cinépolis stood out with its high-quality food and bottomless soft drinks and popcorn, but the table-side service didn't fully wow me.

After all, at many chain theaters, you can schedule food and non-alcoholic drinks to be delivered to your seat when you purchase your ticket.

And when on-call service is applied to a crowded theater, the distractions from other moviegoers take away from the movie. I couldn't imagine seeing something here that demands my full attention, like "Dune: Part Two," at Cinépolis.

I also thought Cinépolis' rewards program sounded pretty good — it's free to join, and customers can eventually earn a free ticket if they spend enough on tickets and concessions (alcohol not included).

But, as someone who loves going to the movies, AMC Stubs A-List is still a much better value. For about $25 a month, I can see three movies a week, about 12 a month. When broken down, each movie ticket is about $2.

I'd consider returning to Cinépolis for specialty showings, like concert films or $5 fan favorites the theater brings back. But for a better experience overall — and a better film selection and value for a frequent moviegoer like me — I'm sticking with AMC.

Read the original article on Business Insider