May 15, 2014 11:25 am

Cineplex to test surcharge on ‘premium’ seats

Toronto-based Cineplex will begin a pilot project later this year to allow customers to sit in prime seating areas for an extra surcharge.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

TORONTO – Movie exhibitor Cineplex Inc. is looking to boost sluggish revenues by testing a pilot project that would allow customers to pay more to sit in prime seating areas inside theatres.

Beginning later this year, moviegoers will be able to pay $2 or $3 extra on the regular ticket price to reserve seats in the middle rows.

The pilot project will start its initial test at the Varsity theatre at Toronto’s Manulife Centre.

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The company already charges $3 to $5 more for its UltraAVX experience and VIP cinemas users have to fork out an additional $7.

A nasty winter and several underperforming feature films had Cineplex profits fall 42.5 per cent in the first quarter.

Net gains were $5.1 million for the three months ended March 31 compared to $8.8 million for the same period last year.

The theatre chain is also eyeing the possibility of expanding its arcade business to help rake in more cash.

“Gaming presents a real opportunity for Cineplex,” chief executive Ellis Jacob told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting on Wednesday.

A report in the Wall Street Journal last month said that Cineplex has partnered with private equity firm Onex Corp. to submit an offer for restaurant and arcade chain Dave and Buster’s.

Although Jacob would not address the bid, he said there’s interest in operating arcades outside movie theatres.

With files from The Canadian Press

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