Thursday, August 11, 2011

iPic Theaters

3225 Amy Donovan Plaza
Austin, TX 78758

Do you like movies? Do you have a lot of money? Well you've probably been to Gold Class Cinemas at the Domain by now. It is the pinnacle of First World comfort and excess. Now you can not only watch a great movie, but you can do it in comfort and style with attendants to cater to your every whim. Seriously.
If you've never been to the Gold Class, then you have no idea how classy the movie going experience could be. First, you order your movie tickets online. But you don't just buy tickets to the movie, you buy a ticket to the actual seat you'll be sitting in.

The facility itself is not just a theater, its also bar and lounge. The atmosphere of the existing lounge area feels plush and luxurious, and well classy. Large drum lights add a soft, romantic glow, and custom sculptures dot the entire theater giving it an artistic panache.


You can grab a drink at the posh looking bar, and purchase a few last minute snacks from their grab and go counter (like a delicious looking cheese plate or some yummy high end candy).


You could have a drink made from the fresh ingredients displayed on the bar.


And then an attendant finds you at the bar and leads you through the beautiful stainless doors to the seat you had reserved.

And not just any movie seat, a large, over-stuffed, reclining seat that does all but massage your butt while you sit in it (did I mention one of the arms is hollow so so  you can put your purse in it? Genius!).


While your enjoying the movie, you have an attendant assigned to you who is only a button push away. They will happily bring you blankets, should you get cold, or a pillow, should you need to prop your head up when you recline your awesome orange seat.

You can also order food, anything from Buffalo Chicken Spring Rolls to Filet Mignon sliders. And there are drinks, lots of lots of drinks you could order to make the movie going experience really... memorable.

It all sounds nice, doesn't it? Well unfortunately the reality just doesn't match with the potential this theater could have.

What you probably don't know, is Gold Class Cinemas was recently bought by the iPic chain (note the sign change below). They own several other small, upscale theaters throughout the US. I was recently invited by the new proprietors to tour the facility and discuss their upcoming renovations (even though the theater is only a few years old). I was greeted by the theater's general manager who led me on a tour of the facility.


iPic's vision is to turn the facility into a full service bar and restaurant in addition to a theater. They are trying to create an upscale gathering space for everyone, not just the movie going audience. They plan to expand the bar and add even more custom art work and fixtures to give the space a less posh feel but to make it feel more alive and full of energy. They have even purchased several new cool high tech wine dispensing kiosks do people can sit in the lounge and get their wine from a super cool machine instead of a person. They have also hired a new chef and mixologist to create a new custom menu of high end food and drinks.

At this point, though, there haven't been many noticeable changes from the old Gold Class atmosphere. In fact, I couldn't see any. Even the menu still said Gold Class across the top. And there are some flaws in the Gold Class menu.

We started off with an order of the Chinois Chicken Salad Rolls: roasted chicken, napa cabbage, radicchio, sesame ginger dressing, wrapped in rice paper. Sounds delicious right? Well, it really wasn't. The chicken was dry and tasteless. And the sesame ginger dressing was conspicuously absent (or at least I couldn't taste it). It just wasn't that appetizing.

Well, one bad dish doesn't have to doom a restaurant. Next we tried the Chicken and Pineapple sliders. I actually really liked these, but whats not to like? The roasted chicken didn't seem so dry here with the addition of a juicy pineapple and a sweet teryaki sauce. The Boyfriend, on the other hand, didn't care for them. So I happily left the Salad Rolls to him and ate the sliders myself.

We rounded out our dinner with the Chicken Artichoke pizza: creamy artichoke tomato sauce, spinach, roasted chicken and mozzarella. The pizza was ok. Pretty standard thin crust pizza fare. The ingredients were fresh but it wasn't really anything to write home about.

The real travesty of the menu, though, comes from the drinks. We ordered two delicious sounding martinis that were delivered to us in lovely glasses with fresh fruit garnishes. The drinks, however, were so syrupy sweet they were almost undrinkable. We choked them down more for the alcohol's sake than the drink's, but when we were asked if we wanted to order another, we both vehemently declined.

We opted to see Super 8, which was a really fantastic movie. But as we snuggled down in our large comfortable seats, trying to enjoy our food, the unthinkable happened. The movie stopped. And it didn't just stop, it repeated the same 1/2 second over and over and over and over and over for about 5 minutes. I'm not sure what took so long to fix the problem, but they certainly could have stopped the annoying 1/2 second loop while they did. I will forever have the sound of that half second seared into my conscience. If I'd have actually paid for that ticket, I'd have been pissed (I know, cry me a river, right).

So would I go back to iPic? Even with the technical difficulties, the atmosphere (and that chair) were so enjoyable, I could definitely go back. I'd be really interested to see how the iPic vision comes to fruition. In the mean time, I would definitely go back to see a movie, but I will stick with the cheese plate and wine until their menu is updated.