Cineplex VIP – there is a light that never goes out

Cineplex has VIP theatres, including one at Lansdowne.  It’s an ok idea but from my perspective appears to have a fatal design flaw.

VIP basically means:

  • a lounge/bar outside the theatres
  • a few one-person “executive” washrooms rather than large shared washrooms
  • larger seats, with seat controls to lean back and (I think) put up a foot rest
  • reserved seats
  • drink and food service at the seat (server comes and takes order before movie, then brings it)
  • smaller theatre

Because of the drinks, it is local legal drinking age only (e.g. 19+ in Ottawa).

So other than the 1% income inequality aspect, ok.

UPDATE 2015-12-31: Cineplex has turned off the blue seat lights, at least in the VIP Lansdowne theatre I was in yesterday.  So the primary issue reported in this blog post is now fixed.

The new theatres have some other minor distractions, but they are mostly understandable:

  • if you sit in an aisle seat, you will have the lighted stairway in half of your feild of vision – but 1) you can always sit in the middle and 2) I concede that it is a necessary safety measure to have the stairs always lighted
  • The (bright green, glowing) exit signs are on either side of the screen (both in VIP and UltraAVX) which makes them hard to exclude from your awareness.  I imagine again that much of their brightness and position may be required from a safety standpoint.  One issue I have a hard time forgiving is that the signs cast a glow onto the screen itself.  This seems unnecessary, as no one is ever likely to be standing right at the screen position when needing to find the exit.  They could do some simple design (e.g. a black metal or plastic barrier) to block the light scattering “backwards” onto the screen.
  • The servers came in with some last service after the movie had already started.  To me this is not acceptable, as it pulls you out of the movie experience.


IMG_2888-12888-20150621 - Version 3

Except. Those seat controls. That glow bright blue. They never go out.  Here’s an artificially-darkened version of the above image.

IMG_2888-12888-20150621 - Version 2

Now if it were me, here’s how I would design these seat controls:

  • they would only illuminate, when the house lights are on, if someone was sitting in the chair
  • they would be illuminated in red
  • they would have distinct shapes or raised icons so that you could identify them by touch
  • the illumination would go out as soon as the house lights went down

At the absolute maximum, I might agree to a touch-activated, very very dim red illumination when the house lights are down.  So as to not distract the other guests.

These are not controls that you’re using all the time.  At most you might adjust your chair when you sit down, or just before the movie starts.  I didn’t actually see anyone using them at all.

Instead, at least in the movie I was in:

  • they never go out
  • they are illuminated in bright blue (which is not a natural light, and which is the wrong colour for any light in an otherwise dark room)

The fact they never go out might be ok if they were completely blocked from view.  But they are not.  Which means if you have good peripheral vision, you can see not just the light below you on your chair, but the lights on the chairs to the left and right of you.  Which means the entire movie experience is like this:

blue light blue light blue light blue light blue light blue light

Maybe your ideal experience of a movie is to have the rough equivalent of someone constantly shining blue laser pointers into the corners of both your eyes, but mine is not.

As a side note, Cineplex has started an autism-spectrum-friendly screening program called Sensory Friendly Screenings, with “2D projection, increased auditorium lighting, lower volume and smaller crowds” (Autism Speaks press release, PDF).  Other than the increased lighting, this actually sounds like a better theatre experience for everyone.  The VIP theatre would be ideal for this screening program… except it seems likely that the blue lights that never go off will be a distressing stimulus.

I very much hope they are supposed to go out, but just weren’t switched off.

In any case, I really only care about the the reserved seat part, so I will be going to IMAX instead.

(Also incidentally the three one-person washrooms may be nice in theory, but mean a giant lineup at the end of the movie – go down the hall to the larger shared washrooms by the UltraAVX section.)

Sidebar: There are three four VIP theatres at Lansdowne.  Cinema 3 is bigger than cinema 2.  I don’t know about cinema 1.  Make sure you check not just the show but the time posted outside the theatre (all three VIP cinemas were playing the same movie, just at different times.)