The Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas in Rancho Santa Margarita was supposed to be ready for business back in September, but if reaction to the movie house on Thursday is any indication, it will make up for lost time.
Hundreds showed up at the company's ribbon cutting ceremony, and many got a chance to watch movies from the reclining leather chairs afterward as the company's fifth American theater readies to do business for real.
"We're fully cranking," said Matt Heyman, the head film buyer for Cinepolis. "We've had an excellent response with a lot of reserve seating activity."
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the big movie opening this weekend and is playing on three screens, as well as Argo, Skyfall, and The Life of Pi.
The community response to the ribbon cutting event on Thursday was "better than several other openings," Heyman said. "It's an interesting experiment to see if we can get the community to adopt us as its theater. We want to integrate into the community.
"It's going to be a big deal, and we want to fulfill its entertainment, lounging and eating needs."
The theater is the fifth in America for the Mexico-based chain, which is the fourth-largest in the world. Other theaters are in Del Mar, La Costa, Laguna Niguel and Westlake Village.
The theaters are more like high-end hotels than typical multi-screen theaters. It provides food and beverage service, including adult beverages.
Specific seats can be purchased online or at the box office, which is located inside the lobby—there's no charge to go inside, where one can drink or dine without purchasing a movie ticket.
Cinepolis occupies the former Edwards Cinemas 6 across from City Hall. Heyman was the one responsible for choosing the location, and he was the one who cut the ribbon leading to the six screens. The largest of the six theaters, which feature oversized reclining seats with table service—including adult beverages at some showings—has 98 seats.
Total theater seating in the 30,960 square foot building is 480.
The courtyard in front of the movie house is not yet complete, so those who took in the festivites arrived through a secondary entrance.
Marty Hannigan of Sanderson J. Ray Development, said he "wasn't hopeful" that the location would get one of five locations in which Cinepolis would open. He had begun wooing Cinepolis in June, 2011, and signed a lease last December.
"The turning point came when Tony (Beall, the mayor) went to Del Mar" with the city manager and various other key staff and civic leaders, Hannigan said. "They really pitched the Rancho Santa Margarita community and that really sold them.
"That was the turning point."