Madera couple Mark and Lisa Stritzel decided that since they were in Fresno on Monday morning on other business, they would treat themselves to a screening of the new Tom Cruise movie, “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.” That decision made them the first couple to try out new seating added to six of the theaters at the Regal Manchester Stadium 16.
The first phase of replacing the standard movie theater seats with recliners is complete, so the seats are now available to the public. Each overstuffed seat can be leaned backward or moved to an upright position through a pair of buttons on the wider armrest.
“This is awesome. It’s like being at home,” said Mark Stritzel as he waited for the film to start, comparing the seats to the pair of recliners at his house that are situated in front of a 75-inch television screen.
Movie theaters around the country are making changes to make the movie-going experience more enjoyable, such as the installation of larger seats, more leg room and an expanded menu at the snack counter, and serving alcohol.
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Fresno-area moviegoers can take advantage of the new seats this week at Manchester, and starting Oct. 28 at Sierra Vista Mall’s cinema. Plans to serve alcoholic beverages at both theaters are still in the works.
The renovations are being made with no ticket price increases planned.
Work at the Manchester complex, owned by the Tennessee-based Regal Entertainment Group, started in mid-August. Each wave takes approximately 10 weeks, so the entire theater complex will be transformed by March. The company would not reveal the cost of making the changes. The second wave of five theaters started Monday, Oct. 24. The theater remains open during the work.
This is awesome. It’s like being at home.
Mark Stritzel, the first to try out new seating at Regal Manchester Stadium 16
There is no word on whether the other two first-run movie complexes Regal owns in Fresno – UA Broadway Faire Stadium 10 and Edwards Fresno Stadium 22 & IMAX – will be converted.
At the Sierra Vista Cinema 16 in Clovis, new lounge seating will be open to the public on Friday, Oct. 28, in half of the screens. The second half of the $3 million renovation plans for the theater, owned by the Santa Rosa Entertainment Group, will begin immediately. Construction is expected to be done on the remaining eight theaters by Dec. 15.
The changes at both theater complexes not only mean larger seats that recline, but more leg room. The area in front of and behind each seat has been expanded, which means no one will be able to kick the back of your chair or infringe on the moviegoer behind them when a seat is reclined.
Because of the changes, the theaters will lose about 40 percent of their seating. That means the large theater at Manchester now seats 230 (along with six wheelchair seats), while the small theaters have between 58 and 68 seats.
If Fresno follows the trends in other cities where the new lounge seating has been added, there will be an increased interest in those seats. Manchester patrons are being encouraged to buy seats in the theaters ahead of time through either Fandango or the Regal Theaters app “Atom.” It not only allows patrons to buy a ticket in advance, but also to pre-order snacks to be waiting for them when they arrive at the theater.
Neil Pearlmutter, vice president of Santa Rosa Entertainment group, says that Sierra Vista will begin allowing moviegoers to buy the exact seat they want with the opening of the refurbished theaters. That means you can select the exact place you want to sit and it will be reserved for you.
That plan will be initiated at the Manchester complex as soon as the second wave is finished in 10 weeks.
In addition to the construction, Sierra Vista has been awarded a liquor license from the state to sell wine and beer. The theater soon will follow a trend across the country that began more than a decade ago.
Along with selling fine wines and craft beer, Sierra Vista plans to add an upgraded food menu that will include items such as pizza and salads. Each of the new seats will have a table that can be moved over to use for dining.
A similar alcohol application was applied for at Manchester Stadium 16. That application is pending.
As for the new seating at Manchester, Lisa Stritzel had only one complaint: “There is no massage button.”