I love movies, although I don’t particularly like being jammed in like sardines with strangers, in seats that just aren’t that comfortable, so the introduction of Hoyts La Premiere and Event Cinemas Gold Class was a big step forward for a more comfortable movie experience, and a date night option for more than just the teenagers in general admission.
I’ll give you the run down on what you get for each, and cover my personal experiences from the various La Premiere and Gold Class cinemas that I’ve been to.
Hoyts La Premiere
Hoyts was first into the luxury cinema market with La Premiere. Select cinemas were fitted out with a walled off section at the back of the cinema, consisting of 2 rows, with the general admission ticket holders taking up the rest of the cinema. If you happened to see Elysium at La Premier, you probably got the feeling that those in the general admission seats below might rise up against you at the end of the movie 😉
I’ve been to the Entertainment Quarter La Premiere on most occasions, and the Chatswood La Premiere once.
When arriving for your La Premiere session, your tickets will get checked by an usher, and you then proceed into the bar and lounge while you wait for your movie. Only La Premiere ticket holders are able to access this area.
You can have some drinks while you wait, and order any other drinks and food options to be brought to your seats during the movie. There’s also apparently a smartphone app (Apple iOS and Android) where you can order food directly from your seat, although I didn’t test this out. There is also unlimited soft drink and popcorn available to you. It’s a nice perk.
When your movie is called, an usher will escort you to your previously selected seats. You’re never moved along though. You can head in whenever you like. As soon as you head through the door, an usher will pick you up from there.
The seats are nice and spacious, although they don’t recline. The Entertainment Quarter Hoyts being their flagship cinema, you’re going to find it a better experience than Chatswood. The bar and lounge is just nicer at the EQ, and at Chatswood, you have to walk up a lot of stairs to get to your movie from the lounge. I was a bit worried about accidentally dropping my popcorn and drink. Thankfully, no problems though.
As another strong point, the staff generally seem nice and helpful, and there is a higher level of service than provided by Gold Class.
Event Cinemas Gold Class
I’ve only ever been to the George Street, Sydney Gold Class, although I’ve been there enough times to have formed a fair and consistent opinion on it.
Event Cinemas launched their Gold Class after Hoyts had started the game. With this second mover advantage, they were able to improve on certain areas over their competitor. Rather than having a section up the back, they have entire cinemas configured as Gold Class only. The screens aren’t as big as those in La Premiere, but they’re big enough, and it gives it a more exclusive feel. When seeing Hunger Games: Catching Fire, you’ll sure feel like a citizen of the Capital rather than District 12.
When you arrive for your movie, you enter through the Gold Class Lounge, where you can order food or drinks, which can also be brought to you during the movie.
The Gold Class Lounge has a dark lighting scheme and has good ambiance, although there is no one guarding the door a lot of the time, even though there is a desk there. Although the Lounge could be considered one of the strong points of Gold Class, it is also a disappointment. First of all, try and get your hands on a menu. If they’re not all already being used by other people at the bar, or if you managed to grab one on your way in, you’ll find that one of the staff have removed it from your table between drinks – and you’ve then got to find another one.
The menu design is a pretty obvious fail. In the dark location (which I like), they have dark text with a dark background. Good luck being able to read any of it without bringing it close to your eyes or lighting it up with your camera phone. I was able to take a photo (no flash) to show you. There is such an obvious fix here.
The other issue with the bar is that its an island that you can walk around, although if you walk up to the side that you would be coming from if you were seated in the lounge seats, half the time one of their staff will tell you that you have to go around the other side to order. There is absolutely no signage for this supposed rule, and probably not a lot of logic behind it. This isn’t the crowded Establishment Bar on George Street, and the Gold Class Lounge is never busy enough to justify unmarked no-service areas on the side of the bar that people are actually at.
On one occasion when I ordered a bottle of wine and some food to be brought in at the start of the movie, their staff brought up the food reasonably quickly, yet the wine lagged behind by TWENTY MINUTES. Even then, they only brought one glass – for 2 people. I had to request another glass. This is just sheer incompetence.
You don’t get an usher showing you to your cinema, let alone your seats. You just get pointed in the direction of a stair case. Actually, the staff here never seem friendly or useful. They could use some further training, and need to match the service level provided by La Premiere.
Enough bitching though. The best part of Gold Class is their unrivaled seating. It is magnitudes better than La Premiere. You get individual reclining chairs with electronic controls so you can set things exactly how you like. The seats are in blocks of 2, although in the cinemas I’ve been in have two isles in a 2/4/2 configuration (to use some aviation terminology). There isn’t much of a gap in the centre block, so if you want extra privacy, select seats on either of the sides. The seats are just really comfortable, and even when reclined to the full extent, and if I stretch out, I still can’t touch the seat in front. Being a bit over 6 foot tall myself, it’s quite a bit of space.
It’s also nice having a cinema exclusively for Gold Class. It just seems nicer this way.
As far as I’m aware, there aren’t any “free”/included soft drink or popcorn.
Taking all of the above into consideration, my preference is still to go to Gold Class over La Premiere. The nicer seats are the priority for me. Location also has a strong influence. If I’m meeting someone at the cinema, I’ll usually choose Gold Class in George Street. The city is typically an easier place to meet, and you can still plan to go out in the city somewhere after the movie.
Le Premiere at the Entertainment Quarter has the benefit of easier car parking – unless there is a major sporting event at Moore Park – in which case, avoid this area at ALL costs. There is parking in the city at the Cinema Centre Car Park behind the cinema, but it’s more expensive, takes longer, and then you have to drive an and out of the city. In comparison, the Entertainment Quarter has a flat rate of around $6 after 6 PM, and you get closer to the cinema. You also have an easy path to roads such as Anzac Parade and the Eastern Distributor. Gold Class at George Street is easy to reach with public transport, which I can’t say for the Entertainment Quarter.
The advantage of going to the EQ is if you’re travelling there with someone or if you’re not planning on going out afterwards. There’s nothing much out there anyway. Your night usually ends at the EQ.
Gold Class has been around for at least a few years now, yet La Premiere has not made any attempt at matching the seat quality. If they fixed this, I’d probably end up back there more often.
Both La Premiere and Gold Class have nicer bathrooms than general admission. There are individual bathrooms with floor to ceiling doors. Each with their own toilet, sink, hand dryer and paper towels. There aren’t enough bathrooms though. At Gold Class, there are only 2 male and 3 female bathrooms. The wait time is too high, and you’re sometimes just better off going to the general admission bathrooms where you probably wont have a wait. I haven’t counted the bathrooms at La Premiere, although there are more at the Entertainment Quarter than Gold Class has at George Street.
(Based on 2 people – Purchased over the Internet)
1X $72 (seats 2)
Booking Fee $1.10 per ticket X 2. = $2.20
When I’m technically only ordering the one item, why the hell do I have to pay 2 booking fees? Just call it a $2.20 booking fee. As you can’t order single seats at La Premiere, this attempt to break down the price is just annoying.
2 X $39.50 = $79
Booking Fee: 2 X $3.25 = $6.50
Gold Class is $11.30 more expensive to go to, and why is the booking fee so much higher? I doubt their market is price sensitive to where this difference would factor into consideration for many people. For this price difference , you get much nicer seats than La Premiere, and a little bit more privacy due to the whole cinema being Gold Class. You do get much worse service though.
Hoyts really need to overhaul La Premiere to catch up to the seating quality of Gold Class. They’ve had years now, and it’s a few years of inaction too many. The quality of staff is much higher at La Premiere. Popcorn and softdrink being included is great. In fact, if you were planning on buying just a regular movie ticket and then Coke and Popcorn, could you really do it for better than the $37.10 per person that it ends up costing? Get as many refills as you want, and if you’re going to the movies with someone else, it really doesn’t make sense to go general admission at all. La Premiere is the best deal going in the luxury cinema space.
Event Cinemas have a better seating product and charge more for it. That’s their strong point and they know it, and neglect everything else. There are just a few simple things that they need to change. Re-design your menu to fit your lighting scheme (Hint: Dark text on a light background), and don’t hide them away. Provide extra training to your staff. They are the greatest weakness you have. They should be friendlier and actually useful. I have observed this time and again. Stop with the stupid unmarked no-service area at a relatively quiet bar, that is only enforced half the time. Just serve your customers. If you did table service in the Gold Class Lounge, you would score bonus points. Match the usher service that La Premiere have. Escort people to their seats.