Luxury cinemas in Dubai can take even the dreariest movie experience to a higher level of enjoyment. We put them to the test.
There is no dignified way of eating a hot dog when you are lying flat on your back. However hard you try not to, you will always end up with ketchup in your eyes. While arguably this is preferable to watching The Mummy III: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor, it does take some of the shine off the Gold Class cinema experience. Gold Class is the Cinestar at Mall of the Emirates’ ultra-comfortable foray into the world of luxury cinema. The fully reclining chairs and direct-to-your-seat-snacks are, along with Imax 3D and al fresco movies, one of the cinematic highlights of Dubai. I just wish they’d hand out bibs.
Until this month Gold Class 1 and 2 were the only cinema screens in Dubai offering filmgoers a luxury option. But the opening of a Grand Class room at Dubai Festival City’s new 14-screen Grand Cinema has put an end to that monopoly. The idea behind Gold and Grand Class cinema is essentially the same. They are the first and business class flying of the cinema industry. You’re going to the same place and at the same time, but you’re travelling in style. And you are paying a premium to do so.
That premium amounts to a Dhs100 ticket. A lot of money to watch the same film as the paupers in the neighbouring room: but is it worth it? Can a luxury cinema make any film seem passable? Would I, in other words, be able to sit through the impossibly bad Mummy III: The Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor, a film scorned by Rachel Weisz (she turned down the squillions she was offered to be in it) and critics alike (Time Out gave it a paltry two stars out of seven).
Rarely do I watch a film and consider eating my eyes as a viable alternative. I have a very high threshold for rubbish. I actually liked The Phantom Menace and am not scared away by the words ‘Eddie Murphy movie’. But don’t forget this is a movie so bad that the actual highlight is the unexplained appearance of some kung-fu yetis. Just when you think that’s as abominable as it can get, they turn out to be friendly and can chat to the 2,000-year-old woman dating Brendan Fraser’s son. It is that bad.
Even in Gold Class it is a challenge to sit through this without wanting to shout obscenities. But there is something about the massive leather armchairs that make you sigh and sit back. They pass the S.T.A.R. (Squishy, Table included, Armrests and fully Reclining) test with ease. I may have even heard a snore coming from row three. Not bad considering there was a car chase featuring a flaming firework truck on the screen at that moment. Did I mention the film was terrible?
A comfortable seat does not, of course, a luxurious experience make. So Cinestar offers a special menu to its Gold Class viewers: you order on entry, as you buy your ticket, and grub is brought to your seat during the first 15 minutes (no stage whispering required). Don’t expect wagyu steak and foie gras; more like an enhanced version of the usual cinema favourites, which means cheeseburgers, ice creams and milk shakes. Not the healthiest options, but, let’s face it, if you’re looking to shed a few pounds the multiplex is not the place to start. A range of hot dogs is available, hence I found myself horizontal and picking onions out of my hair for the duration of the film.
Straight from Gold Class I headed over to Dubai Festival City to see how the newly opened Grand Class would compare. To make the test as fair as possible I picked a week where the calibre of films was similar. To be fair, Tropic Thunder (Grand Class’s movie of the week) is 3,000 times better than The Mummy III. But it does feature flatulence jokes and Tom Cruise in a fat suit, so they’re in the same ball park.
The same, unfortunately, cannot be said about Grand Class, which has the air of a poor relation. Yes, its slightly reclining chairs are better than those of a normal cinema. But they don’t come close to Gold Class. And why no special menu?
Admittedly they are throwing in a free tub of popcorn and a fizzy drink with the Dhs100 price tag. But anybody willing to pay so much to watch a film wouldn’t begrudge a few more dirhams to get something nice to eat. As it is, they have the same options as anybody else would have in the cinema. This does include crepes, which seems like an interesting addition to the usual cinema fodder. Although I can’t imagine the cheese and chocolate option being very popular.
So, for now Gold Class retains its title: it is the jewel in this city’s cinema crown. But how long before we see the emergence of Diamond Class, I wonder? For an extra Dhs150 I’d like to see them throw in no-crunch popcorn and maybe a foot massage. Surely that’s the only way to guarantee a film with a happy ending.
Gold Class is at Cinestar Mall of the Emirates; Grand Class, at Grand Dubai Festival City.
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C James Jan 17, 2009 01:01 pm
I would welcome paying 150, even 200, dirhams for Diamond Class if it meant everyone had to check in their mobiles at the door and then be fitted with a gag for the duration of the film!
I went to Festival City Grand Class for the first time last night and I have to agree it's nowhere near the experience that MoE's GC is. The seats were a lot smaller, not as delightfully squashy and certainly nowhere near as vertical. I was also much more aware of the staff taking and delivering food orders - yes, that's what we need, MORE talking and people stomping up and down the stairs.
I doubt if I would pay 100 dirham to go there again for GC, even though it's a lot closer to home than MoE. The only trouble with MoE is that their online booking facility never seems to work.
Nada Dadoush Dec 24, 2008 01:52 pm
To me a Grand Class or a Gold Class Cinema would be when people stop chatting on their mobiles or stop chatting completely during the film. Also why do people tend to cough, make throat noises or sniff constantly in the cinema. Is this a " Cinema Syndrome" What about the munching and crunching of popcorn , chips or tacos. Its truly irritating. I would love to go into a Gold Class Silence or a Grand Class Cinema for sure. Ready to pay anything to watch a good movie in peace and quiet.
Vishal Dec 24, 2008 08:35 am
I was extremely disappointed with Gold Class, especially with the process of getting tickets. Online purchase was not working and there was no response on the telephone for 2 days straight. When I finally got through (the day before I was supposed to go), the lady assured me that if I come in person that evening, I can easily find seats for any show the next day. Of course, that didn't turn out to be the case. What bothered me more was the nonchalance and slight arrogance of the counter staff. I settled for a rather inconveniently timed show in the end.
As for the actual experience, two words: overrated and overpriced. I've had better burgers at Hardee's and apart from the recliners there is nothing else to justify paying 4 or 5 times over the cost of a normal cinema ticket.