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.