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Local theaters bring creature comforts and nostalgia.

It was a bad year at the movies. You might even call it a dud.

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According to a CBS News poll, 2014 saw the lowest box office take for Hollywood in 19 years. More Americans, some fed up with the average $8.17 movie ticket price, were watching more movies at home with On-Demand, iTunes, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.

Theaters responded. Last year two luxury-type theaters in Raleigh upped the ante.

Raleigh Grande, owned by Charlotte-based Carolina Theaters, renovated its 16-theater building on Grove Barton Road, re-opening in November. Upgrades included plush leather recliners, reserved seating and a renovated refreshment and lobby area. Beer, wine, soda-refill stations, gourmet popcorn that’s popped on-site and additional food options, such as hummus and fresh bread from Raleigh’s Neomonde—not to mention fountain Cheerwine—are big draws.

“Once you have a beer with a movie, how can you not have a beer again?” Steve Scruggs, Raleigh Grande’s general manager laughs. “Honestly … [with reserved seating] there’s no rushing, pushing and shoving, especially on opening weekends. It takes the stress out of going to the movies.”

Scruggs says that, pre-renovation, Raleigh Grande’s ticket prices were the least expensive in the city. Today they’re on par with traditional theaters’ pricing, but offer non-traditional comforts. Adult prices for weekend matiness are $8 per person; evening is $11. (With the exception of 3D movies, which are $3.25 more.) Tuesday’s ticket prices are $6 all day, he adds.

• Cary’s luxury theater, CineBistro, opened in Waverly Place in September. Owned by Cobb Theaters, which has nine other CineBistro locations in the U.S., CineBistro’s edge is the dinner-and-a-movie idea coupled with oversized recliners and adults-only atmosphere for shows beginning after 6 p.m. (Those under 21 are welcome at earlier shows when accompanied by a parent or guardian.)

Raleigh resident Sarah Norris, who saw “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” with friends and her 7-year-old son, says the extra cost (ticket prices between $12 and $14.50) is worth it considering the seating and unlimited popcorn.

“I never once had the chaotic crowd feeling, which is huge when you have a child,” she says. “The stress of lines inside and out are completely taken away.”

Now Playing...• Another theater, Henderson’s Raleigh Road drive-in, attracts patrons with current releases, fresh air and nostalgia. The outdoor theater is open Fridays and Saturdays from March to December and movie-goers pay per person (rather than 1960s “by the car” style.) Tickets range from $4 to $7. Perks include a pet-friendly environment, double features and a playground. You can sit in your car or outside on lawn chairs or blankets.

Kate Turgeon Watson

Kate Turgeon Watson

Kate Turgeon Watson is a freelance writer who lives and works in Raleigh. A graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill's School of Media and Journalism, she has 15 years experience writing for print, digital and broadcast media. Kate is an award-winning writer whose work has been picked up by the Associated Press national news wire.
Kate Turgeon Watson

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