The VIPification of our city took another large leap forward Friday with the grand opening of the iPic theater complex at the South Street Seaport. It's the only place in NYC where, among many other unusually luxurious flourishes, well-heeled movie-goers can see Sully in a $32 premium seat.
But what exactly do you get for that $32, besides a place to house your butt while watching the same first-run Hollywood flicks that you can see for less than half that price in a reclining seat across town at the recently renovated Regal Battery Park? I went to iPic on Friday night to find out. Here's what you need to know.
- Those $32 seats, called Premium Plus, are no more comfortable than any of the other increasingly ubiquitous recliners around town. If anything, there seems to be less leg room here than in other theaters, but since each pair of seats are enclosed within their own little pod, there's no real aisle in front of you to worry about. Solo moviegoers should note that the pod thing is very much made for couples, as opposed to two strangers.
- The soft, furry blanket and airplane-style pillow that await you in Premium Plus are pretty useless—when's the last time you were at a movie and wished you had a pillow?—but they do seem cozy if it gets really cold inside, or you want to take a nap.
- Your Premium Plus admission also comes with full waiter service, while the chumps in the $20 seats down in the front rows have to get up and walk to the concession stand for their $22 Shrimp Cocktail. Premium Plus VIPs can order booze, snacks, or a full dinner at any time before or during the movie, just by summoning your server via a call button on your seat tray. And unlike at Nitehawk Cinema, where you write your order on a card and hand it silently to your server, all such communication at iPic is verbal, so be prepared to listen to your neighbors banter with their waiter about which wine is fruitier, or fall prey to an upsell for truffle fries during the movie.
- Just to make this point extra clear: your server may offer to take a photo of you and your date kicking it in your pod, using a flash, while the movie is playing. iPic is, by a considerable margin, the most distracting theater I've ever been in.
- Unsurprisingly, all of the food here is totally overpriced, but you don't go to any theater expecting cheap eats. Thankfully my $16 basket of chicken fingers and $18 bready pizza were not terrible. Eating the stuff isn't exactly relaxing, however, as the seat tray is too far away from your mouth to function as a proper platform, so you have to really lean awkwardly forward or risk having it all fall on your shirt.
- The vibe of the whole three-story complex feels very clubstaurant, from the dramatically-lit ticket "booth" to the faux-industrial finishes to the murals by street-artists like Dasic Fernandez, Joe Iurato and Mr. Never Satisfied. Poppy dance music plays loudly in the lobby. There are legions of black-clad staffers slinking around the hallways, all of whom make eye contact and say hello and wish you well. The upstairs restaurant and bar, called The Tuck Room, has a library theme for some reason, with chainmail (?) draping from the ceiling. The kiosks out front speaks to you in a British accent.
Obviously iPic is designed to be more of a special date destination than an everyday movie theater, though that doesn't explain who's going to be filling those $32 seats for an 11:45 a.m. showing of Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children. After the initial curiosity, are families of four really going to keep dropping more than $125 for a matinee movie? And what about the packs of teenagers, or the girls'-night-out crews, who make up such a large portion of most movie audiences? How can anyone afford this place?
iPic Theaters is located at 11 Fulton Street, on the cobblestoned pedestrian plaza (212-776-8272; ipictheaters.com)