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Cinema Deluxe

Herb Weisbaum, CBS This Morning consumer correspondent, looks at deluxe movie theaters Friday, June 12. Watch CBS This Morning weekdays from 7AM ET to 9AM ET (check local listings).size>

With the economy in high gear and baby boomers marching into middle age, there's a big market for upscale goods and services. Just look at the popularity of everything from high-end cars to premium ice cream. In that mode, one big theater chain is giving new meaning to the phrase "dinner and a movie."

At the new General Cinema theater in Lombard, Illinois, near Chicago, they're offering a special option. Sure, you could stand in line for a ticket and wade through crowds of noisy children at the concession stand. Or you could upgrade to first class. Welcome to the new deluxe cinema.

Here, instead of cramming yourself into a tiny theater seat, you can watch the latest blockbuster sitting in the lap of luxury. And you can still get hot fresh popcorn. But you can also have it served up with prime champagne.

This multiplex has set aside one auditorium for what it calls Premium Cinema. Instead of rushing from a restaurant to the theater, your evening begins with dinner at a bistro right in the theater.

"It's giving people another entertainment option," says General Cinemas' Brian Callaghan. "The movies have existed for years and there's always been pretty much one way to go to a movie."

The restaurant features a variety of appetizers, salads, and entrees -- one usher serves a patron a prime rib sandwich -- along with premium beers and wines from the vineyards of director Francis Ford Coppola.

There are other nice touches too, such as valet parking and a stylish washroom with black marble and fresh flowers.

Of course the real draw is the theater itself. With just 70 plush leather seats, it's more like a private screening room. The sound system is state-of-the-art THX. The popcorn is free. And don't forget that champagne. And then there are the dessert options -- carrot cake and cheesecake among them.

Nothing is rushed. There's plenty of time to stretch out, relax, and finish your meal. And because they serve alcohol, there are no children around to disturb your evening.

"It's an adults only, sophisticated, upscale first-class experience," says General Cinema president Bill Doeren. "In fact, we compare it to flying first class."

Oh yes. They do show movies here. Usually the big blockbusters. On the night we visited, the audience liked the film. But what they really wanted to talk about was the experience.

"Definitely worth the price," said one patron. "Makes you feel a little more special, I think."

"And the popcorn was excellent" chimes in another. "I loved the seats, definitely. I wish this was in every theater."

And from one more audience member, "I'm in marketing and I thought it was just an unbelievable concept. So obvious. I'm surprised nobody's done it before this."

Later this month, the premium cinema will show the new re-mastered print of Gone With The Wind. Those wide seats and all that legroom should be just right for a movie that's nearly four hours long.

Still, will the novelty wear off? Will people be willing to come back and pay a premium for this deluxe experience? While the price of admission does include valet parking, coat check, and all the popcorn you can eat -- dinner, of course, is extra -- the cost is still $15 a ticket, double that of the normal ticket.

Says one patron, "I wouldn't see every movie here, but a couple times a year, I think it's a big treat."


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