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Chestnut Hill movie complex aims for upscale comfort

After entering the lobby of the SuperLux theater in Chestnut Hill, patrons can make their way to theaters that offer plush reclining seats with footrests, drinks, and appetizers and entrees from Davio’s restaurant next door.

Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff

After entering the lobby of the SuperLux theater in Chestnut Hill, patrons can make their way to theaters that offer plush reclining seats with footrests, drinks, and appetizers and entrees from Davio’s restaurant next door.

The Showcase Cinemas SuperLux in Chestnut Hill is not your typical movie-going experience. An employee in a crisp, all-black uniform greets patrons at the door, ushering them into a lobby that looks more like an upscale hotel than a movie theater.

There, a circular concierge desk sits under a large faux chandelier. A sleek bar and lounge area fills the space where lines for soda and candy usually stretch. Large touch screens stand to the side.

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And just wait until you get into the theater.

This week, the Norwood-based theater chain National Amusements opened this top-of-the line theater in the newly redeveloped Newton shopping center, The Street. For $28, moviegoers can experience the “SuperLux” life, reclining in plush seats with footrests, browsing appetizers, entrees, and drinks from an iPad, and merely pressing a call button to order food — before and during the flick.

Popcorn is served on a tray, drinks in fine stemware. Pinkies extended, please.

“It’s like a hotel you can watch movies in,” said Michael Elysee, a host at the theater.

The SuperLux is the latest upscale theater to open in the Boston area. National Amusements already has Cinema de Lux theaters in Dedham, Randolph, and Revere, with added amenities like better seats, food, and drinks. But top-shelf treatment in these theaters is limited to one small section, and the amenities don’t quite match SuperLux’s.

Seats, for example, are plush, but they don’t recline or include foot rests.

Movie theater owners have long promoted the film-going experience against watching on DVDs, streaming video, and in home entertainment centers. The amenities at SuperLux and similar movie houses represent an escalation in the competition, said Sam Craig, director of the entertainment, media, and technology program at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

“The market is segmented. People want a more elite experience,” he said. “Theaters are finding ways to enhance the experience, but for a segment that’s willing to pay more.”

The SuperLux has a boutique feel, with six screening rooms, each with just 80 to 100 seats and unlimited free popcorn. Each theater is staffed with four to eight hosts and servers, who rush from the movie to the kitchen, which the cinema shares with Davio’s, the restaurant next door.

The experience is as much about the food as it is about the movie. Deborah Cutler and her friend Elizabeth Driehaus split the heirloom caprese salad, buffalo chicken spring rolls, and Thai chicken bites.

“You get free popcorn, but who would eat that when you have these options?” said Cutler, who appropriately saw “The Great Gatsby” Thursday evening. “It’s like what first class on an airplane should be.”

In addition to SuperLux, the theater offers a LuxLite level with fewer amenities — food can be ordered only before the movie, for example — at a cost of $20 per ticket.

At both levels, $5 of the ticket price is applied to the food bill. But with appetizers ranging from $8 to $16 and cocktails starting at $9, a night at Showcase Cinemas SuperLux isn’t a budget night out.

“It’s definitely a higher-end experience,” said Amber Stepper, vice president of marketing at National Amusements. “The demographics of Chestnut Hill fit for this type of project.”

Chestnut Hill resident Bob Regan was among the patrons willing to pay more for added comfort and convenience.

“To actually have dinner and a show all in one is pretty great,” he said. “The only downside now is I have to figure out how to stay awake through the movie.”

Gail Waterhouse can be reached at gail.waterhouse@
globe.com
. Follow her on Twitter at gailwaterhouse.
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