Ed Soderquist could easily see himself settling into the No. 3 seat to watch a movie: black leather, wide armrests and double beverage holders.
But No. 3 would be for the more expensive "VIP" seating at the new Front Street movie theater in downtown Hartford. Soderquist came back to reality, testing the seats that could be used for general admission.
"I keep going back to No. 5 for lowly peons like myself," Soderquist, an information technology worker at Travelers, said. "The leather is nice. The only disadvantage is that it would be nice to have wider arm rests. It does go back a little farther for relaxing."
Soderquist was among a handful of people testing the seats Thursday afternoon and casting their votes for the ones they consider the most comfy. Eight different styles — Nos. 1, 2 and 3 for VIP seating, and Nos. 4 through 8 for general admission — have been set up on the Exhibit Hall level of the convention center. A kiosk allows those taking a test seating to vote for one seat in the VIP category and for one seat in the general admission category.
Atlanta-based Spotlight Theatres Inc. hopes the Pick Your Seat promotion will generate excitement about the four-screen, 700-seat venue that is expected to open by January. The voting, to last for six weeks, is starting at the convention center and could move to other high-traffic venues such as the science center.
"When I lean back I still want to touch the floor," said Amy Laffargue, a meeting planner at the Pension Real Estate Association in Hartford.
Laffargue, of Madison, said she goes to the movies about once a month, often with her children. The last film she saw was "Pirates of the Caribbean."
Laffargue thought No. 7 in general admission would suit her best. The black leather would be easy to clean if food spilled, unlike some of the other seats that had fabric upholstery.
"But No. 8 has a nice rock," Laffargue said.
Construction contracts for outfitting the movie theater space are now out to bid. Spotlight's chief executive, Joe Paletta, said he expects the bids to be returned in two weeks. The work is expected to take four to six months. While an initially announced opening of November is still possible, it is likely to be closer to January.
The theater will move into a 20,000-square-foot space at Columbus Boulevard and Front Street in the building to the left, looking across from the convention center. The exterior of the Front Street complex has been completed for more than a year, but has remained empty.
Liz Huntington, who works downtown but lives in Wethersfield, said she could easily envision going to the movies at Front Street. Right now, the nearest theaters to her home are in Berlin and Manchester.
"It's just as close," said Huntington, who tested seats at lunchtime with her daughter Abi, 13. "We like to come into Hartford. We like the restaurants."
The Huntingtons agreed that No. 6, with the patterned upholstery, which they described as "polka-dot," should be chosen.
"I like the polka-dot chair, but not the polka dots," Abi Huntington said. "You sink into it. It's like a couch."
"It just felt right," Liz Huntington said.
Paletta says the theater would have first-run films, as well as art and independent movies that might not be shown at other complexes. He said patrons can expect films such as "The King's Speech" and "Black Swan" but not "action" films, like its main competitor, Bow Tie Cinemas on New Park Avenue.
Ticket prices generally would range from $9 to $10 for adults and $6 to $7 for a matinee. There also would be special pricing for seniors and children.
Voting at the kiosk requires submitting first name, ZIP code and age, helping Spotlight with a bit of market research. If an e-mail is submitted, a coupon for free popcorn is promised.
Soderquist said he could really relax in No. 5, especially when his wife drags him to a romantic film.
"It could be so relaxing, I could take a nap," Soderquist said. "Someone would have to wake me up."
The public may vote at these dates and times at the convention center: July 15 and 16 — 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; July 18, 19, 20 — 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; July 21 — 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; July 22 — 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; July 26 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; July 27 — 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ; July 28 — 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; July 29 — 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; July 30 — 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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