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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Cine Prestige: Two Years Old and Going Strong

And now, as a break from my usual film reviews, here's a write up I did for South Africa's Cine Prestige line of luxury cinemas.

This review was originally published at Channel 24.

Cine Prestige has been open at The Zone in Rosebank since April 2012 and, despite its premium price, it's easy to understand why these cinemas are soon to become fixtures at a number of new locations throughout this coming year. After having already opened a second Cine Prestige cinema at Cradlestone Mall in Johannesburg's West Rand in November last year, these incredible cinemas are set to also open in Sandton City, The Grove Mall (Pretoria) and Gateway Shopping Centre (Durban) during the first half of 2014.

This review is based on my watching a 10 PM showing of Anchorman 2 at The Zone's Cine Prestige last Tuesday night, which was only my second visit to this luxury cinema after having seen a preview of The Wolf of Wall Street last year. While Scorsese's latest masterpiece had me so enthralled that I only took a cursory note of the cinema – considering its three hour length, it's hardly surprising that the thing I noticed most was the comfort of the cinema's reclining chairs – but the ceaselessly disappointing Anchorman 2 gave me plenty of opportunity to appreciate my surroundings.

The costly price of these cinemas do mean that they're probably best saved for special occasions – unless you have Discovery or Edgars Club discount cards where the price is brought down considerably, albeit to a still-higher price than regular cinemas – but it's easy to see exactly why these cinemas demand higher prices.

On the perhaps less essential but still welcome side, those who arrive early are rewarded with very comfortable leather couches and accompanying tables, where platters of food can be ordered to be eaten both before and during the film. As someone who both keeps kosher and who has all the monetary riches of your average poor journalist, I wasn't able to try the food but the menu is extensive and is one that clearly goes far beyond the usual snack food of an average South African cinema.

Putting aside these bells and whistles though, the real pleasure of Cine Prestige is the movie watching experience itself. While the quality of cinema seats have steadily been increasing in recent years, nothing quite matches the sheer luxury of the heavily cushioned, leather reclining seats of Cine Prestige that are so spaciously set apart from one another that if you should happen to want to kick the back of the seat of someone sitting in front of you, you would literally have to get up and walk over there. With the seats themselves, you also get a varnished wooden side table with a cup holder on which to place your coldrinks, snacks or mini-meals.

Best of all, however, is the attention to detail that comes with showing the film itself. The high-definition digital picture was perfectly projected both times I visited this cinema and, like most ludites, though I may occasionally miss good old-fashioned film, one can't fault the bright, crystal clear clarity of Cine Prestige's 2k digital projection.

The visuals, though nice, still aren't the cinema's best feature. No, if there is one thing that sets the Cine Prestige apart from any other regular, non-IMAX cinemas, it is the cinema's mind-blowingly good sound. Making use of a three-way sound system and 7.1 surround sound, Cine Prestige is an audiophile's paradise with crystal-clear, powerful surround sound that is far more immersive than even the best 3D effects.

Incidentally, these cinemas are indeed 3D-ready but both films I watched there were in glorious, full-coloured 2D.

Again, because of the cinema's well deserved but unquestionably pricey ticket prices, I can only really recommend the Cine Prestige for those special movies that you want to experience in the best quality possible. I don't, in other words, recommend wasting your time and money with Cine Prestige if you're going to watch something like Anchorman 2 but, aside perhaps for IMAX - which is itself only slowly being reintroduced in this country – there is no better way to watch major “event” films like The Hunger Games or The Avengers or even major auteur films by people like Martin Scorsese or The Coen Brothers.

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