North Versailles, Collier movie theaters selling beer and wine

by: Tory N. Parrish, TribLIVE Updated:

PITTSBURGH —

More than blockbuster movies are on tap at two Pittsburgh-area theaters.

Moviegoers at Phoenix Big Cinemas' North Versailles Stadium 18 and Chartiers Valley Stadium 18 in Collier can buy beer and wine at concession stands and drink the beverages anywhere in the theaters, not just in special sections.

(This article was written by Tory N. Parrish, a staff writer for Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE.)

“You can walk up there and order popcorn, a hot dog and a beer,” said Phil Zacheretti, president and CEO of Knoxville, Tenn.,-based Phoenix Big Cinemas Management LLC.

Phoenix rolled out alcohol sales at the North Versailles theater on Dec. 6 and at the Collier theater Jan. 10.

Beer and wine from bottles will be sold by the cup to people 21 and older, who are limited to two alcoholic drinks per visit to the concession stand.

Phoenix Big Cinemas Management owns or manages 23 theaters nationwide but has introduced alcohol sales at only three, one of them a 14-screen theater in Kansas City, Zacheretti said.

Moviegoers at Chartiers Valley Stadium 18 were surprised to learn of the alcohol sales.

“I think it's a great idea,” said Roxanna Tito, 53, of Mars, who ordered a Diet Coke and nachos for herself and her husband, Richard Tito, 66.

Still, she said, rules need to be in place. “Make sure teens are not involved. Do these (servers) have the same allowances as bartenders to cut somebody off?”

Collier resident Kirke Pendergast, 46, who bought a soda and popcorn, said he has no problem with alcohol sales but doesn't like the idea of people drinking alcohol around children.

“I don't think that's appropriate, to be boozing it up,” he said.

Beer and alcohol sales at movie theaters are not a new concept. But it's unusual to allow the beverages to be consumed theater-wide, experts said.

At the AMC Loews Waterfront 22, for example, alcohol is sold in a restaurant and can be drunk in VIP sections of theaters, for which movie tickets are more expensive.

Small or independent theaters are more likely to sell alcohol than large chains because they attract a more mature clientele and the staff is more likely to be familiar with customers, said David Hancock, director of film and cinemas for IHS Global Insight, based in Englewood, Colo.

“It does set your path. It differentiates you,” Hancock said.

With theater consolidations and chains offering amenities such as stadium seating and full-service restaurants, a theater company's ability to distinguish itself can be critical.

The four largest theater companies — Regal Entertainment Group, AMC Entertainment Inc., Cinemark Holdings Inc. and Carmike Cinemas — accounted for a combined 56.7 percent of industry revenue in 2013, up from 48 percent in 2008, according to IBIS World, a Santa Monica, Calif.,-based market research company.

The reception to alcohol sales at Phoenix theaters exceeded projections, Zacheretti said. Phoenix Big manages the Pittsburgh-area theaters for their owner, Kossmann Development Corp. of Green Tree, he said.

“I think it was the right decision for them to go after the liquor license. We've had good success with it,” said Zacheretti, who said cocktails may be sold in the future.

Tory N. Parrish is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.