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Proposed LI movie theater would feature seating 'pods' and table service

iPic Entertainment plans to open its first Long

iPic Entertainment plans to open its first Long Island location in Hicksville, offering moviegoers "pods" with two adjoining chaise longues. Credit: iPic Entertainment/Jaime Guillen

A chain of high-end movie theaters where guests push buttons on their reclining leather seats to summon food servers called “ninjas” wants to break into the Long Island market.

Boca Raton, Florida-based iPic Entertainment has signed a lease with developer Seritage Growth Properties to open a 348-seat, luxury theater in Heritage Village. That proposed retail, apartment and entertainment development would replace a former Sears store on North Broadway in Hicksville.

The theater would "serve as the entertainment anchor for the Hicksville project. So we’ll be the first full-service luxury theater and restaurant experience for the community,” said Michelle Soudry, iPic spokeswoman.

The Heritage Village plan still needs approval from the town of Oyster Bay. Manhattan-based Seritage submitted preliminary plans to the town in May 2017 for the multi-use project, which would be developed on 26.5 acres.

"This proposal is in the very beginning of the planning and environmental review process. Once complete, a final project proposal will be presented to the town board for final consideration," town spokeswoman Marta Kane said.

No timeline for opening has been set for the theater.  

“The addition of iPic aligns with our plan to bring leading, first-to-market retail, dining and entertainment concepts to our mixed-use development. We will continue to work in close collaboration with the Town of Oyster Bay and local stakeholders to deliver an exceptional project to the community,” Benjamin Schall, president and chief executive officer of Seritage, said in a statement.

Founded by Hamid Hashemi in 2010, iPic has 15 theater locations in 10 states, including Arizona, California, New Jersey and New York.

The chain caters to 21- to 45-year-olds with upscale theater amenities, such as full-service restaurants and bars, as well as art galleries.

The approximately 35,000-square-foot Hicksville theater would have eight movie screens with 32 to 60 seats each. It also would offer live entertainment, such as magic and comedy shows and gaming competitions.

The seat setups are referred to as pods — side-by-side sets of two or three reclining seats with swiveling tables for food and beverage service.  Moviegoers receive blankets, pillows and unlimited popcorn.  Waiters are called “ninjas” because they move quietly and discreetly with food orders so that moviegoers aren’t disturbed, Soudry said.  

Movie tickets must be purchased in advance on iPic’s app or website.

Ticket prices, which vary by location, have not been established for the Hicksville location, Soudry said. She said prices in other markets range from $12 to $25 each, depending on the night of the week.

The movie theater industry has contended with declining ticket sales for years as consumers turned to Netflix and other entertainment options. The number of movie tickets sold in 2017 was 1.23 billion, the lowest since 1992, according to Box Office Mojo. So a host of theater chains have tried to spruce up their digs by bringing in reclining seats and restaurants.

iPic, however, has carved out a niche for itself — because of its small size, it can more easily offer a moviegoing experience with higher-quality food, service and perks that are costlier than those of large competitors, such as AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas, said Bob Derrington, managing director and senior research analyst covering restaurants at Telsey Advisory Group, a Chicago brokerage.

“iPic is not bulletproof, but they continue to offer a very differentiated product to the market that we find a more premium-focused consumer will continue to be attracted to,” Derrington said.

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