Alibi V.24 No.23 • June 4-10, 2015 

Reel World

Building an Icon

Icon Cinema exterior

Albuquerque film lovers still mourning the loss of the Four Hills 10 movie theater have reason to come out of their funk. Icon Cinemas, a regional theater group out of Roswell, N.M., has been rebuilding and revamping, and is on the verge of reopening the space at Central and Tramway. The 43,000-sq.-ft., 10-screen Icon Cinemas Albuquerque will open to the public this coming weekend.

“Our model is we want everyone to be a VIP,” says Samson Snell, whose family owns and operates Icon Cinemas. It’s an easy claim to believe once you step inside the shiny new building. It’s been rebuilt from the ground up: new lobby, snack bar, arcade, ice cream stand, restrooms and theaters. Gone are the thin plastic seats you see in most movie theaters. In their place are enormous electric recliners. Spacing between the rows is so wide that patrons can put their feet up, recline to a near-laying position and still have room for people to pass by. As if that weren’t enough innovation to lure viewers, the first two to three rows of each theater (depending on size) are filled with special “VIB” seats. These seats have built-in, vibrating speakers that allow them to rumble along with the movie’s soundtrack, bringing the action directly into viewers’ laps. On top of the luxury seating, screens have been expanded, ceilings have been raised, and projectors have been replaced with the latest technology—including an ultra-bright laser projector that is the first of its kind in New Mexico. “The most powerful you can buy without being the government,” assures Snell.

So how much more does all this cost patrons? Not a penny. Icon keeps its ticket prices in line with other local theaters and refuses to charge for extras—meaning you don’t have to “upgrade” to recliners or VIB seats. Walk in the door and you’ll find only one line at Icon. In it, you can pick up tickets and snacks at the same time. Choose your seat on one of Icon’s touch-screen displays. All seats in every house are reserved, so there’s no reason to rush into the theater to claim your space. It will be waiting for you. That gives you plenty of time to take advantage of Icon’s plentiful popcorn and drinks, which come with as many free refills as you want. Yup, you heard that correctly. Icon’s claim to fame is its unique snack bar system, which offers all-you-can-eat popcorn and all-you-can-drink soda. Industrial-sized popcorn poppers crowd the counters, and countless drink fountains ring the lobby. Just help yourself. Unlike other theater chains, Icon isn’t trying to make all its money at the snack bar. They’re expecting to make their money on repeat business, giving moviegoers the sort of VIP treatment they can’t get elsewhere. ... Now how appealing does that old couch and TV of yours sound?

Icon Cinemas Albuquerque is scheduled to open its doors this Friday, June 5. For complete movie times, go to their web site, or check the Alibi film times every week.