A Visit to Wehrenberg’s Five Star Lounge

The latest trend by theater chains is to add ultra-luxe theaters to their offerings with reduced but upgraded seating, expanded food and beverage options, and personal attention… at an ultra-luxe price of course. That trend has finally arrived in St. Louis, and last night, Kristin and I were among the first to see what all the fuss was about.

Wehrenberg Theatres has added the Five Star Lounge to their Galaxy 14 Cine in Chesterfield. You can read the press release on their web site for all the specifics. For those of you who don’t know, Wehrenberg is a St. Louis-based, family-owned company, that has been in the business of showing movies since 1906. Just so you know, Wehrenberg is not my first choice when I go to see a a movie. In fact, we haven’t been to a Wehrenberg theater since Revenge of the Sith was released, and even then we only went to see it on the Mega Screen at Chesterfield. I don’t care for the taste of their popcorn and they serve Pepsi products (yuck!). And the classic Wehrenberg jingle with the whispered “Wehrenberg” over and over annoys the heck out of me. If you’ve ever been to one, you’ll know what I mean.

Yesterday morning I saw an article in the Riverfront Times about the new theater, so when Kristin suggested dinner and a movie last night, I thought why not try out the new place and see what all the fuss was about. I also wanted to take advantage of the promotional pricing they are offering through October 14.

So how much does this cost? The price will vary depending when you go, just like regular movie tickets. Prices will range from $15.75 to $19.00 per person. Children are not allowed; 21 and over only please. Guests receive a concession voucher for $8.50 as part of their admission good towards any menu purchase. Through October 14, however, tickets are the regular box office price that you will pay in all the other auditoriums.

The auditorium only has 33 seats along with two spots designated for wheelchairs. All seats are reserved, so when you book on the web site, you are presented with a seating chart. Unfortunately the system picks what it thinks are the best seats and presents that to you as your only choice. I hate this for concerts and I hate it here as well. These ticket systems and I never agree on what is the “best available.” The first time through, I was offered two seats in the front row. Way too close. After several repeated attempts to retry, I finally was offered seats in the second row. It would be much better for the system to show me what seats were available and then give me options, and let me decide which tickets are the best for me.

We arrived at the theatre with our vouchers and were directed to a hostess are outside the auditorium the same as you’d encounter at any restaurant. The difference tonight was there were around 20 people milling about, a combination of servers for the lounge, theater managers, and what I’m sure were folks from HQ, here for the opening night. We were welcomed, introduced to our assigned server, (Adam I think), and then we were taken into the theater.

The theater is richly appointed, looking more like what you’d expect in a private screening room like you see in magazines, and that’s basically what this is. The curtain remains down before the film. No promotional films or ads running before the show, just pleasant background music playing, as you settle in to your seat.

And what seats these are… Leather recliners, very spacious, and lots of buttons. There are controls to recline your chair nearly horizontal, buttons for heating the seats (with two levels and multiple zones), and a call button to bring your server to take an order or bus a table. These chairs are more comfortable than anything I have at home, and there is no button at home that brings me food and drink at my command. Since they are new, however, they do squeak somewhat as you recline. I’m sure this will go away as the chairs are exercised more, but right now would be annoying if someone fully reclined or fully unreclined during a film. Each seat has a swing table for drinks or food as well as main central table where they deliver your food. A cup holder is standard as well of course.

Once we settled in and checked-out on proper chair operations, it was time to look at the menu. The menu is pretty extensive for a theater. They have a wide range of appetizers, typical offerings like toasted ravioli, mini tacos, chicken tenders, etc. The entrees include sandwiches, wraps, burgers, pizzas. There are desserts and of course a full adult beverage menu. We went with the appetizer sampler and each ordered the coconut shrimp appetizer. The appetizers came out without much wait, and our entrees followed soon after. The problem was I was still working on the appetizer, so by the time I moved on to the main course, it had cooled off somewhat. Would have liked more time between the two, and next time I’d ask them to wait to bring the entree until we hit the call button. The food itself was good, however, although neither of us is a fan of crinkle fries which is what accompanies sandwiches, burgers, and the shrimp baskets by default.

The movie, Secretariat, was quite good, and the comfy chairs and real food gave you all the comforts (and more) of watching a movie at home but with the movie theater experience. I don’t care how big your TV is, it is not the same as being at the theater. We were concerned that having servers come in and out of the theater would be disturbing while you’re watching the film, but it didn’t turn out to be the case. There is so much room for them to move around, and they do it quickly and quietly, so it was never a problem.

Our server left the check about half an hour before the show ended and picked it up just before the credits ran. It was a little challenging reading the receipt in the dark theater, so if you want to verify every last item, you may have some difficulty. When they return your card and receipt, you don’t have to sign, everything is complete. Which left me in a bit of a quandary. I assume we’re expected to tip, same as you would in a restaurant, but there was no option to add a tip to the charge. I didn’t recall if there was an added gratuity on the itemized receipt, so I left a cash tip. I’ll know to ask next time I go how tipping is supposed to work.

So after all that, the big question is “Would I go again?” Definitely. I don’t see myself going their often, but if we’re looking for a night out and want to splurge a little and treat ourselves to a little luxury with our movie, this is a great option. I know another theater chain is opening something similar in Wildwood (?) so I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of these high-end auditoriums.