Ocean City moviegoers returning to Fox Sun & Surf on 143rd Street this summer will discover that the theater has upgraded its seating to luxury recliners designed for ultimate comfort, with retractable armrests to facilitate cuddling and electronic controls to recline the seat back, which instantaneously raises the foot rest.
“The goal is to make going out to the movies a more desirable, luxurious experience,” said Don Fox, president of Fox Theatres. “The upgrading of the Fox Sun & Surf with luxury power recliners will offer Delmarva moviegoers a level of comfort and immersion unmatched by any other movie experience.”
The $1.5 million project began on Feb. 17, starting with a complete interior reconstruction of four auditoriums, which included new walls, ceilings, floors, carpeting, lighting and — most significantly — seating.
A couple highlights include new ceilings designed to block out noise on rainy days and an angled front row that is far enough back to make it potentially the most desirable part of the theater.
Fox Sun & Surf remained open during renovations, until the lobby and restroom phase was started on April 13. Moviegoers will now find bright lavender walls and fully refurbished bathrooms, from the sinks to toilets.
The movie theater reopened the first four of its revamped rooms on April 30, just in time for “Avengers: The Age of Ultron” in 2D and 3D.
“All renovations are interior, and it will be a surprise for people driving by,” Fox said.
The power recliners are made out of a leather-like vinyl material, and more than $500,000 was spent on them alone, Fox said.
“We want to bring people back to the theater and recapture the business that was lost,” Fox said.
The final four auditoriums were scheduled to open on May 20 for Memorial Day weekend showings of “Tomorrowland” and “Poltergeist.”
Notably, the plush seating has reduced theater capacity by more than half. The eight auditoriums will have 715 seats total, which is a loss of 915. Each room will have four wheelchair-accessible seats, and the two larger theaters have 118 luxury recliners each.
The luxury recliners have more than doubled ticket sales in one of Fox’s Reading, Pa., locations, according to Fox. The seat upgrades were tested in two of the theaters, and people kept calling to see what was playing in rooms with the comfy seats, he said.
A year later, the final six auditoriums were given the same treatment and business skyrocketed, Fox added.
Feedback has been positive, he said, with customers expressing how they are more engrossed in the movie since their bodies are relaxed and they can better focus on what is going on in front of them.
“We think it’s a great investment, because more people will come out to the movies on a regular basis,” he added. “If it works, we will upgrade everywhere.”
To combat the loss in seats during busy summer months, Fox Sun & Surf is introducing advance reserved seating, which allows customers to reserve the exact seats desired so they can avoid waiting in line before show time. Each seat is numbered.
“We expect to be very busy at the theater, but the added convenience of reserved seating will make going to the movies a more relaxing night out for our customers — not having to worry about getting to the theater extra early on a big night,” Fox said.
Moviegoers can reserve their seats online on Fox Theatres’ website, at foxshowtimes.com, on a smartphone through the Fox Theatres app or in person at the box office.
“There is nothing quite like watching a movie on a big screen in a darkened theater with a vivid digital picture and crystal clear multi-channel sound,” Fox said. “It’s like being in the comfort of your own home, with an experience that is private in a public space.”
Fox Theatres, based out of Wyomissing, Pa., was founded in 1958 and continues to be family-owned and -operated.
The Sun & Surf Cinema was built as a twin cinema in 1972 by Schwartz Theatres and expanded to four screens in 1976. Fox Theatres acquired the property in 1980 and added four more screens.
Today, the company operates five theaters with 32 screens in Reading, Pa., Ocean City and Greenbelt, Md.
For more information or to reserve tickets, visit www.foxshowtimes.com or call (410) 213-1505.