iPic River Oaks District's Tuck Lounge — a new concept for the entire chain — brings a sexy vibe. (Photo by Chris Baldwin)
iPic Theater at River Oaks District raises plush seating to a new level. (Photo courtesy iPic Theaters)
iPic's new pod seating debuts in Houston. (Photo by Chris Baldwin)
The escalator ride up to the lobby of Houston’s most-anticipated movie theater in years (and perhaps ever) is ordinary. Then, everything changes. Step off and you’re suddenly thrust into what looks like a sexy, happening lounge.
The lights are low (especially when compared to the blaring fluorescence of most movie theater lobbies), there are tucked-away banquettes to sit in, and the female bartenders wear white shirts, black ties tugged low, red suspenders and black fishnet stockings. Welcome to The Tuck Room, the first-of-its-kind new concept from iPic that’s debuting at the company’s new River Oaks District theater.
This clearly is a place designed to be its own scene, rather than just a quick pit stop on the way to watching the scenes in the movie theaters.
“It’s a destination in itself,” iPic CEO and founder Hamid Hashemi tells PaperCity in an exclusive pre-opening interview. “We’ll have people who go to eat and have drinks at The Tuck Room regularly who never step into one of our movie theaters.”
On the late October day of this sneak-peek visit, The Tuck Room is already a beehive of activity. Servers hustle around, bringing dishes to the people who’ve been selected to be food testers; those distinctively clad bartenders mix colorful, foamy drinks; and the large-screen TVs built into the bar show ESPN and CNN. Down the hall in theater No. 7, a few VIPs watch Raiders of the Lost Ark in an otherwise deserted theater, while one of iPic’s techs makes minor adjustments in theater No. 3.
This was a few days before tonight’s more general media preview and 10 days before iPic’s official Nov. 6 Houston opening. Even now, though, The Tuck Room is the center of the action — as it figures to be most nights when iPic Theaters at River Oaks District is going full force.
On some nights, particularly the weekends, there will be a DJ in this “gastro lounge.”
“With everything [mixologist] Adam [Seger] does,” iPic marketing director Jim Nowicki says of iPic’s French Laundry-trained drinks guru, “I think this is going to be a real hit in Houston.”
The drink choices at iPic — a luxury movie theater chain with 11 locations around the country, including one in Fairview, outside of Dallas, and one in Austin — go far beyond the tepid glasses of house red and white wine you might be able to choose at other grown-up-modeled movie theaters with bars. The cocktail menu’s extensive and varied. James Beard Award-winning chef Sherry Yard crafted the lounge’s food menu. This Tuck Room concept’s geared toward sophisticated audiences.
Other cities in which iPic plans to build Tuck Rooms are Miami and New York.
Touring Houston’s new iPic Theaters brings other revelations besides how prominent the lounge is. It’s striking how relatively few seats there are in each of eight theaters (the largest one has 92 seats total.) This is an intimate screening environment, and not just because of the snuggle pod seating that is making its nationwide debut in Houston.
The first two rows in the theaters are the lower-priced $16 “premium” seats. And these are very nice leather seats. But they are nothing like the spread-out relaxation of the striking orange leather, $28 “premium plus” seats that come with blankets, pillows, free popcorn, full reclining features and a black-clad “ninja waiter” at your beck and call.
“These seats always sell out first,” Nowicki says, pointing at the more expensive offerings.
It’s a luxury movie theater in the River Oaks District, after all. People go to iPics for the pampering. If price is your overriding factor, you’ll hit an AMC or a Cinemark instead for the more typical movie-going experience.
iPic Theaters at River Oaks District even does its bathrooms differently. A men’s and women’s communal lounge and marble sink area anchors the center of the bathroom with doors on its sides leading to separate men’s and women’s stall areas. A silver globe chandelier-like piece hangs from the ceiling at the lounge’s center, and it’s a decidedly upscale vibe. In other words, nothing like the sticky floor bare-bones bathrooms you find in many movie theaters.
“We’re actually proud of our bathrooms,” Nowicki says.
This new River Oaks District theater also highlights serious artwork, another untypical movie theater move. Prints line both of the hallways that lead to theaters, and iPic has commissioned a new piece from Mike Stilkey, a renowned American artist who also has a massive instillation at Rice University. His piece at iPic will be prominently featured near the balcony lounge area, which is still being worked on.
Now, people just have to notice it amid the adult distractions and scene of The Tuck Room.
For more on Houston’s new luxury movie theater, check out PaperCity’s story on the new pod seating: