Push-button recliners, new lounge coming to MJR Theater in Brighton

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Who doesn’t dig a couple hours at the local theater, watching Hollywood’s latest on the big screen with surround sound, and munching a tubful of buttery popcorn?

Now add leather electric recliners and an adult beverage or two for the ultimate in comfort and entertainment
It’s a trend that has been sweeping movie houses across the nation — and it’s headed to Brighton.

MJR Brighton Towne Square Digital Cinema 20 owner Michael Mihalich has a $4.3 million upgrade plan for the place, with work expected to get under way in May or early June and wrap up by mid-November.  Customers will have an online option of selecting and reserving the recliners, twice the size of standard stadium seats. And a new lounge, with room for about 40 customers, will sell drinks and concessions that can also be carried out and enjoyed during a film.

“Any theater operator in the country who can get a liquor license is doing it, literally thousands of them,” Mihalich said.

Seven MJR cinemas have lounges “up and running,” Mihalich said, and so far no negative issues have developed. “It’s been non-invasive, and the customers seem to like it,” he said.

The arcade inside the MJR Theater may become the lounge area.

The current arcade area in the Brighton theater could be used for the new lounge, but Mihalich said it’s just one possibility and that he hasn’t yet settled on its location. He still has to obtain a liquor license, and has his attorney on the hunt for one.

As for the recliners, MJR theaters in Chesterfield and Clinton Township have already been equipped with them, and they’re among the renovations currently going on at a few of his other cinemas too. He said the recliners have generated “a tremendous positive response” from customers, and business has increased about 45% in theaters that have them.

“Converting to electronic reclining seats is the biggest change in this industry since stadium seating,” Mihalich said, noting that most theaters that didn’t get on board with the upgrade years ago went out of business.

“Eventually, 90-95% will have this seating, with few exceptions,” he said. “People like to push a button, put their feet up and have a nice, overall experience.”

Mihalich established MJR Cinemas in 1980 — around the time the video rental industry was gaining in popularity and was considered by some to be the beginning of the end for movie theaters. “And now, (the video rental businesses) are gone, and we’re still here,” he said.

The reason?

“There’s the old adage about having a kitchen in your house, but do you sometimes eat out? Of course you do,” Mihalich said. “Movies are a shared experience, and there’s been a dramatic increase in the presentation, the sound system, digital production, large screens and now the seating.”

Upgrading the 16-tear-old Brighton Towne Square Digital Cinema 20 will likely lead to minor increases in ticket prices, “maybe 50 cents or a dollar — but nothing eye-opening,” Mihalich said.

MJR Digital Cinemas operates nine theaters, and its recently obtained 10th — in Warren — is undergoing extensive renovations. It’s expected to open in April. This year, Mihalich plans to spend $18 million in improvements for his chain of movie houses.

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