The West Kowloon Cultural District has been a hot topic of late and while the project has aroused the public's interest in arts and performance, it is now not expected to materialise any time soon. Sitting on its edge, however, above the MTR's Kowloon Station in the new Elements shopping mall and scheduled to open in November, is the Grand Cinema which aspires to introduce an innovative cinematic experience to moviegoers.
The chic and posh venue consisting of 12 movie theatres and a VIP house is the newborn of Intercontinental Group Holdings Ltd. Grace Wong, the group's general manager says, "As well as a big budget, we have put a lot of heart into this. Long before building had begun on the shopping mall, we were designing the complex according to our special requirements."
These include larger than usual screens, enough space for up to 320 viewers in a single theatre and a total capacity of around 1,600 seats which are also specially designed to accommodate a state-of-the-art infrasonic system.
The HK$100 million project is pioneering a system which allows the audience to feel infrasound, or sounds that cannot be heard by human ears. The seats contain special high quality speakers that detect these and cause the seats to vibrate. They are also covered by penetrable materials that do not reflect sounds the way leather does, increasing the experience.
"We are the world's first cinema with authentic infrasonic capabilities and the only location for 3D digital movies in Hong Kong's urban area. Moreover, we have the largest number of movie houses that affords us extra selections and more flexible scheduling of films. By using these facilities we hope we can bring in a wider range of quality productions, whether classic or atypical, from Hollywood, Hong Kong or Europe," Ms Wong says.
The Grand Cinema is a one-stop entertainment centre including also a restaurant, café, a merchandise shop and an Interactive Zone that enables patrons to purchase tickets via the self-service box office system, or to download the latest movie trailers, sound tracks, mobile ring tones, screen savers and more. "We want to create an exciting experience for people. From the light patterns on the theatre walls to the level of cup holders, we have fine-tuned every detail and this will be the reason to come back again," Ms Wong says.
The complex also aims to become a showcase for cultural talents and art performers, with facilities for events such as premieres and movie-related exhibitions. "We are introducing more than just movies into our platform so that people can participate in interesting artistic and cultural events. These may be in any form, such as a live performance, and in any scale, like an international film festival. And when we decide who or what will be shown here, we will always consider the message they convey first," Ms Wong adds.
To achieve its grand objectives, Ms Wong says, the human factor is of great importance. "Although we have the best equipment in a well-designed setting, the experience won't be complete without quality service."
Candidates who want to make a career in the thriving business must have the right customer service mindset since they will typically be working on the frontline which requires the ability to respond quickly to requests from various customers. Due to the long operating hours, they should be able to work a shift roster with duties on public holidays and weekends. They must also be prepared to work in adverse weather conditions, such as during typhoons when cinemas fills up with customers freed from offices.
"The industry is dynamic," Ms Wong says. "You encounter people from all walks of life and learn something new every day. And if you have a passion for the entertainment industry, your hard work will pay off."