At the exclusive media dinner this past Monday at the brand-new iPic theater in Delray Beach, the pampering began right away. Reporters, bloggers, social-media influencers and gadflies were escorted into an auditorium, where we selected our own “Pod”—the iPic brand’s newly instituted wrap-around seat, designed to imitate the comfort of a living room.
We had barely finished unwrapping our iPic-branded blankets that server ninjas swooped in, the first with a tray full of drink options, the second bearing passed hors d’oeuvres—mac and cheese bites, potato mushroom popovers. Throughout the evening, as soon as the ice began melting in our cocktails, another one materialized, keeping us all happy and lubricated, awash in the luxury of reclining seats and royal service.
Eventually, after about an hour and a half of speeches, videos, more appetizers and a magic show, a movie started—“Green Book,” still a middling Best Picture Winner, though it looked absolutely gorgeous up there—and it was practically beside the point. I suspect most of us were plenty buzzed, not to mention stuffed from the Chef’s Tasting Plate that arrived soon after, with its buttermilk fried chicken, its lobster rolls, its filet mignon sliders, to care too much about the “content” unspooling onscreen.
Granted, this experience was tailored for us media folks, but it’s not far from what the average iPic ticket-buyer may enjoy when the cinema opens to the public today, March 7. You’ll get the Pod seat, the pillow, the blanket, the blessed legroom, and the servers moving swiftly and dexterously to deliver food, which you can order at the punch of a button embedded in the movable table attached to your seat. You’ll get complimentary popcorn with every purchase and, pretty soon, you’ll be able to order food, as well as tickets, in advance of your attendance, to ensure an even smoother night out.
Some of this is not new: Boca moviegoers have been enjoying iPic’s upscale brand of filmgoing for the past seven years. But it’s certainly novel to downtown Delray Beach, and the building—which was six years in the making, three of which were spent just on securing approvals, in a process still hotly debated—already feels like a landmark off Southeast Fifth Avenue. (It’s just steps from Proper Ice Cream, our favorite dessert purveyor, which should prove beneficial to both businesses.) It’s the first movie theater approved within the city limits in more than 40 years, filling a vacuum that has been present since the closure of the Regal Delray 18, in 2013. For Delray residents and visitors, the days of schlepping to Boynton for the latest blockbuster may be behind them.
Ease and comfort, the pillars of CEO Hamid Hashemi’s mission for iPic, are evident before you walk through the door. Plentiful parking is available at the attached garage, and when you validate your ticket inside, it costs only a dollar for three and a half hours. Outside the entrance from the garage, a sprawling mural bears iPic’s slogan—“Change the Way You See Everything”—amid a collage of classic movie posters and street-art filigree.
More than a dozen artists were commissioned to create site-specific work for the exteriors and interiors of iPic. On a wall in the lobby, vivid swatches of living Spanish moss emerge from holes like the remnants of a buried forest, and artist Ernest Zacharevic painted the children that frolic among the foliage. Though this iPic doesn’t have an in-house restaurant, a la Tanzy in Boca, visitors can sit in the lobby and order food and drinks from an award-winning chef; the sleek space includes a handful of swinging hammock chairs and a full bar.
At this weekend’s grand opening festivities, magician Blake Vogt and his assistant Jana will perform 90-minute sets. And, yes, iPic will show movies—on eight screens, on two stories, comprising 429 total seats. Thursday’s titles include “Captain Marvel,” “A Madea Family Reunion,” “Fighting With My Family,” “Green Book” and “Isn’t It Romantic.”
In his opening remarks to the press, Hashemi, who has been operating cinemas in South Florida for the past 35 years, said that iPic aims to resurrect the glory days of moviegoing, in the 20s and 30s, when theaters were akin to palaces. And he noted his desire to “undo all the annoying issues you would deal with in a traditional theater.” These days, this argument is something of a canard: The clichéd dilapidated cinema, with its sticky floors, its stale popcorn, its analog sound and its out-of-focus projection is a thing of the past. The older cinemas that have survived in the streaming era have undergone the sea changes necessary to meet more-elevated consumer demands, from 4K projection to renovated interiors to gourmet in-theater dining and reclining seats and tables.
But Hashemi is right to take credit for many of these things. By instituting these trends at both iPic and Muvico (now Cinemark) Boca Raton, he has led other theaters to raise their games, leaving those “annoying issues” to the dustbin of movie history. With more iPics in development in Fort Lauderdale, Sunrise and Miami, I have little doubt he’ll continue to raise the standard.
iPic is at 50 S.E. Fifth Ave., Delray Beach. It opens to the public today.