Dozens stood in line outside the Century Napa Valley movie theater, waiting for more film choices, cushier seats and the premiere of the latest James Bond thriller. But inside Napa’s lavish new cinema, it was easy for some to let themselves be distracted from film — happily so.
Inside the high-ceilinged, wood-paneled lobby early Friday afternoon, the 12-screen theater’s opening-day queue inched toward the ticket desk, most of them on their way to see “Skyfall” on the playhouse’s showcase 300-seat screen.
Relaxing in a lounge by the plate-glass windows, however, were others in no hurry to take their seats, instead celebrating the grand opening in a typically Napa Valley way.
“It’s lovely, it’s gorgeous. I’m jealous,” said Bridget Cheslock, of San Diego, as she and her friend Katie Clark, who lives in western Massachusetts, sipped glasses of Sofia Blanc de Blancs the two had bought in the wine bar a few yards away. “It’s so beautiful here, you can come, hang out, see a few movies, spend the day.”
Cinemark’s new Napa outlet, sited behind the South Napa Marketplace, opened its doors at 11:30 a.m., with more than 65 spectators already waiting underneath the theater’s glass-walled façade and pewter-colored pillars.
Though the playhouse at 195 Gasser Drive attracted hundreds to an invitation-only preview on Wednesday, its full opening — originally planned to include a midnight debut for “Skyfall” — was delayed 12 hours to allow more preparation time after it hosted movies for the Napa Valley Film Festival the previous day. Despite the delay, Cinemark spokeswoman Jennifer Frederick said the company still forecasted sellouts of the James Bond movie on Friday.
First-day spectators entered a space on a larger scale, in size and amenities, from the 1980s-era Cinedome, which Cinemark closed after its Thursday night showings. Besides featuring four more screens than its forerunner, Century Napa Valley is equipped with digital projection for all screens and three-dimensional capability in six.
Century Napa Valley’s 12:30 p.m. leadoff showing of “Skyfall” took place in in the theater’s “XD” room, whose surround-sound system includes a screen the full height and width of a wall, along with speakers built into the ceiling as well as the walls for greater realism. Cinemark spokesman James Meredith said this larger-screen venue, duplicated in about 70 of the company’s cinemas, will present many major films for their first week of release.
Word of the new theater’s special screen had reached at least some of those waiting for the opening.
“I heard the XD is a new thing, so we’re gonna try to see it there, see what it’s all about,” said Jenith Ladon Falconitin, a Vallejo resident and Napa native who was fourth in line and preparing to buy tickets for herself and her husband that evening.
Extra screens should allow Cinemark not only to keep major Hollywood productions in the theater for longer, but also to broaden the new cinema’s offerings, Meredith said during the Wednesday preview.
In addition to a rotation of classic and seasonal movies, Century Napa Valley also is expected to show live broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera, mixed martial arts bouts, the Wimbledon tennis tournament and the 2014 FIFA World Cup, he said.
“In the summer (when Hollywood studios release most action films) having more screens is an advantage,” said Meredith. “And with 12 screens we can show some indie and art films along with the blockbusters.”
Meanwhile, for some, Century Napa Valley had proved itself as an attraction before ever showing a film. As the minutes ticked toward the first movies’ introductions, Cheslock and Clark continued their unhurried chat with their new friend, Drew Brewer, a Mill Valley man visiting his son in Napa, who had introduced the women to the theater.
“We met at the Starbucks and I told them about the wine bar here, and we decided to check it out,” Brewer said, passing a plate of Brie, preserves and water crackers to his new friends. “Who’s not gonna want to see a new wine bar, no matter where it is — even in a movie theater?”