Lighten up

Jaime Chu

Return of the discount cinema

The vacant parking lot at the back of the Oaks Center seemed to have turned into a suburban wasteland for as long as passers-by wondered. But of late, the deserted space revived after the opening of BlueLight Cinemas.

The most enticing attraction of BlueLight — even more so than the movie program — is indisputably the $3.75 ticket. The discount price does not equate discount amenities and service. The entire theater is renovated with refurbished high-back cushion seats, Dolby surround sound system and speakers, and remodeled concourse counter and furnishings. Ice-cream is on the concession menu, the buttery smell of popcorn lingers all the way into the theaters and a few arcade games are parked on-site. Friendly and helpful service also responds to the intimate neighborhood setting of the cinema.

The program at BlueLight Cinemas is updated every week. The premium discount theater offers movies one to two months after first-run. Photo by Kriti GargThe five theaters sit from 96 to 159, each with spacious moving room and comfortable seats. Although the rows are not tiered, the raised screens eliminate the problem of obstructed sight lines. Five different movies screen from noon on every day of the week. The current program includes "Astro Boy", "The Informant" and "Where the Wild Things Are".

Discount theaters work directly with distributors to obtain a separate license for the movie rights after first-run screenings, usually a month or two later. BlueLight CEO Art Cohen hopes to expand the program to first-run art and independent films, special programs and personalized rentals such as school programs and birthday functions in the future.

"We have more choices: what’s exciting out there, or something old or out of circulation, like a Star Wars week or something similar," Cohen said. "People can also bring their birthday DVD’s to play as a surprise message."

Prior to BlueLight, the building next to Pho Linh at the freeway-end of the Oaks also used to be a discount theater, which closed seven years ago for financial reasons. Former consumer electronics company CEO Cohen and his business partner Larry Snyder saw the opportunity and re-opened the theater on Nov. 20. In addition to offering adult and R-rated movies, BlueLight makes sure there is also a PG or G option as it was opened with a family-friendly vibe in mind. Cohen also incorporates offers such as a free soda at the mention of a special codeword on its Twitter.

When going to a movie no longer means handing a $10 bill and loose coins across a glass pane to a microphonic voice and clothing coated with the multiplex odor afterward, patience is a small price to pay for the clean and intimate neighborhood experience.

BlueLight Cinemas is located next to Pho Linh at Cupertino Oaks, 21275 Stevens Creek Blvd.


Click here for the audio slideshow of an interior tour of BlueLight Cinemas.