A Tale of Two Cinemas – Epic vs. Carolina

I have extolled the virtues of Carolina Cinemas may times before but once again this week I was reminded of how exceptional they are. The Carolina is about a forty-five minute drive into Asheville for me whereas our local Epic cinema is only ten minutes away.

The Epic has fantastic large screens, stadium seating, and reasonable prices ($6.50-$8.75) with a $2 surcharge for 3D. They even have $5 Tuesdays. You would think that shaving over an hour off a roundtrip and the high tech presentation would have me going local every time.

Unfortunately customer service and follow through are things Epic has apparently not heard of. The last time my wife and daughter went to the Epic, they arrived early for the feature. Because the theater had yet to be cleaned (twenty minutes before feature start), they were not allowed in. The Epic has a series of benches between each of the screens but NONE in the huge lobby. The benches are behind the ticket taker but not only would the ticket taker not take their tickets (since the theater had not been cleaned), he would not allow my ladies to sit on the benches (since it was past his ticket booth).

In case you think this a fluke, my latest visit was to see Monsters, Inc. 3D with my daughter and granddaughter. We used our FREE tickets at the counter. I always apologize out of courtesy when I use one as they have to handpunch the number (other than that they are used just like a credit card for payment). At the Carolina, my customary apology would be responded to with “oh no problem” or even “no worries, Marc” if it is one of the managers. At the Epic, I said “I’m sorry. I know these are a pain to enter.” to which the cashier actually harrumphed at me and said, “they sure are.”

We got inside and ordered a soda and popcorn. The counter staff were very polite and complimented my granddaughter. I got to the ticket taker and gave him our tickets. He informed us with a shrug that they didn’t have any more kids 3D glasses. Are you kidding me? Who did they think would attend Monsters, Inc. 3D? Why wouldn’t the person selling the tickets be made aware of this (especially as once used, the movie vouchers cannot be reused)?

These are only the most recent attempts at the Epic – I would guess that half of all my visits there end in frustration.

In contrast, many of Carolina Cinemas personnel have made the effort to learn my name, one of them even knows my usual food order. They are unfailingly polite, soda refills (any size) are FREE (the machine is self-serve), popcorn refills (any size) are FREE (with an Asheville Film Society membership), and they serve a pretty decent chicken tomato basil pizza. Add to that the rewards program (Epic has one but it is sub-par), FREE movies Tuesday and Thursday evening in the cinema lounge, and $5 Wednesday and you have a superlative cinema experience. They also serve wine and beer for those who partake.