Cine­plex has high hopes for The Rec Room

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - NEIL DAVID­SON

TORONTO — Nes­tled un­der the CN Tower, across the street from the Rogers Cen­tre and Ri­p­ley’s Aquar­ium, sits Cine­plex’s lat­est bid to di­ver­sify its en­ter­tain­ment em­pire.

The Rec Room is a man cave on steroids — 40,000 square feet of big-screen TVs and video games plus am­ple food and drink. It also fea­tures The Void, a vir­tual-re­al­ity ex­pe­ri­ence that puts you in the “Ghost­busters” world, as well as live en­ter­tain­ment and an im­pres­sive pa­tio.

The Toronto Rec Room — a sim­i­lar space opened in Ed­mon­ton in Septem­ber — has proved to be a hit out of the box since its June 27 open­ing. David Terry, vice-pres­i­dent and gen­eral man­ager of the Rec Room ven­ture, says more than 6,000 peo­ple alone came through the doors on Canada Day.

Cine­plex plans to open 10 to 15 ver­sions of The Rec Room, rang­ing in size from 40,000 to 60,000 square feet. Plans have al­ready been an­nounced for Mis­sis­sauga, Lon­don, Calgary and Van­cou­ver, as well as for an ad­di­tional lo­ca­tion in Ed­mon­ton at West Ed­mon­ton Mall.

“They’re all ei­ther in de­sign or con­struc­tion phase,” said Terry, whose back­ground is with The Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hol­ly­wood. “Al­most all of those should open by the end of 2018.”

Each lo­ca­tion will be a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. Ed­mon­ton, for ex­am­ple, also fea­tures bowl­ing and axe throw­ing. The new Toronto lo­ca­tion is in Round­house Park, ad­ja­cent to a lo­co­mo­tive round­house that is home to the Toronto Rail­way Mu­seum. So the out­door pa­tio looks out to the CN Tower and train cars.

Housed in a her­itage prop­erty, The Rec Room has all its elec­tri­cal, plumb­ing and other wiring clamped to the ex­ist­ing pil­lars “to not change any­thing.” One open­ing was al­lowed at the back of the hall but the bricks that were re­moved had to be num­bered and ware­housed so they could be re­stored in the fu­ture.

While the high-ceilinged space is largely open, the bar, restau­rant and gam­ing sec­tions are suf­fi­ciently apart to avoid the feel­ing of a jumbo ar­cade. It’s well ap­pointed and well thought out. For ex­am­ple, when there is live en­ter­tain­ment — Cana­dian singer Cole­man Hell played open­ing night — pri­vate rooms off the en­ter­tain­ment/bar area have a bal­cony space to watch the show.

The venue’s enor­mous screen will no doubt be pop­u­lar come the Su­per Bowl or Stan­ley Cup play­offs.

There is no ad­mis­sion charge. Ca­pac­ity in Toronto is 1,400, which in­cludes 850 for eat­ing, and there are 500 peo­ple on staff.

The video games work on cred­its which you load up on via a wrist­band. Ten dol­lars will buy you 40 cred­its while $30 gets you 200.

Like ev­ery­thing else, the games are high-end, be it blast­ing aliens or shoot­ing the walk­ing dead with a cross­bow. For those with a need for speed, there is an im­pres­sively high-tech race car sim­u­la­tor (32 cred­its for one race).

Other games al­low you to earn cred­its that can be re­deemed at the in-house store, from candy to drones.

The Void, sug­gested for ages 10 and above, turns you and as many as three oth­ers into Ghost­busters. Equipped with a VR-style hel­met, pro­ton pack and weapon, you find your­self blast­ing ghosts and other su­per­nat­u­rals in a quite re­mark­able vir­tual ex­pe­ri­ence. It will cost you $24.

The menu ranges from pou­tine and wood-fired pizza to steak. A cus­tom dough­nut bar, with liquor­flavoured fill­ing if de­sired, of­fers deca­dent dessert op­tions.

NEIL DAVID­SON, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

A pa­tron races on a high-tech rac­ing sim­u­la­tor at The Rec Room in Toronto.

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