Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, August 14, 2001

New service aims
to end the hassle
over movie-going

Pono Shim wants you to score
good seats without waiting in line

By Betty Shimabukuro

They say that when life hands you lemons, you should make lemonade. Several months ago, Pono Shim was handed a crate full of lemons, and he's been squeezing them and adding sugar, to the point where soon he could have the biggest lemonade stand on the block.

It's that block over there by Ward Warehouse, the one with the big, fancy white building with all the movie theaters. Next month, Shim launches a concierge service headquartered in Ward Stadium 16.

It's a new business for Shim, born out of unemployment. He was sales and events manager for A Pacific Cafe in Ward Centre, until chef/owner Jean Marie Josselin abruptly closed the restaurant last November. Despite many offers of other restaurant jobs, Shim opted to control his own fate and began working with Consolidated Theaters and Victoria Ward Centers on this project.

At a hotel, a concierge is the person who'll help you figure out where to go for dinner, book your reservation and call you a cab. It's a make-life-easier proposition for people unfamiliar with an area.

Shim's service is a make-life-easier proposition for dealing with the most annoying things about movie-going: standing in line, standing in line only to find your movie's sold out, trying to get information from the theater without standing in line.

"It is awful to call anybody at the theater," Shim says. "You'll never talk to anyone. There's a lot of time wasted on the consumer's side, just getting information."

As a member in the Ward concierge program, you can call ahead -- a live person will actually answer the phone -- and find out how many seats are left at the movie of your choice. You can buy tickets over the phone and reserve spots in a special seating area. Upon reaching the theater, show your membership card, and your party of up to six people can bypass the line.

At prime time, that's a pass to cut in front of a whole lot of people. "On Friday and Saturday night at 7:30, 8 o'clock, there could be 300 people in line," Shim says. Cost of this special treatment is $40 per year.

Pono Shim is heading up a new concierge
membership service at Ward Theaters.

Shim also plans for the concierge to offer help with pre- and post-movie entertainment, offering suggestions on where to get a special glass of wine before the show, or how to take advantage of a special restaurant promotion afterward.

He's working on agreements with restaurants in the Ward complex, which runs from Dixie Grill to Borders Books and Music at the far end of Ward Centre. It includes all of Ward Warehouse, Centre and Villages (the strip that includes Starbucks and Kua Aina).

Glenn Yim, regional director for Consolidated Amusement, says the Ward concierge operation will be a prototype for similar services at other Consolidated theaters.

As a frequent traveler to New York, Yim says he often takes advantage of hotel concierges, using them to book theater or dinner reservations, arrange transportation, even sometimes to shop for him. It was that type of total guest package that he wanted to bring to the theater complex. "These are the things we thought would be a great service here at the Ward."

Yim speaks of "leveraging the amount of attendance" at the theaters, meaning "share the wealth": A concierge makes it easy for all those moviegoers to spend more dollars at other vendors in the complex.

Concierge membership

Membership sign-up: 7 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 23
Place: Kakaako Room, Ward Warehouse, second floor
Cost: First 700 members will receive a promotional rate of $35, good for 15 months; regular fee is $40 per year ($75 family membership for two cards)
Call: 382-0298

By the holiday shopping season, Shim plans to bring retailers into his service: Visit stores in the Ward area, but instead of lugging shopping bags around, have the concierge round up your purchases while you're at the movies. He even envisions being able to take payment on behalf of the stores -- a single charge bill for the customer. Could be a serious stress-reliever at Christmastime.

Shim's is a business independent of the movie theater, funded through membership dues and fees from Consolidated and the restaurants he contracts with. To start he'll have 10 employees.

He sees the enterprise as an extension of what he'd been doing for 17 years: tending to restaurant customers in this area, first at Orson's in Ward Warehouse and later at A Pacific Cafe. He's gotten used to taking care of little things beyond the meal, everything from calling a cab to suggesting after-dinner entertainment. "I've been doing this for years. I've just never profited from it."

Yim says he interviewed several people to run the new service but felt he'd found exactly the right person in Shim. "He has the right perspective. ... He has an attention to detail, and he truly loves people. That's an excellent combination for a concierge."

Do It Electric
Click for online
calendars and events.

E-mail to Features Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin