Movie Magic

Hamid Hashemi is the creator behind iPic Theaters.

Hamid Hashemi is the creator behind iPic Theaters. // Gina Fontana

The article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of Boca Life Magazine.

Movie Magic
The founder of iPic Theaters, Hamid Hashemi, is hitting his mark and producing an unbelievable movie-going experience.

Hamid Hashemi’s life could be a movie. A drama, perhaps, with a fairy-tale ending. For the iPic Theaters CEO and founder, if his life played out on screen, millions of audience members would undoubtedly tune in, eagerly awaiting the denouement.

As a boy in pre-revolutionary Iran, Hashemi says, he saw movies as “the screen to the Western world.” His favorite movie, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” released in 1984 after he emigrated to the United States, provided the ultimate fantasy view of this world: a fedora-wearing swashbuckling hero fighting off throngs of bad guys to save an entire village.

Today, from his third-story office in Mizner Park, where he sits amongst three iMacs, a sleek chocolate-brown leather couch and a 60-inch Samsung flat-screen TV hanging against a stark-white wall, Hashemi takes a moment to reflect how he got here, how he managed to go from movie enthusiast to entertainment experience provider.

For the South Florida businessman, the movie business was never in the cards. Instead, Hashemi dreamed of being a heart surgeon, enrolling in medical school in Iran. And then the turning point of this film took place. In January 1979 Hashemi was forced to flee Iran during the revolution, catching the last flight out of the country. With the challenges of becoming a foreign medical student in the United States mounting against him, Hashemi turned to the real estate business.

He bought his first movie theater in 1984 in Coral Springs. He bought another one in 1988 in North Miami, introducing stadium seating and the revolutionary THX sound. No other local theater at the time had such enhancements. For Hashemi, he wanted to give his viewers the ultimate movie-going experience, something he has coveted since a boy in Tehran.

And that’s exactly what he aimed for with iPic Theaters’ nine current locations (with more to premiere next year). Opened in Boca Raton since last May, the concept behind iPic is simple: Give ticket holders a comfortable, plush environment to watch movies. In this case, plush comfort includes soft, oversized leather chairs, just like you might find at your home. And for those who choose, iPic offers reclining seats with a blanket as well as food service delivered by a wait staff (or “ninjas,” as Hashemi likes to call them for their undisruptive service).

“People like to watch movies in their home theater,” explains Hashemi, who was a former partner in Boca Raton’s Muvico Palace 20 (now Cinemark). “So we give your living room experience in the social atmosphere of our theaters.”

For Hashemi, 53, it’s always about giving customers what they want before they know what they want. Getting dinner before your movie? Hashemi has thought about that, too. His iPic Theaters include gourmet food options located next to the theater. The Boca Raton location has the comfortably upscale Tanzy, serving artisanal Italian food.

“We didn’t invent the movie. We didn’t invent the restaurant,” Hashemi says. “We just put the two of them together.”

A soft-spoken man who shies away from the spotlight, Hashemi no doubt would never green light a movie about his life. He would rather let the business do the talking. As he puts it, “The most rewarding thing for me is when people leave the theater and say, ‘This was a great time.’” And if the overwhelming number of sold-out show times are any evidence, then this story has a happy ending.

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