MAKATI CITY, April 1, 2004 (STAR) By Joseph O. Cortes - There are karaoke bars. And there’s Red Box Karaoke. Picture these: Unlike most videoke bars, Red Box has an extensive song database, now running up to 30,000 songs. With its tie-up with the different local and foreign music companies in the country, it continues to add more songs to this list, promising guests the latest songs at the touch of the remote control.

Red Box boasts the fastest song delivery system on the market, with any ordered song flashing on your screen in an instant. Yes, your songs are delivered not in 10 seconds, but almost in a split second. And never mind if four guests ordered the same song at the same time. It will play all at the same time as they have demanded.

It also doesn’t have hourly room charges. What it has is a sliding scale of fees, applied per person, dependent on the time of your visit. If you come during its lunch-hour service, anytime from 12 noon to 3 p.m., you can use the room for free. All you have to do is order any of its lunch sets, priced anywhere from P130 to P230, and you can sing your heart away. And if the venue is not too busy, you might even get lucky and be upgraded to the bigger rooms that come with a large flat screen TV and surround speakers.

Guests coming in during its Happy Hour, from 3 to 7 p.m., are charged just P61 per person. This comes with two free drinks, a choice of two bottles of beer, mineral water and the like. Prime Time from 7 p.m. to 12 midnight goes from P261 per person, inclusive of two drinks, while After Hours, from 12 midnight to 3 a.m., go for P161 per person, inclusive of two drinks.

And there’s the food. If you think of videoke food choices as simply a choice of pulutan, like crispy pata and sizzling sisig, think again. Since Red Box is managed by Matrix Entertainment Inc., which has extensive experience operating food and beverage companies on the market, like Banana Leaf Curry House and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, guests are assured of gourmet meals comparable with any restaurant in the Greenbelt area.

Red Box advertising and promotions director Paolo del Rosario says Red Box Karaoke was envisioned to be a wholesome family-oriented entertainment venue unlike most videoke bars.

"The word KTV in Manila often has a negative connotation," he says. "We’re trying to veer away from the image of a night spot with GROs."

Indeed, that’s the last thing that will come to your mind at Red Box. With interiors tastefully designed by sisters Cynthia and Ivy Almario, the entire venue has the feel of a hip night spot. Most of the big rooms are assigned at the lower level, while the smaller ones are on the second level. Covering a total floor area of 1,000 square meters, 41 rooms are intricately laid out in color-defined zones that make walking around the maze of rooms easy. A small room can hold five to six guests, while the biggest room can fit 40 guests. There are two rooms, good for 25 guests, that have pool tables, making them perfect venues for parties.

"The challenge we face now is to change the model for karaoke bars and get people to come in during the day," he adds. "With our menu, we believe we offer a good lunch alternative for businessmen who want to have a private meeting and have a little fun on the side. We also want to redefine the perception that karaoke bars are just after-dinner venues for those who want to sing and drink. Now, we offer them an alternative venue for lunch and dinner, providing not just karaoke but also good food."

Apart from its a la carte menu of entrees, sandwiches, pasta and pulutan, Red Box also offers a buffet during Prime Time, priced at a reasonable P99 per person. On top of the standard per person Prime Time fee, a night at Red Box with buffet would set you back by less than P400. And that’s five hours of singing, pretty cheap if you ask a karaoke buff like me.

The best time to drop by now is during lunch, but Del Rosario says as people get used to the concept of all-day karaoke, they expect to find themselves busy all day. On weekends, the only way you could get a room now is to reserve one in advance, because families and friends have now discovered the pleasures of Red Box’s karaoke rooms. All I can say is book me one, too!

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Red Box Karaoke is at the third floor of Greenbelt 3, Ayala Center, Makati City. It is open daily from 12 noon to 3 a.m. For inquiries and reservations, call 757-6188.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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