bill bodkin welcomes you to the only way you should ever experience going to the movies again …
In December 2010, the AMC Loews movie theater chain opened up their Dine-In Movie Theater at the Menlo Park Mall in Edison, N.J. This new cinema concept replaced a theater that had lost its luster over the past decade — decaying from the white hot Cineplex Odeon in the early to mid-90s, to a sticky, uncrowded pastel shell of its former self. I believe it hadn’t been updated since I first stepped into the theater to see Sister Act with my parents.
I can happily say the update to my former childhood theater was nothing short of amazing. Yes, it may sound like hyperbole, but what you will walk into at the Menlo Park Mall (or select theaters around the country) is a movie lover’s dream come true.
The AMC Dine-In Movie Theater is the ultimate movie-going experience — combining a restaurant, bar (nicknamed MacGuffan’s) and movie theater under one roof. It makes the experience of going to the movies just that an experience. Today, going to the movies has been reduced to just seeing a film. Walk into a large room where you have to battle people to find seats, where you get gouged at the concession stand for mediocre food.
AMC has changed all this with their Dine-In Theaters.
The experience I have at the new Dine-In Theaters have been at the swank “Cinema Suites” viewing True Grit and The Fighter. The Cinema Suites are usually reserved for films that have just been released or are of some significance (i.e. Best Picutre Nominee).
How the Cinema Suites works is you reserve your ticket for the showtime of your choosing, I recommend doing this well in-advance. We tried ordering tickets for a 7 p.m. True Grit showing at 5 p.m. and the theater was sold-out. So word to the wise: Plan ahead.
When ordering your tickets, you are able (if you plan ahead) to pick where you want to sit. Love the aisle? You can reserve an aisle seat. Need four tickets dead center but towards the back? Go for it.
Tickers are $25. After you get over the sticker shock, let’s break this down. $10 of the ticket price goes towards your admission, which you’d pay $10 for anyway. The remaining $15 goes toward any food or beverage purchase you’ll make. Anything over $15, you’ll be charged for at the end of the film.
Once you arrive in the Cinema Suite, you’ll notice that there’s are far fewer seats in your theater than usual. That’s because the new seats are extremely comfortable recliners. That’s right — a recliner. You can kick your feet up during the film or stretch it all the way out and feel like your in bed. This comfort makes you feel like you’re in your living room watching a movie.
At night time, you’ll be carded to get into the movies because these theaters serve alcohol. That’s right — you can order up a tall, cold draft of beer or maybe a cocktail while you indulge in cinematic delights. This feature also ensures that those pesky underagers who tend to annoy you at the movies through their incessant texting, chatter and belligerence is completely eliminated. Hence, making this an even more enjoyable experience for you — especially if this one of the rare occasions you and your spouse get out to the movies.
The menu, surprisingly, is a little more diverse than I originally imagined. Yes, you’ve got your mozzarella sticks and wings and burgers, but there is also steak, pasta dishes, quesadillas and entree salads. You can order desserts, and there’s a kids menu. I have had their burger, and while it’s not the most amazing I’ve ever had, it’s still tasty. And the options are so diverse that I’m actually interested in exploring other items.
Now,. one thing you might be wondering is: “Doesn’t the waiter service interfere with your movie experience?” I can say that it hasn’t effected me, and I’m notorious for not being very social during movies. Your order is promptly taken within minutes of being seated and depending on your crowd size, you should have your meal ready to go by the end of the trailers. The service fast, quiet and polite. The best part of the service is that if the mood for popcorn and a drink refill strikes you during the film, you can just press the waiter call button and your server will stealthfully sneak in and grab your order — never interrupting your movie-watching flow.
As for the experience of it? All I can say is, I love it. I feel as though my money is well-spent: I’m spending the same amount of money to pick the seat I want to be in, order tasty food, sit in a comfy seat and enjoy a movie as I would waiting for a table to free up on a Friday night at a restaurant than battling to find a decent seat and spend too much money on snacks at a regular theater — and it takes considerably less time.
This is how movies were meant to be seen.