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Updated: 8:21 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011 | Posted: 5:41 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31, 2011

Atlanta's dine-in movie theaters offer range of luxury



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Atlanta's dine-in movie theaters offer range of luxury photo
Atlanta's dine-in movie theaters offer range of luxury

By Melissa Ruggieri

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Merely discussing a dine-in movie theater prompts a checklist of questions.

Do you have to order food? Is it expensive? Does it mean listening to other people around you chew? What about the noise factor? Can you escape children at these theaters?

And on and on they go, the concept of eating real food – not just cold popcorn, a hot dog encased in steam-limp aluminum foil or a frozen pizza – while viewing a movie still an enigma to many.

So we’ve embarked on a mission, one that required the arduous tasks of watching movies and eating, to help you determine if this is an experience worth tackling.

First, some basic answers: Yes, all of the Atlanta-area dine-in movie theaters serve popcorn and alcohol, and no, you are not required to order any food.

But these setups designed for eating can be an understandable temptation for food smugglers, such as the couple at AMC Fork & Screen who spent more time cracking open cans of soda and noisily rustling through bags of pretzels than watching “Drive.”

If you’re easily distracted or irritated by your fellow moviegoers – and who isn’t these days with the rash of self-absorbed cellphone fanatics? – be warned that some of these theaters breed a bit too much comfortableness among patrons.

But enough with the vague generalizations. Check out the results of our unscientific (and calorie-laden) research instead.

Northlake Festival Movie Tavern

Tucker

The backstory: Opened in 2008, the only Georgia location in the Movie Tavern chain (for now) is tucked out of sight from LaVista Road in the back of a shopping center. Movie Tavern recently opened its 15th outpost and a site in Suwanee is under construction and projected to open in April.

The drill: All food is ordered at the concession counter, similar to any typical theater. You’ll be handed a number on a stick; bring it with you into the theater and wait for your grub to be delivered. You’re responsible for dumping your trash in the garbage can at the back of the theater. Condiments – the airplane-sized packet kind – are available in the lobby.

Atmosphere: The menu is a step above pedestrian theater offerings, but the décor and setup is definitely casual. Each row (in this particular theater) contained seven seats with drink holders. A long wooden bar runs in front of the seats. Practical enough, but the two-foot gap between the seat and the bar means the short among us have some serious maneuvering to do to reach their food. Also, the presence of what is essentially a shelf enticed one woman in the theater to use it as a foot rest. Yes, the same place where someone’s chicken wings might sit a few hours later.

Food ordered (with tax): Philly wrap combo, which includes fries and a soda, $12.31.

Food verdict: Look, it’s no Tony Luke’s or Pat’s, but it was much better than expected. The wrap, which arrived in about 10 minutes in a plastic basket lined with black and white checkered paper, was hot with a crispy grilled bottom and the fries tasted fresh, not microwave-soggy. I was the only one eating in the theater, but stopped because the paper was making enough noise to annoy even myself.

Other menu choices: Southwest egg rolls ($8); Fried chicken salad ($9); Turkey bacon melt ($9.75).

Popcorn: $6 with a free refill.

Alcohol: Purchase at counter in lobby. Beer ($3.75-$4.75), wine ($5 for a split) and frozen wine margarita ($5.75).

Matinee ticket: $6 (until 6 p.m.)

Other ticket prices: $8 (adults Sunday-Thursday evening); $8.75 (adults Friday-Saturday evening); $6 (children 12 and under and seniors).

Rules about kids: After 6 p.m., anyone under the age of 17 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

If you go: 4043 LaVista Road, Tucker. 678-680-5782, www.movietavern.com.

CineBistro

Brookhaven

The backstory: The seventh location of Cobb Cinemas’ dine-in concept theater opened earlier this fall in the new Town Brookhaven shopping center. It’s the only one in Georgia (Florida, Virginia and Colorado claim the others) and prides itself on being the sleekest and chic-est among its competitors.

The drill: After walking through red velvet ropes on the sidewalk, head to the indoor box office where you will choose your seat on a computer screen. All seating is reserved (and can also be purchased in advance online). If you’re ordering food, you’re asked to arrive 30 minutes before showtime, since CineBistro servers don’t bustle around during the movie. An usher will greet you at the theater door, show you to your oversized leather seat with a swivel tray and present a menu. All orders are placed via a handheld device and payment is rendered at that time, too. Food/beverages can be ordered until 10 minutes before previews begin. Those requiring refills (free for soft drinks) or wishing to purchase another snack during the movie can order themselves at the bar in the lobby.

Atmosphere: This is, without hesitation, the Bentley of dine-in theaters. From the little touches – food served on real plate ware, the friendly one-on-one interaction with servers – to broader decisions, such as playing relaxing footage of underwater scenes rather than Fanta and Skittles commercials before previews and providing a luxurious lobby lounge to chill or have a drink, CineBistro definitely caters to grown-ups seeking an adult experience.

Food ordered (with tax and automatically added 17.5 percent gratuity): Popcorn Trio, fries and a Coke Zero, $23.34.

Food verdict: Instead of ordering the “trio” of chicken, rock shrimp and calamari, I opted for all chicken. Cleverly served in a popcorn box about four-inches high, the 15-20 lightly battered chicken chunks sat on a bed of warm popcorn and next to dipping sides of tomato sauce (for the non-existent calamari) and a delicious lemon garlic aioli.

Other menu choices: Roasted beets and arugula salad ($11); meatloaf sliders ($9); penne fra diavolo ($14); grilled chicken BLT ($12); Florida rock shrimp risotto ($16).

Popcorn: $7.50, free refills.

Alcohol: Full bar in lobby and also served at seats. Martinis ($9.25); mojitos ($9.95); beer ($4.75-$5.95); extensive wine list ($7-$15); specialty drinks such as Tyler Cherry (Skyy Cherry Vodka, midori, Chambord, orange and pineapple juices garnished with a cherry sword), $9.50.

Matinee ticket: $10 (earlier than 4 p.m.)

Other ticket prices: $12 (4 p.m. and later)

Rules about kids: No one under 21 admitted. Ever.

If you go: 1004 Town Boulevard, Suite 1070, Atlanta. 404-333-0740, www.cobbcinebistro.com.

Studio Movie Grill

Alpharetta

The backstory: The theater is also fairly new to the Atlanta landscape, opening in 2010 in a space long-ago commandeered by a grocery store. This location, its seventh, is the chain’s only one outside of Texas.

The drill: After you purchase your ticket at an indoor box office (or pick a reserved seat if you prefer, which you can also do online) you’ll be handed a menu and head into the theater to choose either a small table for two with leather office-type chairs or long bar/counters lined with chairs. A red button at your seat will summon a server, who will come anytime during the movie to fulfill your itchy desire for, say, a chocolate chip cookie. About 45 minutes before the movie ends, the server will drop off your bill. They’re as unobtrusive as possible, but of course the mere arrival of someone in your space distracts from the movie.

Atmosphere: Cool and darkly appointed, with tiered seating inside the theater to prevent blocked views of the screen and a small bar and scattered seating in the lobby. While SMG is clear in its mission to cater to families with special showings of kids movies and promotions such as “endless pizza Wednesdays,” it’s also a legitimate adult haven (after all, they also have “margarita Mondays”).

Food ordered (with tax and self-added $2 tip): Chicken quesadilla, chocolate chip cookies and a Diet Dr. Pepper, $22.21.

Food verdict: My basket of tortilla chips, salsa and four large quesadilla squares came with a plate on the side in about 15 minutes. The portion was easily restaurant size and quality, with roasted peppers provided an unexpected kick. I arrived about 20 minutes before previews, which gave me plenty of time to finish eating, but even I, the most conscious of public-eaters-in-quiet-spaces was shushed by someone a row above me for, apparently, getting too much crunch out of my chips. Halfway through the movie, I touched the red button and (quietly) asked the server for an order of chocolate chip cookies, which took about 15 minutes and were served warm on a sheet of tinfoil inside the basket.

Other menu choices: chicken or spinach mushroom quesadilla ($10.95); Thai salad ($12.25); turkey burger ($9.95); gourmet pizzas ($9.50-$11.50).

Popcorn: $4.25

Alcohol: Full bar in lobby and also served at seats. Margaritas ($8-$9.75); beer ($4.50-$5.75); wine ($7-$14, plus high-end bottles from $42-$100); cocktails such as Dragonberry Mojito (Bacardi Dragonberry rum, fresh mint, lime), $8.50.

Matinee ticket: $8 (first showing), unreserved seat.

Other ticket prices: Reserved seating matinee, $11 (adults) and $10.50 (seniors and children 10 and under). Reserved seating evening Sunday-Thursday, $12.50 (adults). $10.50 (seniors and children). Reserved seating evening Friday-Saturday, $12.75 (adults), $10.50 (seniors and children). Unreserved seating matinee, $8 (adults), $7.50 (seniors and children). Unreserved seating evening Sunday-Thursday, $9.50 (adults), $8 (students 11 and older with ID), $7.50 (seniors and children). Unreserved seating evening Friday-Saturday, $9.75 (adults), $8 (students), $7.50 (seniors and children).

Rules about kids: No children under 2 will be admitted to any PG-13 or R-rated movie after 6 p.m.

If you go: 2880 Holcomb Bridge Road, Alpharetta. 770-992-8411, www.studiomoviegrill.com.

AMC Fork & Screen

Buckhead

The backstory: Formerly the Buckhead Backlot, this location was converted to the Fork & Screen – the more casual variety of AMC dine-ins – in 2008. This is the only Georgia post of its eight locations scattered throughout the nation.

The drill: On quieter weekdays, you’ll head inside to purchase your ticket from a hostess. On weekends, a traditional outdoor box office is in use. Inside the theater is a mixture of small round tables and long bars with red chairs on rollers (they look cool, but they’re impossible to adjust). This theater also uses the “push-the-button” technique and servers will come anytime throughout the movie, “just like a restaurant,” said my helpful movie waitress. And, just like your local fast-casual dining spot, the menus are kept on the tables, as are bottles of condiments. The bill for any purchases is dropped off about halfway through the movie. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who heard the whizzing of the credit card machine in the back of the theater while my transaction was being processed.

Atmosphere: A laid-back hangout with the cutely named MacGuffin’s bar/lounge in the front for those who want to enjoy an adult beverage. The lobby isn’t huge, but the theaters are spacious. Parking is in the adjacent garage, but the theater provides three hours of validation.

Food ordered (with tax and self-added $2 tip): Backlot Cheeseburger with onion rings and a Coke Zero, $17.41.

Food verdict: My burger, served about 10 minutes after I ordered it, was the type found at any Ruby Tuesday’s or T.G.I. Friday’s. It was cooked to order, hot, and big enough that I tired of eating it halfway through. Food is presented with real utensils and cloth napkins.

Other menu choices: Veggie Triple Feature (carrots, jicama, celery sticks and pizzetta strips served with hummus and blue cheese or ranch dressing, $7.99); Thai coconut chicken tenders ($11.99); Bistro mac and cheese ($10.99); BLT cheese griller ($8.99).

Popcorn: $6.99 with free refills

Alcohol: Full bar in lobby and also served at seats. Beer, wine and cocktails, such as the Oreo Mudslide (Absolut Vodka, vanilla ice cream, Oreo cookie pieces, Kamora and Ryan's Irish Cream). Prices unavailable.

Matinee ticket: $9

Other ticket prices: Shows before 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, $6. Shows 6 p.m. and later Monday-Thursday, $9 (adults/seniors) and $6 (children 2-12). Shows from noon-3:55 p.m. Friday-Sunday and holidays, $9 (adults/seniors) and $6 (children). Shows 4 p.m. and later Friday-Sunday and holidays, $12 (adults/seniors) and $9 (children).

Rules about kids: Guests must be 18 years old unless accompanied by a parent or guardian at least 21 years of age. No children younger than 6 will be admitted to R-rated features after 6 p.m.

If you go: 3340 Peachtree Road N.E., Atlanta. 404-467-9619, www.amctheaters.com.

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