AMC Esplanade 14 Dine-In Theater: Sneak Preview

Categories: News
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No longer the concession stand, the new lobby at the AMC Dine-In Theater is now a bar and lounge.
If you're hankerin' for a little blackened salmon with your Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, or an Oreo mudslide with your Contagion, you won't have long to wait. The new AMC Dine-In Theater in Central Phoenix, the cineplex on the second level of The Esplanade, will open its doors to moviegoers on September 7.
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Blackened salmon with red mashed potatoes and seasonal veggies will be one of many upscale food offerings.
Closed since May for the transformation, AMC Dine-In Theatres' "dinner and a movie" concept at Esplanade is the Kansas City-based company's ninth location and the only one in Arizona. Similar to the iPic Theatres in North Scottsdale, patrons will be able to watch movies will sipping on premium drinks, wines by the bottle, or noshing on upscale fare.

In addition to new projectors, an all-digital experience, and crazy-plush seating, AMC Dine-In Theatres offers two meal-and-a-movie options, a bar and lounge, and for traditional movie-snackers -- bottomless popcorn.

I popped by for a sneak peak and sampled a few dishes.

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Fork & Screen theater seating.
With a decidedly adult-centered vibe, the new Esplanade 14 has done away with the concession stand in the main lobby and has replaced it with MacGuffins Bar & Lounge (named after a term coined by Alfred Hitchcock) featuring beer, wine, cocktails, and food.

"Guests can grab a drink before the show, or after it, where they can talk about the movie," says AMC director of public relations Ryan Noonan.

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Bacon cheeseburger and fries.
Also offered are two meal-and-a-movie options:

Nine of the location's 14 auditoriums, called "Fork and Screen" theaters, feature comfortable seating, entrees such as quesadillas, burgers, flatbread pizzas, grilled sandwiches and desserts, and alcoholic and non-alcoholic specialty drinks. Guests must be 18 years old unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

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Cinema Suites seating.
Five of the smaller auditoriums, known as "Cinema Suites," are more intimate, and feature posh recliners and all the "Fork and Screen" amenities, with the addition of additional dishes like lobster ravioli and tenderloin steak tips for a 21-and-over crowd.
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Bistro chicken mac and cheese.
Both options include push-button ordering, seat-side service, and pull-out tray tables. No concession stands mean you never have to leave your seat and, if you want to go the traditional route, candy and bottomless popcorn ($7) are also available.

Noonan tells me 20 to 25 percent of the seating has been taken out to make room for the more comfortable chairs and that plates and bowls are designed so they don't clink when the metal silverware hits them. Napkins are black cloth, not paper.

"We're not here to compete with other restaurants in the area," Noonan tells me. "For people who want to save time [eating while watching the movie], we offer something unique."

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Signature wedge salad.
So are there any complaints from guests when it comes to eating fare like crispy fish and chips and wedge salads in a full theater?

"Not many," Noonan tells me. "Most of the complaints we receive are typical of many movie theaters, like talking and cell phone use."

Director of theater dining and corporate chef Jason Henderson (formerly of the Applebee's chain) tells me the idea behind the food offerings at the AMC Dine-In Theatres is flavor and comfort offered at reasonable prices with the average spend at around 14 to 16 dollars.

"Most people like the hand-held food like our pizzas and burgers, but the bistro chicken mac and cheese is really starting to take off," Henderson says.

Because all nine of the theaters offer the same food, most of the ingredients come from a distribution center with the exception of the veggies, which are sourced locally. Most of the food is prepared on site, with the exception of a few of the dessert selections.

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Citrus berry stack.
Overall, the food I sampled was tasty -- better than I expected -- although keep in mind it was prepared for a specific event under the watchful eye of the corporate chef. Standouts included the bistro chicken mac and cheese, the bacon burger (which chef Henderson says is seasoned to order and includes a bun he designed himself), and the citrus berry stack. Even the blackened salmon was well-prepared.

Snack items like the cheese sticks were underwhelming. I'd opt for popcorn instead.

Tickets for the new dinner-and-a-movie theater will be slightly more expensive (typically starting at around $14) than at other Valley moviehouses. And due to the smaller seating capacity, it's probably a good idea to make reservations online.

With its decidedly upscale offerings, the new AMC Esplanade 14 Dine-in Theater has set its sights on changing the way we typically go to the movies. I'm looking forward to putting what it has to offer to the test.

What do you say, moviegoers with the munchies? Would you pay the price? Let us know what you think.

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Location Info

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AMC Esplanade 14

2515 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ

Category: Film

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19 comments
Gwen
Gwen

My friend and I loved our dine-in movie experience.  We sat in the Cinema Suites and were very impressed.  I don't know if I would like the other cinema choice because it looks like the rows are closer together, and one of the things I liked most about the Cinema Suites was how far apart the rows are.  I didn't find the waiter coming and going to be distracting at all.  And I really like not having kids in the theatre and people sitting right in front of me.  The seats are amazing, and it's really nice being able to get a cocktail.  The chocolates given out at the exit were also a nice touch.  I would definitely do this again. 

Loretta Belden
Loretta Belden

If you ever go to the esplanade theater you must have one of the specialty drinks at the bar made by Bobby.  He is sweet, informative and has amazing customer service! Bobby you rock and I can't wait to bring my family to have a Bobby McGee!!!!

Guest
Guest

the kitchen manager is a an idiot, who act like a retarded clown, the whole place is a fucking ripoff. Andrew is a mean old bitch that like to take advantage of the kitchen workers and dictate everybody like he own the place.

Brittany Marlene
Brittany Marlene

I am a server at the AMC Esplanade 14 theaters, and through serving I have collected several tips for anyone who wants to get the most enjoyment out of their dine-in AMC experience. 1. Park in the underground parking garage and take your ticket to Guest Services for validation.2. Arrive half an hour early to the movie so you can order your drinks and meal before the previews start - there will be less distractions for you and other guests this way.3. Reserve your seats online so you are guaranteed the best seat in the house.4. Bring your ID - you're not going to be able to get into the theater, much less order drinks, without it.

Read more about the AMC Esplanade 14 experience, as well as more information on these tips on my blog:http://esplanade14.wordpress.c...

-Brittany Marlene

luckystar712
luckystar712

My husband and I were lucky enough to be some of the people during the pre-opening. All the seats a good, the food is good, the servers are great and do everything not to be in anyones way during the movie. 

In the suites there is a wall front and behind you, no one under 21 yrs. no exceptions and has wonderful recliners to sit in. The servers don't interrupt you once the movie starts in less you call for them. The walls makes it feel like there are only the 8-10 people in your row. NO CHILDREN which makes it like date night. Very nice.

The fork and screen experience was also nice and you can bring the kids if you want. There are a few more seats but still in comfy chairs. My son-in-law got bumped a few times by the people behind him, seats are a little to close. No walls between the rows, not as nice of chairs, same food minus a couple of choices but still a good overall time.

The prices were a little steep. The theatres are smaller so they have to ask for more money. The suites hold like 32 people and the fork and screen hold about 64 people. I think everyone should try it once, I think you may enjoy the unique experience. We really did!

Katherine Lopez
Katherine Lopez

I'm going tomorrow with my family for free. Their only offering it for free this weekend so as to get people in who will spread the word about it. Their only playing "old" movies. We're seeing Pirates 4. I think it sounds like an exciting idea. Like my dad said it brings true meaning to dinner and a movie. It's perfect if you want to go on a date. It will be interesting to see how it is.

Claudia
Claudia

If this concept were something similar to the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin/San Antonio, I think it would be a great idea.

CardinalsForever
CardinalsForever

How about they focus on showing movies?  Seems like smoke and mirrors.  AMC has small theaters, small screens, underwhelming sound systems, but nevermind that... lookie here... FOOD!  Not just food - FANCY FOOD.  The reason I go to movies is to escape life's distractions and relax.  That ain't happening with movement during the movie, people placing orders, people spilling their wine and some of that food isn't going to smell nice in a theater.  Also, why are they charging more for a ticket?  They're sticking you for more money on their food, so why do they have to charge more the for the ticket?  For the opportunity to buy their expensive food?  Seems like a cover charge to me.  Lame.  This is a fad and a last ditch attempt to boost a theatre that is typically empty and don't get me started on the parking situation there.

ZAPatty
ZAPatty

My husband and I went to the sneak preview this afternoon.  We quite liked it -- the atmosphere was calm and comfortable, the bar area was quite nice, and the food was tasty (turkey club and margherita "pizzette").  The service was attentive and pleasant, but you should plan to get there a bit early so you can order before the trailers start.  The only part that was awkward was paying the check in the dark while the movie was on.  Next time we'll wait to pay until after it's finished.  It has underground parking that they validate (4 hours), which makes going to a matinee much more pleasant.  (Yes, you can park underground -- just go down to P3 and park near the elevators labeled "Theaters.") The Esplanade has been our favorite movie theater for years, and this change makes it even better.  Try it --

guest
guest

And what if I just want to see a movie without being surrounded by the smells of food and the activity of other people eating? I prefer to see a movie and then go out for a leisurely meal. But maybe I'm in the minority. And $14 for a ticket is too steep for me. I'll stick with Camelview for indies, FilmBar and downtown AMC. Will miss the convenience of Esplanade theaters because of easy parking and close to my house but doubtful I'll even try it once.

Blazer0x
Blazer0x

 Then go to another theater...wow what an ass.

Northmtnprep
Northmtnprep

Don't worry - there are plenty of places for you to go to a movie without the smells of food and activity of other people eating.  But, as a huge Farrelli's fan (and so disappointed they closed), I'll try this.  Theaters in Hong Kong (and probably elsewhere) have been doing this for years...we're just late to the party (as usual).  Try it - you might be pleasantly surprised!

OnDemandStacey
OnDemandStacey

I'm looking forward to trying it out.  I have the same concerns mentioned about the noise, but I think it's worth a try.  I think it's reasonably priced for the food and film, when I do an estimate and the numbers given that's about what we spent for popcorn sodas and our tickets this past weekend.  Why not include dinner?

Bowel-Moving Pictures
Bowel-Moving Pictures

 I've yet to try the dinner-IN-a-movie thing, but I'm having a little trouble digesting how it all works: People TALKING orders with their servers, servers TALKING business with their customers, and servers weaving in and out of the aisles all during the show. In my mind, I'm picturing a theater buzzing with distractions.  I think the plot twist here with regard to theater operators who are trying to get into the restaurant business is that busy food service establishments are, by nature, loud and bustling operations that will drown out the dark quiet required to lose one's self in a good movie.  To me, this all just seems like state-of-the-art TV dinner-ism: Step right up, folks; pull up a tray, scootch over so there's room for everybody, and shovel in some grub while you're watching something. Eatin' supper in front of the TEE VEE. Man, what will they think of next? 

BenGibbard'sHair
BenGibbard'sHair

It's a nice idea, but isn't AMC late to the show? There is already Farelli's, iPIC, and whatever that place on the rez is called. It's great to have an option where there aren't loud kids. Good luck.

Cachola
Cachola

Ipic closed! Farrelis in Scottsdale is for snobbs! Go esplanade!!!

Azactive
Azactive

movies are getting fairly costly as it is.The drinks and popcorn are outrageous.  The idea of gourmet style food and movie is tempting, if in fact the food is good quality and less concerns about sending it back which could be annoying in the middle of a movie. Strange concept but our ever producing "in a hurry" client will likely see it as a perk. For me a fad that will come and go. If it is good I can see a once in a while visit, if the first one is memorable.

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