Point-Counterpoint: Dine-In Theaters Destroy the Moviegoing Experience

Categories: Food Fight

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We had so much fun chucking Chow Bella contributors Ando Muneno and Lauren Saria into the ring over Alton Brown and food trucks, we put them back at it again.

This week's topic: Dine-in movie theaters.

Lauren: A few weeks ago, a friend invited me to a screening of a movie that I would never have paid $9 to see otherwise. "It's free!" she begged, adding, "And besides, it's at one of those fancy theaters where they serve food!"

So I went. And while the movie was actually pretty damn funny, the theater Studio Movie Grill was a nightmare!

While enjoying a meal during a movie sounds great, I found the reality to be far from ideal. First, I was disappointed to find the seating options to be

1. a bar-like row of swivel chairs that reminded me waaaay too much of a college lecture hall or

2. pseudo-armchairs that put you two feet away from your nearest companion.

We opted for the armchair things, and though the little fold-down eating trays were cute, the lights necessary to illuminate everyone's food were completely distracting. Don't even get me started on the servers. Excuse me, but if your name is not in the credits, I don't want to hear you talking to me or anyone else during the film. Please and thank you.

Needless to say, I just don't get it.

Ando: Did we go to the same theater? [Editor's note: They did.] Because I don't remember intrusive servers, bright lights, or disappointing chairs. I only saw our servers three times: Once to take our order, once to unobtrusively deliver the goods and one final time to slip us our check. Aside from the last time, they showed up only when I pushed a button that summoned them. And that's half the fun! It's like being royalty! Where else can you go, slap a button, and have someone materialize out of the darkness to offer you a refill on your beverage?

You say "swivel chairs," but what you really mean is "comfy padded office chairs." I don't know which lectures hall chairs you sat in during college, but none of mine were nearly as comfortable as the ones in that theater.


Location Info

Studio Movie Grill

5515 N. Hayden Road, Scottsdale, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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16 comments
Central Scrutinizer
Central Scrutinizer

I've been to the 'fork and screen' theater in the Camelback Esplanade a half dozen times since they opened it, and I find it to be an excellent movie watching experience. The food ain't 4-star, but it's a damn sight better than normal theater fare... I'd put it about par with a Chili's or Applebee's. The help is as unobtrusive as they can be, and the new seats are more than comfy enough to sit through a 2+ hour movie.

I think it's a win, personally.

Marcy
Marcy

"
we need to support their mission if we want to preserve the movie watching experience."

No we don't.  In fact we shouldn't support their "mission" if we want to preserve the moving watching experience.

Fred random
Fred random

I would find these point/counterpoint features more worthwhile if they didn't involve a contrived, high-school debate scenario where the participants are forced to take a position they may not actually care about and strain to support with misleading and/or inaccurate information. Of all your staff and readers, can't you find people who actually care?

DJ Roomba
DJ Roomba

The problem with dine in theatres is that the food is never as good as what you can get elsewhere... so far

Amy
Amy

I have been to Studio Movie Grill several times. All great experiences. The food is good and the prices are reasonable. I love that I can order a crudite and Boursin while watching Oscar winning flicks like The Three Stooges. We liked Farrellis seating better- but this place is just fine.

Andy W
Andy W

We had a great experience at studio movie grill.  We tried another "dine in" theater and that was an entirely different experience. The food at Studio Movie Grill is fairly priced and is surprisingly good. We had chicken fingers and the burger. Even though I hate well done meat it was the only choice, but it actually tasted OK). The servers were polite and unobtrusive. We sat in the "office chairs' during two visits and both thought they were the most comfortable chair we ever sat in at a movie. Great to drink wine at a movie from a real glass. Not a great wine list but they do have bottles of Silver Oak if you are feeling flush. (I think they were $100)

Jason PP
Jason PP

Come on, this is a great date experience.

Hypocrisy sucks
Hypocrisy sucks

Me too. I thought it was going to be a disaster, but it's a hell of a lot of fun drinking a cosmpolitan and watching a movie. The food's not bad at all, but obviously you want to stick with fingerfoods, not a plate of fettucine. I'm hooked on the Esplanade now.

Ando Muneno
Ando Muneno

What was inaccurate or misleading? I assure you we'll make the edits if we got something wrong and you point it out to us. 

Ando Muneno
Ando Muneno

That's true but I think they're target demographic are people who would hit a TGIF's or something before or after their movie. Prices are about the same and it's two birds with one stone and one tank of gas. 

I do agree though, it would be awesome if they combined an actually nice restaurant with a theater. 

Ando Muneno
Ando Muneno

Farrelli's is the really fancy movie/restaurant with the wine dispensers and what not? They're seats did indeed look very comfortable. 

Fred random
Fred random

It's debatable whether the disagreement over swivel chairs counts as fact or opinion, but I lean toward fact. Regardless, the contrasting descriptions really does sound like you two are describing two different places. The two positions are so polarized that it's impossible to get an impression of the experience...and each are so extreme that either someone is being misleading or the place is terribly inconsistent. But the essence of my comment is that by taking such conflicting positions, you basically leave us at scratch knowing nothing about your topic.

Eric Van Kirk
Eric Van Kirk

iPic has the wine dispensers and really plush electronic theatre seating.  I like them better, especially since it's a theatre designed with their model in mind as opposed to a revamped United Artists.

Ando Muneno
Ando Muneno

If we agreed there wouldn't be much of a point-counterpoint. 

I don't think that the locations we're talking about are terribly inconsistent I think it's a matter of both Lauren and I coming from two very different views on the world. What she values is different than what I value and talking about those differences is amusing enough that we write a column about it. 

Speaking specifically to the swivel chairs: After some reflection I have to concede that the chair at SMG are very similar to the ones in some of the classrooms at ASU. I will note that I found them, and the chairs at SMG, extremely comfortable but that is in fact, a personal opinion. There are nicer movie chairs in the world (there's on theater in LA that has, I think, oversize bean bag chairs) and with that point of reference I think it's fair to argue that swivel office chairs are not a vast improvement over your average movie seat. 

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