Dinner and a movie hybrid evolves

AMC Theaters has joined the dinner and a movie movement with their new Fork & Screen concept with its MacGuffins restaurant-saloon and their soon to open Mainstreet Theater.

In past issues we have written about dinner and a movie, a nascent, but fast expanding hybrid concept. AMC, one of America’s largest movie chains, now has joined the hybrid movement with its new Fork & Screen concept. AMC experimented with an upscale Fork & Screen at its Buckhead megaplex in Atlanta last summer. But the company considers the Nov. 1 opening of its Fork & Screen at AMC Studio 30 in Olathe, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, as the best test of the concept. AMC is targeting a growing segment of the movie audience – older adults -- with the new concept.

In Olathe, AMC ripped out 11 auditoriums, rebuilding an entire wing, so audiences could be served food and drinks while watching a movie. Six of the new auditoriums are in the Fork & Screen format with 54 to 122 plush seats behind tables. Press a button at your seat and a server takes your order that can include not only food and beverage, but also liquor, such as beer, wine and cocktails. Movie tickets to these auditoriums cost the same as regular theater admission, currently $10 on weekends and $5 on weekdays and weekend matinees.

Luxury seating in the Cinema Suites
Three auditoriums are premium upscale Cinema Suites with extra amenities like padded leather reclining chairs and reserved seating. Each suite has 32 seats. Tickets cost $10 more, which entitles you to reserved seats and a $5 coupon good toward food items. No one under 21 is admitted to the Cinema Suites.

The centerpiece of the renovation is a restaurant-saloon called MacGuffins, named after Alfred Hitchcock’s term for an idea that sets a movie’s plot in motion. Anyone adult who buys movie ticket can visit MacGuffins. Minors can visit only if accompanied by an adult.

The saloon-restaurant can seat 250 guests. The menu includes:

  • Wood-roasted chicken quesadillas - $8.99
  • Tai coconut chicken tenders - $9.59
  • Parmesan fries - $6.95
  • Flatbread pizzettas - $9.29-$9.79
  • Bacon cheeseburger - $9.99
  • Fruit smoothies and milkshakes - $4.99
  • Darkiccino chocolate brownie - $6.29

Food items are available in any of the nine auditoriums. Food is served in shallow wooden boxes to keep food from falling off plates in the dark.

The screens in the nine theaters are twice the size that is standard for similar auditoriums. AMC plans to switch the theaters to digital projection in the future.

Fork & Screen is not the only eatertainment concept AMC is launching. Their new premium Mainstreet Theatre concept is under construction in the Kansas City Power & Light Entertainment District. The theater will be located in the historic 72,000-square-foot former Empire Theater constructed in 1921. The 3,200-seat theater was a popular vaudeville and movie house. An interesting side note: It was the first theater in Kansas City to have a nursery for children of those attending a show. The nursery was in the basement and staffed by a nurse. Toys and games were available for older children, with cribs for babies.

AMC has teamed up with Entertainment Concept Investors, Inc., the restaurant and club division of the Cordish Company, to develop the concept. Cordish developed the Power & Light Entertainment District. The six-screen, all digital theater is scheduled to open in early 2009. It will feature fine finishes, including terrazzo and hardwood floors, chandeliers and glass handrails. Bistro 5, a two-level restaurant, will be housed in 14,000 square feet of the building. The restaurant will also include a coffee lounge and showcase dessert kitchen with sofas.

Rendering of the restaurant inside
the AMC Mainstreet Theatre
It sounds like AMC has really thought out its new eatertainment concepts and is paying attention to all the details, especially food and beverage components. In a time-pressed society, the upscale cinema-eatery concepts of AMC and others are sure to attract audiences and even grab sales away from some restaurants where patrons now go before or after the movie.

We hope to be able to review AMC’s Fork & Screen in the near future.