Wednesday, October 29, 2008

AMC Fork & Screen

Dinner-and-a-movie (literally at the same time) isn't exactly a new concept, but it's certainly not common these days. Movie theaters have pretty much become crowded, expensive venues where you pay to have people kick you in the head and step on your toes.

AMC, headquartered a block away from my office, is trying to change that... well, the part about being crowded, getting your head kicked and your toes stepped on anyways.  I was invited to come out to a pre-opening tour of AMC's Fork & Screen concept venue at the AMC 30 in Olathe. Many other local bloggers and social media gurus formed the group of tourists I was in. I saw a few familiar faces and plenty of new ones as well. I'm betting they were hoping we'd all come back and write about it. I guess it's working.

They completely revamped one whole wing, took out a few theaters, gutted the remaining ones in the wing, and started over. 

The lounge is called MacGuffin's, and is named after the term "MacGuffin", popularized by Alfred Hitchcock.  The walls within and leading to MacGuffin's lounge are lined with several examples of popular MacGuffins (Dorothy's ruby slippers, The ring from the LOTR Trilogy, etc).

They let us sample some of the appetizers they offer. This is good, because I had a very light lunch.

Aside from ample lounge seating, the bar area has interesting light-guide counter tops that are fun to play with for about 10 seconds. I suppose they'd be really entertaining if you were inebriated.  Once you have your ticket to a movie showing in the Fork & Screen area, you're free to enter the lounge. This means you could spend a considerable amount of time (and money) here.

The normal Fork & Screen seats are only slightly more spacious than "normal" theater seating in terms of width. To make room for the dining bar in front of the row of seats (shown below) there's quite a bit of space between you and the row in front of you, and the seat rows don't go all the way across. They're broken up into segments. This should make getting kicked in the head almost impossible, and getting your toes stepped on a little less likely.  

Oddly enough, these seats are no more expensive than the regular theater seating, but there are fewer seats available. The exclusivity, plus the ability to dine (on real food or concessions) will likely keep this place packed, though.

Then, there's the Cinema Suites.  These lavish accommodations include swivel trays, huge reclining seats, and more room than you know what to do with. There's even a place under each table to store your coat or purse.

It's an additional $10 per ticket to get into these theaters, and they hold less than 40 people each. You do get a $5 credit on your food purchases, though. If you're the kind that has to have popcorn, it basically means you only pay $5 extra for these seats.

If you need anything, you press a button. Your light turns red and kitchen staff comes to see what you need. Drink refills, concessions or dessert after your meal for example. If you don't press the button, you don't get interrupted.

AMC did show a movie to my group, but I was unable to stay for the full showing, as I had to get back to my wife. I think she's doing better but she had a bit of a scare last night while I was at the movies. I didn't feel right about sticking around.

It's worth noting that despite being within half a mile of residential areas, AMC 30 still doesn't have dedicated bicycle parking. There are plenty of light posts, gas meters and other suburban pavement furniture to lock up to, but I'd think that an entertainment establishment such as this would have finally gotten around to installing a few bicycle racks.

The concept is definitely competitive. The food prices are up there, but when you consider the places directly surrounding it, it's not that bad.  In hard economic times, I'm pretty sure the entertainment industries are having to find new ways to innovate in order to continue to lure in people with higher levels of disposable income. Hopefully that works out for them. If you're interested in seeing it for yourself, the concept officially opens to the public on Halloween.

Now, I'm going to fill out this survey and see if I can't get some bike parking added.


Apertome said...

The movie theater with dining, drinks, etc, reminds me of the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX. The Alamo Drafthouse serves meals, has a full bar and serves milkshakes as well.

But that's where the similarities end. Alamo Drafthouse is independently run and nowhere near as swank as the Fork & Screen.

It's a great concept, I think. I enjoyed the Drafthouse better than a normal theater, except that the projectors and audio weren't as good. I'm assuming the Fork & Screen has good equipment, so maybe they'll strike a good balance.

I haven't gone to a movie theater in years, though, and probably won't any time soon. I'd rather watch a movie in my living room.

pedalGR said...

McMenamin's (sp?) Brewing Co. in Portland, OR has a couple of these types of theaters. We went to one that was near the Pearl District and it was a pretty enjoyable experience. I believe we saw Batman Begins. They had more of a general restaurant table layout rather than rows of chairs. They also had a couple of banks of large comfy chairs setup around a coffee table type of thing.

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