Thu 21 May 2009 10:03 pm
Successfully combining movie theaters with restaurants isn’t as intuitive as it sounds. Restaurants are social; theaters are the place for companionable silence. At the cinema, we expect quality on the screen but devour overpriced junk; at restaurants we want satisfaction for mouth and eyes alike. I’m encouraged, though, by a pre-opening talk with the folks behind Cinebarre, an 8-screen theater opening May 29 in the space that used to be the Regal 9 in Mountlake Terrace. (It’s 8 screens now because one theater was gutted and converted to a full kitchen.)
“We feel like we stand out,” said Jeff Martens, vice president of operations for the chain, which operates Cinebarre branches in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Colorado. On the theater side, he means that they show major first-run movies. On the food side, Cinebarre serves “casual dining sort of stuff,” he said, but the pizza dough is made daily from scratch, the hamburger meat is ground in-house. It’s not that nothing comes in frozen, he said, but “We make our own chicken fingers. We cut our own French fries.”
Note also that it’s mainly food you can eat with your hands, avoiding the fork-and-knife-in-the-dark problem faced by others who have failed at the cinema veri-table. Prices are around the level of an Applebee’s or a T.G.I. Friday’s, he said.
I haven’t tried out this concept since my lone visit to the ill-fated Aurora Cinema Grille several years back, but Central Cinema in the Central District seems to be going strong with an appealing menu of fresh-made food and an “interesting and variable mix of old classics, crazy cult movies, and newer independents.” And in Redmond, the super-upscale Gold Class Cinemas opened last year with $32 movie tickets and is alternately rendering Yelpers impressed and aghast.
The Mountlake Terrace Cinebarre is 21-and-over-only for the moment, which Martens said was due to an issue with the Washington State Liquor Board, but he hopes it will eventually switch to the typical Cinebarre policy, which bars children under 6 and requires a parent or guardian to accompany anyone under 18. Add on a black and silver decor, lots of stainless steel, and “cool old movie posters” on the walls, and “once you come in the door, it’s definitely very very different, and very much a grown-up theater.” Every other row of seats in the remaining eight theaters has been ripped out, and replaced by tables or benches and leg room.
Will there still be popcorn and candy for those who want it?
“We have popcorn,” he said. “We actually don’t have candy, but we have desserts. We have cake and pie and stuff like that.”