Forget having to schedule your dinner reservations around the movie you’re going to see. AMC Esplanade 14 in the Biltmore area of Phoenix recently underwent major renovations, turning its 14 theaters into chic dine-in auditoriums where viewers reserve their seats and get restaurant-quality service as they fill up on food and drinks while watching the flicks.
I got a tour of the theaters, which open Wednesday, September 7, last night. This is only the ninth AMC dine-in theater in the nation, with the next closest one being all the way in Kansas City. The new theaters’ capacities range from 32-136, so each visit is way more intimate that the traditional movie-going experience.
The first cool thing about the theater is the MacGuffins bar that greets you when you walk in. It’s replaced the concessions stand, with the kitchen behind the bar. I love the drinking-and-movie combination, since a lot of times alcohol can make a mediocre movie that much more fun. It’s also a great place to hang out and catch up before the movie or discuss the film afterward, and the bar is fully stocked with everything from beer and wine to mimosas and martinis.
There are two types of theaters at the new AMC–nine Fork & Screen theaters and five Cinema Suites theaters. The Fork & Screen have more seats, and they’re also the ones that will be showing all-ages movies. They have great comfy chairs with little lights you can push next to them to get a server to come around, and the seats are spread out enough to where nothing feels cramped.
While the whole venue is technically 18-and-older throughout, kids younger than 18 can come with someone 21-and-older.
The Cinema Suites theater have a more luxurious feel to them in the sense they have less seats and the chairs are absolutely amazing. You can just sink into them and recline almost to the point of lying down. Those theaters are exclusively for people ages 21-and-older, and they have the same set-up where you push a light to get a server’s attention.
Each seat in the theaters has a menu and silverware next to it, along with a tray that slides out right in front of your seat. It’s actually possible to be reclining while eating, which is really cool and makes you feel right at home.
The servers try to take your full order, from appetizers and drinks to dessert, all at once, so they keep the disruptions during the film to a minimum. The menus are full of American fare, including burgers and salads to flatbreads and seafood dishes, all served on bamboo plates that eliminate clinking during the film.
We tried a lot of food while we watched the funny-but-predictable The Hangover Part II, starting with the Veggie Triple Feature ($7.99) that included jicama, pizza strips, celery and carrot sticks served with hummus and ranch. It was a huge appetizer and really tasty, and I loved that it was such a healthy option.
We also ordered the Double Cheese Batons ($7.99), mozzarella sticks topped with parmesan cheese. They were also yummy and a big portion.
I had to order the Bistro Mac and Cheese ($10.99) for my entree. I left off the bacon and chicken, and I loved the creaminess of the sauce and the abundance of pasta. It was served with a really great pretzel breadstick, which I thought was a delicious unique touch. I would recommend getting this, for sure.
And for dessert, we ordered New York Cheesecake ($6.49). I have to say, for a casual dining menu, both my guest and I freaking loved this cheesecake. It was really soft and creamy, and the strawberries were a perfect accompaniment.
I was really impressed with how concerned the wait staff was with making your movie experience enjoyable. Everyone who brought out our food and drinks were really careful not to disturb us, and they were impressive as servers in that they were very knowledgeable about the menu and were accurate with everything. They also spaced out all the courses expertly, preventing you from getting your entree while you’re still working on your appetizer. They’ll usually drop the check about an hour into the movie, but you can still add on whatever you want. Altogether, it was just a really pleasant and comfortable experience.
Tickets for movies range from $6-$15, and prices depend on the film and the theater you see it in. Even if you don’t want to eat a full meal there, I think it’s great to have the option to drink alcohol while you’re watching a movie. For more information, log on to www.amctheatres.com/Esplanade.