As much as baseball, the idea of going to dinner and a movie is an American pastime. After all you have to eat right? Now, nobody likes to go to the movies hungry, and if you don’t eat dinner first you’re going to arrive hungry. While the allure of nachos with technicolor orange synthetic cheese goop is strong, and it may fill you up, it’s hardly anything, let alone a meal. Most folks want to have something more substantial to fill their belly – especially so they don’t splurge on too much sugar and chocolate. Again… these things do not constitute a meal.
The other problem is time management. If you’re going to dinner beforehand you need to make sure you’re eating earlier enough to leave plenty of time between your restaurant and the start time of your movie. Giving yourself plenty of time to find parking at both locations, get tickets, get concessions (if you’re still hungry), get seats, settle in and relax. For many this process is a point of stress – if you’re like me and a lover of movies things like missing the trailers (a.k.a. previews) is sacrilege. Being late is not an option.
The folks at AMC Theatres realize these problems and have a solution. With a tagline of “Movies. Menus. More.” they call it AMC Dine-In Theatres. Their idea is pretty simple, put the entire dinner and a movie experience in one location. So, after remodeling part of the AMC Theatre at Downtown Disney, they present to you what they call “Fork & Screen”. This is what they refer to as their “Casual Dining Experience”. Recently, while going to see the movie Cars 2, my wife, Cheryl, and I decided to try this out. I’m not going to discuss the movie here, but, if you want to know what we think about it you can find out in an upcoming episode of the Disney Film Project Podcast.
For us the experience really started at home, and if you’re going to go, I highly recommend this. What we did first was research the experience a little, and we found that the best plan was to reserve your seats in the theater – yup that’s pick your seats just like on an airplane – before you even get there. The ticket price for the Fork & Screen is $13 per person – that’s just to get in the door. The easiest way to do this is to use AMC’s own website and then select the time for the movie you want to go see. You’ll get charged an extra $1 per ticket, but you’ll have reserved seats, and you can use the check-in kiosk when you arrive to get your tickets. We were glad we did this as the theatre was already more than half full. Doing so we got a free iTunes download code for the short Tokyo Mater.
There are some additional amenities for if you arrive early enough or stay after your movie. Each Dine-In has a full service bar inside called MacGuffins – named after the key element in a movie that drives the plot along (think of the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark). There is also an outdoor seating area as well as well as an indoor lounge area in the lobby. At all three locations you can choose to eat or drink.
But the real experience starts with the theatre dining experience. Once you’ve gotten your tickets, you can, if you like proceed right to your theater. There is no concession counter. At the entrance to our theater we were greeted by a hostess who asked to see our tickets and then led us to our seats. As the center part of the theater was already full when we ordered our tickets our seats were off to the right hand side of the theater (when looking at the screen) against the wall. Normally this wasn’t idea, but to me it was like having the coveted booth at the side of the restaurant. The seats are big and comfortable, and felt more like recliners then your standard movie theater seats. The reclining might take some getting used to, but there is a footrest bar for control under your table. Yes, a table. After checking out their website I was expecting something a bit different, so this was a big surprise. On it were menus, utensils and condiments.
Official Menu Link (menu matches the one at Downtown Disney)
Just like a regular restaurant our waiter showed up and asked for our drink order. I stuck with a soda – which have free refills – though I did notice the couple in front of us ordered a bottle of wine. He explained to us that it’s easiest to take as much of the order up front as possible so that they can then time it being brought out to you in order to minimize interruption.
There wasn’t really anything on the menu for Cheryl so she stuck with Popcorn and a bottle of water. On the plus side the Popcorn itself is also unlimited refills. However, I’m inclined to avoid asking for butter at this theater in the future. We asked for light butter, but what they brought had clearly been dunked in the vat of butter-stuff. It wasn’t terrible, just messy.
For me, there were a lot of options, but I went with trying the Smoked Salmon BLT, but without the bacon. This dish is described as having “hot smoky salmon”, but in the end it’s really just pan seared lox – the stuff people tend to put on a bagel. It wasn’t terrible, it was just underwhelming, and not something I’d order again or recommend that anyone else order.
For an appetizer I ordered the Sweet Onion Loops, which are just onion rings. They were really quite good. Super crispy and yet soft on the inside as all good onion rings should be, and not overdone. They came with BBQ sauce, but were also great with some ketchup.
Now, for dessert what I had ordered was the Citrus Berry Stack. Mostly because I tend to order things like dessert based more on the interesting nature of their name. However in looking back at their menu descriptions and the picture of the dessert I did have, I’m pretty sure that what I got was the Angel Food Cake. I really didn’t notice at the time, and honestly the dessert they brought me was really good.
Here’s the interesting and fun part of the experience. Normally in a restaurant you need to make eye contact or hand wave to grab the attention of your waiter. However, at the Dine-In you’re in a very dim theater – because you’re eating they don’t completely turn down the lights. In order to facilitate you getting service when you want it, there is a call button available to you. We used this 3 times, twice for soda refills, and once for a popcorn refill. We skipped the butter the second time around.
Overall, I really enjoyed the experience. While I didn’t like my main course too much, the appetizer and dessert more than made up for it. But this can be a very expensive outing, and you need to be prepared for that. Here’s how we made out overall:
$3.79 – Soda
$10.99 – Smoked Salmon BLT
$6.99 – Sweet Onion Loops
$6.49 – Citrus Berry Stack (from receipt – see above)
$4.19 – 1 Ltr Bottled Water
$6.99 – Popcorn
$39.44 – Subtotal Dinner
$2.77 – Tax Dinner
$7.00 – Tip
$49.21 – Total Dinner
$28.00 – 2 Tickets + Service Charge
$77.21 – Total
And this only includes one meal and no candy. This experience could easily get quite costly for a family of four. This is not to say you shouldn’t try it if its something you’re really interested in doing. Rather you need to be prepared for the hit on your wallet. Oh yeah, and avoid the Salmon.
What about you? Are you interested in going to the Dine-In? Do you like movies? Love them? Like food? Love food? Is dinner during your movie just not for you? And finally, a wafer thin mint.