Dinner theaters are tricky to pull off. There’s simply not one that’s going to please everyone. Hardcore moviegoers get annoyed at being interrupted during the movie with servers bringing food and drink. Casual moviegoers are turned off at the expense of the typically overpriced food. Not only that, dinner theaters are hard to maintain – you think spilled soda and popcorn are hard to clean up? Imagine mixing in beer, pizza, and burgers.
Drinking beer while watching a movie sounds like a great time and all, but is it really an enjoyable moviegoing experience. New to the Hampton Roads area of Virginia (with locations in Florida already open), Cobb’s new Cinebistro line of movie theaters attempts to remedy the issues with typical dinner theaters, making a truly extravagant experience for moviegoers. But is it worth the price of admission?
Cobb Cinebistro has a couple of basic principles:
- Better food. Cinebistro’s food is of a better quality than you’re used to getting in movie theaters. Fresh ingredients, dishes designed by actual chefs.
- No interruptions during the movie theater. If you want to eat, arrive to the movie theater 30 minutes ahead of time and all food will arrive before the beginning credits start. If you want more items after the movie has begun, you have to go out to the concession stand like a normal moviegoer.
- Better experience. After 6pm, the movie theater is 21 and up only. Not only that, there’s a dress code designed to keep out folks who may take away from your moviegoing experience.
It’s a good idea, it really is. I’ve gone to Cinebistro twice now, primarily because of the “21 and up” policy. I love kids (really, I don’t), but the idea of watching an adult movie with actual adults, without any worry of someone showing up with a baby carriage, is damned nice. Not only that, all movies (at least at the Cinebistro in Hampton, VA) are shown digitally – crisp, beautiful picture. Clean movie theaters, good sound systems, pleasant employees who greet you at the door and hand you mints when you leave the theater. Even the ticket prices aren’t too bad – $8 for matinees and all weekday showings, $12 for all weekend evening showings.
Here’s where things go wrong.
First time I went to the theater, I took my wife to see Twilight: Eclipse. We ordered:
- 2 sodas
- Steak and cheese sandwich
- Shrimp Po’Boy sandwich
- Slice of cheesecake
It was $63. Second time we went….
- 2 sodas
- Milk Duds
- Steak and Cheese sandwich
Yeah…it’s friggin expensive. While the food is definitely tasty, the problem is that you’re paying fancy food prices for a not-fancy food experience. You pay $63 for a non-alcoholic meal, and you expect a pleasant dining experience. At Cinebistro, you have to order all of your food at the same time. Not only that, you have to pay when you order, and most of the food comes out simultaneously. The small tables you are given to eat off of will be overloaded quickly with all of the plates you have.
Then there’s the whole “no interruptions” during the movie thing. Sounds great, right? Well, not if you want a soda refill. Not only that, the staff scrambles and rushes to get all of your stuff to you before the movie, so you end up having a hard time getting the attention of someone if you want to order something else (which would be another bill, by the way, since you have to pay when you order). The pre-movie experience is a mad buzz of energy that’s not relaxing to watch, much less with the built-in time limit you have to order.
I did enjoy the actual “movie” portion of Cinebistro – the dinner aspect…not as much. However, you’re not required to order food when you get there and, as long as you eat beforehand…you may just want to check it out sometime.