AMC Grapevine Converting Theaters for Dine-In Movies

The nation's second-largest theater chain is opening a dine-in theater at Grapevine Mills tomorrow, suggesting the movie world's major players aren't ready to cede the "watch and eat" model to smaller operators.

Grapevine is the sixth entry in AMC's growing Dine-In Theater concept; a seventh location is slated to open in New Jersey later this month.

"Guests are asking for these experiences that are simple and self-contained," says spokesman Justin Scott, who adds the concept especially appeals to parents who don't want to shell out for extra baby-sitting hours and moviegoers who'd rather not rush through their pre-show meals.

Texas is already home to The Alamo Drafthouse, Studio Movie Grill and an outlet of Gold Class Cinemas, a luxury chain based in Australia. As Patrick Corcoran, director of media and research for the National Association of Theatre Owners, told USA Today in a story chronicling the rise of dinner movie houses, "It's a way for theater owners to capture that revenue and keep it there instead of seeing it go down the mall."

While Regal Entertainment Group -- the biggest theater chain in the United States -- beat AMC to the dinner bell by rolling out its Cinebarre theaters in 2007, its numbers have stalled at five locations. According to USA Today, the chain plans to accelerate its opening schedule next year.

AMC Grapevine Mills 30 will offer two different dining experiences in its 13 converted theaters: Cinema Suites, described as "premium, upscale, in-theater dining," and Fork & Screen, described as "casual, in-theater dining." Cinema Suites goers -- who must be 21 or older -- get extra legroom, popcorn dusted with chocolate and a menu padded with a few extra items, including tenderloin tips and lobster ravioli. There's a $15 "experience charge" for Cinema Suites, and a $10 charge for Fork & Screen: The experience charge is deducted from meal purchases.

While Scott concedes some movie purists "don't want to see a waiter or hear someone eating," he suspects everyone will appreciate the theater's new bar.

"If you watch a movie like Inception, that makes you think, you want to talk about it afterward," Scott says.

Now, rather than allow those conversations to carry moviegoers to the parking lot, AMC's hoping they'll transpire over a pair of cosmos purchased from the lobby bar.

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