WARNING: Contains political opinions. Enter at your own risk.
I’m not sure when my husband and I last went to a movie theater prior to last night. I think it was when we saw Star Trek Nemesis over ten years ago, but there might have been one in between that I don’t remember. I’ve been a few (very few) times since then with my kids. Anyway, you get the point: we don’t go “out” to the movies much.
That’s because we have a pretty awesome home theater setup right here: 70 inch Sharp Aquos 3D HDTV, great sound system, comfy leather sofa and chairs, and we can cook a great dinner and eat while we watch, instead of settling for popcorn and hot dogs.
Well, now you aren’t necessarily stuck with junkie snack food when you go to the theater, either. We’d been hearing about Movie Studio Grill from friends for a while, and talked about going, but never got around to it. We actually went so far as to make plans to do so, but then when we went to buy tickets online, the web site was confusing and there didn’t appear to be any movies we liked at the time we wanted to go.
Then last weekend we found out that AMC 30 in Mesquite has been completely remodeled and now has “dine in” auditoriums. At first their web site was frustrating, too; I was going to buy tickets on Monday for a Friday show but they had only a couple of shows available, none of which were in the dine-in theaters. I kept checking and finally, on Thursday, a full slate of movies appeared, including those marked as “CinemaSuites” and “Fork & Screen” shows.
Here’s the difference: The “Fork & Screen” shows are restricted to those 18 and over or kids who are with a parent or guardian who is 21 or older. The CinemaSuites shows are restricted to over-21 only. Both share the same menu, including a cocktail bar for over-21 movie-goers. The seating is more luxurious in the CinemaSuites movies; extra wide fully-reclining soft faux leather with big swing-out tables. Guess which one we chose.
We decided to see Captain Phillips since 1) we like Tom Hanks, 2) we like movies set on ships (and airplanes), and 3) Tom’s an early eater and it was the only good one showing at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $14.50 plus tax – not cheap, but not that much more than tickets for the regular movies ($10.50). The whole thing came to $31.50. Of course, that doesn’t include the price of the food and drinks.
You get to choose your seats from a seating chart on the web site. There are only around 30 seats in this theater (Auditorium 29), arranged in rows of six. Since I was there as soon as tickets became available, there were no seats taken yet so we had our choice. We got the two center seats on the fourth row, seats 3D and 4D. These turned out to be the best seats in the house.
The web site advises that you get there 15-20 minutes early to place your food order before the show begins and, true to form, we were there half an hour early, despite a bad experience with the new and distinctly unimproved Google Maps Navigation app (but that’s a subject for another time and place and blog). The interior of the cinemaplex has been redone since the last time I was there and looks pretty nice.
The theatre is very different from the old traditional movie theatre with the narrow, uncomfortable, crowded pull-down/pop-up seats. The big recliners are arranged in pairs (which might not be a good thing when you have three people going to a movie together, since it leaves one seat available “alone”). There were only six of us in the whole theater but as luck would have it, another couple had bought the seats right next to ours. However, because there’s a space and little table with menus and such in between each pair of seats, it still felt as if we had our own “private place.”
There’s a call button for each pair of seats. The attendant/waiter comes around at the beginning to explain how things work, and when you’re ready to order, you push the button and he magically appears. All the employees we encountered were extremely nice and service was great throughout the whole experience.
The Food and Drinks
The menu choices are similar to Chili’s or similar places: appetizers include wings, various chips and dips (including Rangooncrab dip), “loaded” chips, Thai shrimp, breadsticks, mozzarella sticks, potato skins and such. For weight watchers and other health-conscious folks, there’s also a veggie “triple feature” tray with carrots, celery sticks, and hummus, as well as several different salads.
Entrees include tenderloin tips, shrimp pasta, blackened salmon, a couple of chicken pasta dishes, an Asian steak and shrimp bowl, along with fast food type fare such as fish and chips, chicken tenders, several different burgers, sandwiches, quesadillas (including brisket quesadillas), tacos, flatbread “pizzettas” and “pizzinis.” There’s also a kid’s menu and half a dozen dessert choices (including a waffle sundae that I wanted but refrained from ordering because I’m still trying to drop 3-4 pounds that I gained on my last cruise).
Prices were maybe a dollar more per item than at the chain restaurants that serve the same type of food. For example, chicken quesadillas were $10.49 and chicken alfredo was $12.49. You can view the whole menu and prices here on the website.
We put our orders in, sat and watched some previews and, of course, checked our email and checked in on FourSquare and Facebook. The drinks and appetizers came out quickly – Tom got the “big and bold sampler” with truffle parmesan fries, BLT pizzetta and jalapeño poppers. I got Bavarian breadsticks. I also had a glass of Moscato and he had coffee. The wine came out in a cute little decanter that added a touch of elegance.
There are a number of different wines and beers available, along with specialty cocktails such as Mojito, Hurricane, various margaritas and martinis, Long Island Ice Tea and many more. I was mightily tempted by the Oreo Mudslide (Absolut Vanilla Vodka, Kahlua, Bailey’s in a vanilla shake with Oreos) but again, for the sake of my diet, passed it by.
The entrees – his fish and chips and my chicken quesadillas – arrived just before the movie began. The food was all decent quality (chain restaurant quality) and the portions were fairly generous. It pays to remember, when you order, that you’ll be eating in the dark. I’m not sure how well the “loaded” nachos or big burgers would work in that regard. Luckily, you get big cloth napkins to catch any spills.
Captain Phillips is based on the true story of the hijacking of an American cargo ship by pirates in 2009 and the subsequent kidnapping of its captain, who was held hostage for $10 million in ransom and finally rescued by the U.S. Navy. “Based on” is a key phrase here; there has been a good deal of controversy over just how accurately the movie portrays the events. But whatever the facts are, the movie tells a good story; it’s entertaining and well-acted, particularly by the two main characters: Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips and Barkhad Abdi as Muse, the leader of the pirate crew.
It’s a two-person movie; Phillips and Muse are the only characters who are really developed at all – but that’s okay (Hey, I thoroughly enjoyed Castaway and that was just one person and a basketball). There’s plenty of action, plenty of suspense (if you didn’t know the particulars beforehand), a touch of humor here and there, some good special effects, and it’s all set against the majesty and utter isolation of the open seas. Maybe it did drag just a little in places, but not for long.
It also gets pretty intense in places. There’s some bloodshed, although the gore factor is pretty tame by the standards of modern television programming (i.e. Dexter or The Following). The good guys win – something you can’t always count on in a movie these days. Most of the bad guys die. The main takeaway I got: Don’t go sailing your ship in pirate-infested waters with no weapons on board with which to defend yourself. The clarity of that message was more than a little ironic under the circumstances (which we’ll get to later).
Will I buy the DVD? Probably not. Once upon a time, I used to collect the disc versions of all movies that I liked, but I’m over that. These days I buy a few, mostly 3D Blu-rays that I think I might want to watch again some day. But I’d give this movie a solid 8 out of 10 stars. It held my attention – I think I only glanced at my phone once during the entire two and a quarter hours, and that’s far less than with the average movie. Definitely worth watching.
The Gotcha (or Saving the Worst for Last)
My mom always told me if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. The AMC dine-in theater experience was almost perfect. But only almost. I only ran into one problem, but it’s a biggie (to me). Here it is:
Yep, it’s a 30.06 sign. It’s such a rare sight around here that I didn’t even consider, when we bought the tickets, that it might be posted. I think the last time I saw one (other than, ironically and infuriatingly, at gun shows) was more than a decade ago at Seagoville State Bank. And it was the main reason I closed my accounts there and switched to American National, where I have carried my gun in with me every time I go in for years now without incident.
As I was getting ready to go, though, I suddenly remembered a reference a while back in a forum to major movie theater chains banning concealed weapons. At the time, I didn’t give it much thought since we never went to the movies. I decided to check it out online, and according to reports some AMC locations in Texas are posted and some aren’t, but indications were that the prohibition of handguns by licensed carriers is a nation-wide corporate policy. Sure enough, when we got to the door we encountered the sign that advertises to mass murders that this is a fish-in-a-barrel zone where they can be assured none of the good guys will be able to defend themselves.
Now, there are no metal detectors and nobody was looking in purses or patting people down. A CHL holder could easily get away with carrying in violation of the law and odds are very good you’d never get caught. But you know me. I don’t want to risk losing my license to carry, much less go to jail for a Class A misdemeanor. But there’s more to it than that. I believe strongly in my right to effective self-defense – but I also believe strongly in personal property rights. As wrong as I believe it is for a business to put their customers at risk this way, I have to defend their right to make that decision. I, of course, then have the right to make my own decision as to whether to give them my money.
In this case, I already had (purchasing the tickets online). We could have turned around and left. We even talked about it. But in the end, we made the tough decision to take the risk and I put my gun in the trunk and went in, feeling self-conscious and defenseless without it. Will we go again? I don’t know. It’s not an easy decision. I go on cruises and board airplanes where I can’t carry. On the other hand, in those situations I know that other passengers have been through security and it’s harder (though certainly not impossible) for an armed criminal to get on board. I don’t want to see pat-downs at the movie theater entry, but I’m also acutely aware that the “honor system” doesn’t work well when it comes to criminals. Only law-abiding citizens will abide by the provisions of that sign.
So there you go. A fun night at the movies turned into a moral and legal dilemma. Should I stand on my principles and refuse to further patronize a business that denies me the right to protect myself and others should it be necessary? Should I ignore the law and carry anyway? Should I put my “sheepdog” mentality aside and go with the (admittedly very good) odds that I’ll never find myself needing my weapon while I’m watching a movie? According to the statistics, almost 200 million people place that bet every year and almost all of them win.
But then there were those folks in Aurora, Colorado back in 2012 who weren’t so lucky … In the end, I did what I do when I visit California or Massachusetts or some other anti-gun state. I practice a little extra diligence in maintaining awareness of what those around me are doing, I make even more sure than usual that I know where cover, concealment and all the exits are, and I pray that nothing bad will happen. So far, those prayers have always been answered.
If you don’t normally carry a concealed weapon, you’ll probably really enjoy the AMC dine-in theater experience. If you have a CHL and are uncomfortable being in an unsecured public place unarmed, well, at least you’ll know what the trade-off is before you spend thirty bucks on tickets. Meanwhile, I’ll be checking into whether there are similar non-AMC “dinner theaters” in the metroplex that don’t have this unfortunate anti-gun policy. I’d like to be able to have my pistol and eat my cake in front of the big screen, too.