Dining at the movies comes to Rhode Island
Visitors to Showcase Cinemas Warwick will now be able to enjoy a meal, drinks and a great movie without ever leaving the comfort of their theater seat. Last month was the official launch of Director’s 21, the new auditorium within the Quaker Lane cinema designed to give guests a restaurant-quality dining experience while enjoying the latest movies.
Vice President of Marketing for Showcase Cinemas Amber Stepper said the company has been incorporating dining options into their theaters for more than 10 years, but this is the first theater in Rhode Island to offer the option. Stepper said the option provides an elevated luxury experience for their customers.
“We continue to look for ways to have a better in-theater experience for our customers,” said Stepper in a phone interview last week.
Stepper explained that Director’s 21 is one auditorium within a Showcase Cinema location that gives guests the added experience of having appetizers, an entrée, dessert, and/or alcoholic drinks, served by a waiter, prior to and during the film being shown. All those who attend a Director’s 21 experience must be 21 years of age or older. Tickets for Director’s 21 have a $2 up-charge from a normal ticket, and then guests have the option to purchase different food and drink items.
As for what movie is shown, Stepper said the film being shown would likely be the newest release they believe will be popular with the over-21 audience.
“It may change because we are always rotating movies,” said Stepper, adding that it would likely be the most anticipated movie released that Friday or the most popular movie of the week.
Showcase Cinemas, which has theaters in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey, also has Cinema De Lux theaters, such as the one at Patriot Place in Foxboro, Mass., in which all or most auditoriums have an upper level with luxury seats and the option for dinner and drinks.
So why start the Rhode Island luxury, movie-watching experience at Showcase Cinemas Warwick?
“We felt the Warwick location was a great location, specifically because of the auditorium we are using,” said Stepper, adding that the auditorium is on the larger side and was previously used for live comedy shows. Because of that, the cinema also already had their liquor license, making the move to Director’s 21 simpler. The main kitchen is also in close proximity to that particular auditorium, making it the ideal spot within the theater.
“We thought it would be a benefit for our Warwick customers; it also gives people more of a reason to go to the movies,” said Stepper.
Some renovations did need to be completed to update the kitchen so the level of service provided by Director’s 21 could be possible. The menu was designed to be a higher quality food that could still be easy to serve in the theater in a timely manner.
The menu includes salads, sandwiches, wraps, burgers, and appetizers; the average cost of an entrée is $10. The theater also features a full bar with beers, wine and a menu of specialty mixed drinks (ranging in cost from $5 to $12).
“We have a really popular Bento Box that has a little bit of everything,” said Stepper, referring to a sharing platter option that includes Boneless Buffalo Bites, Philly Cheesesteak Springrolls, Mozzamia! Mozzarella Triangles, and Poblano Popper Bites, costing $15.99. Stepper’s personal favorites from the menu are the Signature Burger, the Italiano Chicken Panini, and the Bento Box.
“The real favorites from our Lux Level dining are served here,” said Stepper. “But we still have all the favorites: Popcorn and candy.” Items from the traditional concessions stand can also be ordered from the server.
When they say the food is restaurant quality, they mean it. The Chicken Bacon Ranch Wrap is filled with delicious, fresh tasting ingredients. The Philly Bomb Steak Wrap was tasty, and the meat was tender. Both had the right amount of dressing perfectly mixed together with the other ingredients and came with just the right amount of fries.
So how does this experience work? Guests can purchase tickets online before going to the theater or at the box office (IDs are checked before entering the theater); guests to Director’s 21 have the added bonus of reserving their specific seat ahead of time when purchasing their ticket. Then prior to the show (Stepper recommends arriving 20 to 30 minutes before show time to fully experience Director’s 21), guests are escorted to their seat and then greeted by a server. Guests have the opportunity to order their food and it will be brought to them before the previews start, or shortly after depending on when they order.
When food arrives, the server will attach a dining tray to the chair, inserting it into the guest’s cup holder. When the movie starts, the lights on the stairs remain on for the safety of the servers who still walk about during the film checking on guests, but it is not distracting. Ordering essentially ends when the previews start, but the servers will still check on guests and bring anything they need.
“We’re very focused on service and quality,” said Stepper. “We did bring some experienced theater staff into the theater to help roll this out.”
A bill will be brought to guests just prior to the film’s credits; servers will then collect the bill during the credits.
Because alcohol is being served, Stepper did say staff and managers are on the lookout for inappropriate behavior.
“We have really well-staffed theaters with people on hand to make the Director’s 21 experience seamless,” said Stepper. “The theater manager will handle any issues right away.”
Stepper said the response to Director’s 21 and the overall in-theater dining programs has been successful and she can see expansion in the near future.
“We’re definitely looking to expand to our other theaters,” said Stepper, adding that this is beyond the testing phase. “I think you’ll see more theaters with this sooner rather than later.”
For more information about Director’s 21, check out Showcase Cinema’s website, www.showcasecinemas.com/dining/Directors21. Or visit Showcase Cinemas Warwick at 1200 Quaker Lane in Warwick for the next showing in Director’s 21.