a place of extreme beauty, delight, or happiness.
a state of supreme happiness characterized by freedom from or oblivion to pain, worry, and the external world; bliss.
Everyone has their own version of heaven. Here on terra firma, Walt Disney would have us believe that they have a lock on the “Happiest Place on Earth”. While my version sometimes includes thrills and chills, it does not include hordes of tourists dragging cranky, sticky children, and getting heat-stroke beneath the merciless Florida or California sun. All of that is okay if you’re into that sort of thing, but my little piece of heaven has always been found within the confines of a darkened movie theater.
Honestly, I still get a little frisson of excitement whenever I pass the ticket-taker (retrieving the stub, of course, for my collection), and am allowed access to the inner sanctum. I don’t even mind waiting in line for popcorn (which is my “desert island” food. I’ve been known to sit through what I know will be a bad movie, just to get my hands on movie popcorn), although I admit to bouts of impatience with the personnel charged with doling out the stuff. That’s a discussion for another day.
Once inside the theater, if I’m alone I can sit in my favorite seat, front-row center. If I’m with friends or family, I’m willing to compromise and sit further back. Either way, after settling in, when the lights have dimmed, I do enjoy sharing the experience with like-minded souls, our eyes glued to the screen, all waiting for the magic to happen. Hyperbole? Perhaps, but I ask for your indulgence. (And it all depends on those like-minded souls suspending conversation and smartphone usage. Again, I digress.)
My point is, a regular, every day, run-of-the-mill movie theater is my “happiest place”. So how do I top that?
Cue the celestial choir. I have been to Paradise, my friends, and its name is Cinebistro. Please know I am not shilling for this place. All of the opinions which follow are exclusively my own, but I couldn’t not share this with you.
Having shared the name of the place, I’m sure you can guess what type of an establishment Cinebistro is, but it is much more than a movie theater and much more than a restaurant. It’s the best of both.
Now, I had heard of this concept – the idea that movie patrons can order dinner and eat it in the theater while watching a movie – and I had been convinced it was a bad one. I was already opposed to the idea of watching a movie in a Barc-a-lounger, since those relaxing recliners go a long way to recreating the “living room” experience of movie-watching, which is the opposite of what the industry should be doing (although no one has for my expert opinion). If people can’t be bothered to shut up during a movie, what would happen if dinner were thrown into the mix? Going out to dinner is a social activity, I reasoned. Add to the urge to converse the sound of cutlery clinking on china, the din would be completely distracting and I would have a mini-meltdown. Why would I subject myself to that?
Well, at the behest of my Florida brothers, who both know and share my passion for movies, subject myself I did. And I am here to tell you that I was wrong. I LOVED it!
After purchasing our tickets, we went to the bar and ordered a glass of wine. Thirty minutes before the movie, a soft bell precedes a sweet-sounding voice with the announcement that the theater is open for seating and “in-theater” dining.
We carried our wine glasses with us and were shown to our seats (more like reclining leather wing chairs) by a host, just as one would be at any “white linen” restaurant. Instead of the chair, the swing-arm tables were pulled out so that we could be seated comfortably, and then given menus. Folks, we’re not talking about burgers and hot wings here, although, in truth, you can get the upscale versions of those things. They are listed right along with the Wagyu Beef Sliders and the Rack of Lamb. This was not mere food, this was cuisine.
We actually did order burgers. It was only 11:30am after all. Day-drinking is okay, but it was really too early for Moroccan Spiced Lamb. Our orders were placed with our iPad toting server, so the order was sent directly to the kitchen. You pay then and there and they thoughtfully add the tip to the bill so you don’t have to fumble with your calculator. (There is a disclaimer on the credit card receipt to let you know that you can reduce, increase or even completely remove that gratuity. But the whole process is so civilized and seamless, only a heathen would dream of doing such a thing.)
It goes without saying that we had popcorn. No mere bucket o’corn, this. It was “presented” in a post-modern half-shell-esque bowl that was then placed atop a silver stand so as not to impede the meal service, but was nonetheless within easy reach. (Refills are complimentary, because of course.)
While we waited for our lunch, we sat in glorious air conditioned comfort with our feet up, sipping wine and watching the slideshow of beautiful nature scenes up on the big screen. This is living. (I did have a flash of Edward G. Robinson in Soylent Green – but I ignored it.) Service only lasts until the previews begin, but if you arrive late and still want those sliders or scallops, you can get them – at the Concession Stand.
When the lights went down and the previews began, with everyone happily munching away, there was a little bit of light conversation, but not even as much as you’d find in your average theater. When the movie started, it all ceased. Not only was there no chatter, but we all seemed to be politely conscious of the sounds associated with eating a meal. (The food was delicious, by the way.) Seriously. During the entire length of the movie, you could have heard a pin drop in that auditorium. That alone is worth celebrating as far as I’m concerned.
As far as the rest, the technical aspects, the theater is state-of-the-art. The picture is crystal clear (but that could be because they actually take the time to change the lenses when not showing a 3D film) and the sound is brilliant. The movie we saw, Star Trek: Beyond was really good – an old-school throwback to the OG series in a way that the first two in this latest incarnation were not. It also included a wonderful nod to the late Leonard Nimoy and of course a dedication to the late Anton Yeltsin.
After the credits rolled (which I always stay for anyway), I didn’t want to leave. I could have stayed there all day, sipping wine and watching movies. Best. Day. Ever.
That would get really expensive though. None of this comes cheap. I’d say date night would run well over $150 for dinner and a movie, but it would be well worth it. Just not every day.
And did I mention that after 6:00pm no one under the age of 21 is admitted? EVER. Cue the chorus again. I would come back to this theater even if I never ordered another thing to eat or drink. I’ve found Paradise.
So what do you think? Can you see yourself shelling out for an experience like this or do you think I’m out of my movie-lovin’ mind? What’s your idea of bliss?