Dine-in movie theaters are suddenly everywhere in the Valley. Find out which are Oscar-worthy.

Lights, Camera, Cocktails

Written by Craig Outhier Category: Food Reviews Issue: May 2017
Group Free

It’s baffling in retrospect, but the Valley’s first dine-in movie theater – Farrelli’s Cinema Supper Club in Scottsdale, now defunct – didn’t open until 2001. Yeah, it took the powers-that-be a full century of movie consumption to figure out people might want a rosé with their rom-com.

The trend was slow to take off, but take off it has, with no fewer than a half-dozen dine-in movie concepts currently operating in metro Phoenix. We gave them the Ebert treatment.

Harkins Camelview at Fashion Square
 
7014 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale, 480-947-8778, harkinstheatres.com
Adult ticket price: $14
• Want to have some fun? Ask the pimply-faced teen behind the counter what kind of meat cuts are included in the Harkins charcuterie plate ($11). Confusion. Mild panic. Frantic consultation with the manager. (The answer turned out to be salami, coppa ham and prosciutto with a not-terrible assortment of cheeses, nuts and pickles. Hardly Dean & DeLuca, but better than Harkins’ famously inedible nachos.) Though modern and comfortable, Camelview gets docked for failing the full-service test – you order your drinks at the bar, and your elevated pub-fare at the concession counter, and lug them into the theater with the rest of the plebes.
Grade: C
 
Alamo Drafthouse
 
4955 S. Arizona Ave., Chandler, 520-213-8129, drafthouse.com/phoenix
Adult ticket price: $10.95
• It’s no exaggeration to say Alamo immediately seized the mantle of “East Valley counterculture nerve-center” after opening in Chandler late last year. Midnight Kubrick screenings? High-tea period film retrospectives? Lady Battle Cop? It’s all very un-San-Tan-like. The Austin, Texas-based chain’s penchant for exuberant film-geek programming is proudly on display here, as is a first-rate cocktail program. (Recent one-off drink special: A Clockwork Orange-themed “Korova Milk Bar” with Myers’s rum, crème de cacao and nutmeg.) The seating is stiff but dining-friendly, with a low-tech but surprisingly effective ticket-based ordering system. And you gotta love the strictly enforced no-talking policy.
Grade: A-
 
 
iPic
 
15257 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-483-3232, ipictheaters.com
Adult ticket price: $25
• Fans of this upscale theater at the Scottsdale Quarter attempt to justify the preposterous “full-service” ticket price by pointing to the complimentary blankets and unlimited popcorn refills, but we’re not buying it. (For $25, the blanket better be made of ermine pelts, and the popcorn tossed with shaved truffles. They ain’t.) The dining/eating/armrest space is also comparatively scant. Pluses: super-plush chairs and a superior food menu, catered by fine dining restaurant Tanzy next door.
Grade: C+
 
RoadHouse Cinemas
 
9090 E. Indian Bend Rd., Scottsdale, 480-750-7296, roadhousecinemas.com
Adult ticket price: $9.95 (weekday); $12.95 (weekend)
• This Tucson-based exhibitor had us at “$20.95.” That was the cumulative cost of a Logan screening, a heaping order of chicken quesadillas and a happy hour margarita. The ’dillas were a touch lackluster, but still... $20.95 is what you’d pay for a movie, Coke and popcorn at Harkins or AMC, without the diabetes chaser. It was by far the best dine-in deal we found. Also great: the swing-out, school-desk-style dining trays, motorized seats and overall comfort level. Less-than-great: blasé service.
Grade: B+
 
 
AMC Esplanade 14
 
2515 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-667-0330, amctheatres.com
Adult ticket price: $12.99
• Once a regular, ol’ AMC, this Biltmore-area movie house transformed into a dine-in operation in 2011 and remains the genre’s gold standard in the Valley. The seating is lavish, the dining surfaces capacious and the airline-style, call-button service dependable. For a “corporate” menu, the food is tasty and reasonably priced, like an eight-piece shrimp-and-avocado futomaki (i.e. California roll, $10) and a teriyaki steak bowl with marinated onions, roasted pineapple and cashews that we’d order at a real restaurant ($12). Stiff Jack and Cokes, too.
Grade: A-
 
Other Food-Forward Cinemas

 

FilmBar: Limited food menu, but idiosyncratic art house programming and sturdy craft beer selection go a long way.
815 N. Second St., 602-595-9187, thefilmbarphx.com
Grade: B

Studio Movie Grill: A low-rent-wedding menu (read: coconut chicken tenders) and full bar make for passable dining. We’re not jazzed about the office chairs.
15515 N. Hayden Rd., Scottsdale, 480-991-3106, studiomoviegrill.com
Grade: C

Fat Cats: Reclining seats, first-runs, cafeteria-style pizza and bowling. Our inner child never wants to leave.
4321 E. Baseline Rd., Gilbert, 480-498-3325, gilbert.fatcatsfun.com
Grade: C

 

 

 

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