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Today we have our first guest post, by the inimitable Caroline Cole, who weighs in with a review of the new AMC Fork and Screen cinema/eatery at the Essex Green shopping center in West Orange, NJ.
With great anticipation, I have been waiting to see exactly how the AMC movie theater at Essex Green would transform into one of the 5 Fork and Screen Movie Theaters in the country. This weekend, they offered free admission to films and full service food/drink service. Here's the scoop!
Firstly, the renovations are beautiful! When you enter the foyer, there are some ticket kiosks to make credit card purchases and pick up your online tickets. There is no ticket counter for purchases at the theater from a human being. Technophobe alert :) Inside the lobby is a Guest Services counter to assist you. The MacGuffin bar/lounge fills the new lobby -lots of comfy chairs/sofas and a beautiful full service bar. There are tables to eat if you choose. The menu is pretty straight forward Fridays/Applebee's type fare- at comparable prices. Apps, entrees, kids menu is $7 and includes choice of pizza, chicken fingers....with drink, fruit snacks, and choice of side ( fruit, or homemade potato chips- which are thick and delicious!)
Popcorn is $ 7 - unlimited refills. You just have to keep pressing your red button at the seat for the server to keep fillin' you up...more on that later. Candy is priced between $3 and 4.
There is no concession stand. The only thing you see for sale in the theater is BOOZE. The other stuff is available and delivered within the darkness of the movie theater. Allergy ALert! i did not enquire whether it was a peanut free facility. All cooking is done on premises- so you should check to see about specific allergen contaminants.
There is not a Movie Only Option. You can't buy a ticket to see the movie without paying to get the food/bev credit.
AGE REQUIREMENTS: In order to see a movie at this theater complex, you must be at least 18 years old OR accompanied by another adult. The Cinema Suites have a strict 21 years old and older policy. This is because the lobby is one giant bar. Where there is alcohol, limits must be in place. Once in the theater, the servers card everyone ordering alcohol. I know some of you will appreciate getting carded in the dark as a "kid" says "well, any birth date over 1989 is good!"
This means that there are no more teenagers "running amok" in the theaters. This also means that if you are a parent of teens who are trying to take their dates to movies w/o a chaperone--you have to drop them off in Montclair or elsewhere. Or else, buy a ticket to the movie so you can "accompany them" into the theater.
There are 9 theater screens in the complex. Three of these are Cinema Suites. They have full reclining red leather seats and individual oversized table trays that pivot. Stadium seating layout. The seats are very comfortable. Parents, beware- you might just fall asleep because you can recline fully horizontally and in a dark room....ZZZZZZZZ :) Cloth napkins, metal silverware, ketchup are located between every 2 chairs with a button to call your server. The suites also offer some bonus menu items like sirloin steaks, calamari, and a few other "upscale" foods. These theaters only seat about 58 people by my count of chairs.
Ticket Price: $25/person - includes $10 for movie admission and a $15 credit for food/drink to be used during that movie ONLY. The side tables have a dim light that remains lit so that you can see your food/drink/bill/wallet....kind of annoying to the traditional movie watcher, but not too distracting in my opinion.
The other 6 theaters are stadium seating with traditional movie theater chairs (w/ cup holders) which share a long table. Think of Medieval Times but with more aisles :) The table has a raised lip with lights so you can read the menus, etc. This also is a nice place to store your cell phone, reading glasses and wallet :) The chairs are rather far away from the table, so that when you are eating, you need to sit straight in order to reach the table. Cloth napkins, metal silverware, ketchup on tables. The red button to call your server is on the top ledge of the table.
Ticket Price: $20/person-includes $10 for movie admission and $10 food/bev credit to be used during that movie only.
So......our family saw a total of 4 films over the weekend. Two in the Cinema Suites, and two in the other theaters. The food/bev service in the Cinema Suites seems very intrusive, because the server has to cross in front of the entire row to serve anyone in that row. When a person in your row is served, the server is crossing in front of you. If you are fully reclined in your leather seat, this is a big viewing obstruction.
The food/bev service in the other theaters is better because there are more aisles for the servers to access your individual seats. Before the film, the servers come to take your orders,and deliver the food before the film begins. If you need other items during the movies- you press the button and the servers appear w/ their handheld computer systems to get your order. The check is delivered about 20 minutes before the film is over so that you can settle the check before the movie is finished.
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THE RED BUTTON - Okay. so whatever you need during the film, just push the red button. The server appears and communicates with you. By Talking. If you are bothered by people talking in a movie theater, this service aspect will make you crazy. Because, no matter how quietly people whisper, they are still talking in the movies....While we attended the soft opening as the staff worked out kinks, the bottom line is that there is still talking during the film. Sotto Voce or otherwise.
LIGHTING - Because you need to see the menus on table and because the servers need to see you- there is alot of ambient lighting in the theater. The lighting is located along the tables, chairs and aisles. If you like seeing movies in total darkness, this could be distracting. Let's put it this way: When I saw Inception by myself in the Cinema Suites- I was annoyed. When I saw Toy Story 3D with my boys- it was a blessing.
Now, if you do the math, you need to figure out if your family /friend unit will enjoy this type of film experience for the $$$$. Is it better for your family to eat before the movie? Do kids fall asleep, therefore leaving extra $$ on the table for parents to consume? My 2 boys saw 2 movies, devoured their pizza meals and thought the whole thing was fantastic. When I saw a grown up movie, I was annoyed by the extra service activity around me.
Bathrooms - located at the front of theater by the ticketed entrance. They are big, lots of stalls. at least 2 handicapped/family style stalls with sink and toilet contained in one area. Paper towels only, I didn't see air blow hand dryers.
Monday Nov 15th is more free evening films.
Grand opening is Wed Nov 17!!!!
I know I probably left some things out of the mix here- but it will be interesting to see how this thing works out!