By OWEN MORRIS
So I was at the AMC Studio 30 in Olathe yesterday afternoon, going by myself to see the matinee of Sex and the City for like the 1,000th time, when this guy in a suit grabs me and asks if I would like a sneak peek of AMC's new dining-at-the-movies concept. I said sure and was immediately whisked away into a land of fantasy and merriment. That or I called ahead and finagled my way into a tour. Believe which one you want, but the first story is more Hollywood.
Speaking of Hollywood, walking into AMC's completely newly designed Fork & Screen wing of the building is like being on a movie set. At least it had the hustle and bustle of one when I was there, with the builders and architects putting the finishing touches on large scenery, and newly hired waiters and waitresses getting the layout of the bar area called MacGuffins. To those of you unfamiliar, AMC is about to begin testing a dining-while-watching-a-movie option at the Olathe 30. They are calling it Fork and Screen (apparently, New Theater Restaurant was taken), and the renovation for the project has been going on for more than three months.
The renovation shows because, at least now, the new wing dazzles. To enter, you walk down a long corridor at the end of which is an expansive MacGuffins bar. The design emanates bright white light so that the eye is immediately drawn to it. With its wide variety of liquors and overall cool layout (better than any of the bar layouts in the P&L District), the bar looks like something that belongs in a Las Vegas nightclub, not a movie theater in Olathe.
Manager Andy DiOrio led me through a tour of the wing, which will be roped off from the rest of the theater but will be available to any ticket purchaser over the age of 18. Besides the central bar, the area consists of 11 theaters featuring two different concepts: the entry-level Fork & Screen and the ultra-luxurious Cinema Suites. The layout of the seats and the way DiOrio talked about legroom made me think of airplanes, and I don't think that's a coincidence. For instance, you can reserve a specific seat in the Cinema Suites and then confirm it or change it when "checking in," as DiOrio called it.
Being that Cinema Suites is the first-class equivalent at AMC, the seats aren't seats at all but are recliners, and you have 6 feet or more of legroom in front of you plus wide seats. The layout guarantees that you will never have to crawl over anyone to get to your seat. For lovers, you can raise the armrests on the recliners, and boom -- you have a love seat.
While DiOrio wouldn't talk specifics, it's clear that AMC dropped a pretty dime on this "concept," as they are calling it. The part I was most impressed by was one that most patrons will never see: the full-service kitchen. I was expecting a spruced-up concession stand area, but no -- AMC has brought in brand-new Vulcan ranges, gas stoves, convection ovens, fryers and salamander broilers galore. It's the exact setup I'd expect to see at a high-end hotel banquet kitchen, and DiOrio says the plan is to do that type of turnover. Until then, to walk through one door and then be in a movie theater is a little surreal.
No expense was spared making the experience of the moviegoers a full one, but the $64,000 question still remains: Will moviegoers buy into it? I am sure the bar area will be very popular, but do people really want a server to come up to them and take their order in the middle of a film? AMC has done its damnedest to make the experience feel natural, and even though attempts at combining dinners and movies have failed in the past, AMC is betting heavily that they've worked out all the kinks. We'll learn the answer soon because AMC opens Fork & Screen to the public on Friday.
To celebrate the opening, AMC is having a plethora of events and a drawing this weekend. Below, check out the press release and see how you can win movie passes for an entire year while only sacrificing your dignity.
Fork & Screen at AMC Studio 30 Opening Weekend Events
Friday, October 31
8 a.m.: Free Movies for a Year Giveaway for the first 100 people who line up on the red carpet dressed up as their favorite Hollywood villain or monster
First 100 people to purchase a ticket for the new Fork & Screen wing will receive a prize pack. Guests must present ticket at MacGuffins(tm) to be eligible.
Saturday, November 1
12-2 p.m.: Silent auction held to benefit Variety: The Children's Charity. Auctioning off movie and music paraphernalia.
5-8 p.m.: Rock 'n' Roll at Studio. FREE live music, featuring Kansas City bands Pompous Jack and The Dead Girls n FREE rock 'n' roll makeovers. FREE photo-booth strips from KC Photobooth. Vintage clothing and guitar lamps display by Rock Candy Boutique and GuitarLamp.com
Sunday, November 2
2-4 p.m.: Mom's Day Out event for Kansas City moms to come to the theatre for a free chair massage and chance to win a Mom's Night Out prize package