When Marcus Theatres opened its third full service Zaffiro’s Pizzeria & Bar restaurant at the Ridge Cinema in New Berlin in August the company was building on a concept it started in 2007 at the Majestic Cinema in Brookfield. The Majestic was Marcus’ first foray into one of the recent trends in the movie theatre business – integrating food and beverage into the theatre experience.
Today, Marcus Theatres operates Zaffiro’s restaurants as part of its locations in New Berlin and Mequon, in addition to Waite Park, Minnesota. The company has also integrated cocktail areas, branded Take Five Lounges, into several theatre locations in addition to offering in-theatre dining auditoriums, called Big Screen Bistros, where food and drink is brought to moviegoers while they watch the latest blockbusters. A Hollywood Café, in the lobby at the Oakdale Cinema in
Minnesota, offers a selection of freshly made sandwiches, Zaffiro’s pizzas and appetizers. Add gourmet coffee and super premium ice cream at the Majestic and Renaissance Cinema in Sturtevant, gelato made onsite at the Ridge, a five-screen CineDine cinema in Omaha and you’ve got a full blown food and beverage explosion going on.
But, it was not always the case.
The Food & Beverage Evolution
Let’s take a step back and look at the history of food in movie theatres. Today, for most people movies and popcorn are intrinsically linked, but that has not always been the case. In the early days of movie theatres there were no concession stands. In fact, theatre owners actually kept food out of their theatres for fear of spills and to give the movie experience a cache of class, like the legitimate theatre.
But, the appetite of hungry moviegoers could not be suppressed. After one entrepreneur set up a popcorn wagon outside of a theatre on the street, the theatre owner took a cue from the successful stand and soon started making a profit from selling popcorn in his own lobby.
And so, the concession stand was born.
Soon, soft drinks, candy and other items were added and moviegoers loaded up with snacks before taking their seat for the double feature. Things pretty much stayed this way until the ‘80s when theatres started adding more selections to their concession menus. Eventually, theatres began experimenting with serving wine and incorporating cafes to meet the evolving tastes of their patrons. Café fare including coffee, ice cream and some hot foods paved the way for what was to come…almost 20 years later.
Food & Beverage Concepts of Today
Today, people want a one-stop entertainment destination where they can go to enjoy dinner, drinks and a movie. Moviegoers also started to crave real food, made in a real kitchen, by a real chef. That required a radical redesign of theatre structures to include infrastructure necessary to create and deliver high-quality food. These renovations are relatively easy to carry out if building a new theatre like the Majestic in 2007, but a lot more complex with existing locations like the Ridge. In order to build the third Zaffiro’s at the Ridge, one of the theatre’s existing auditoriums had to be completely reengineered to fit a kitchen, dining room, bar and all the associated equipment like dough makers, refrigerators, prep areas and storage.
The addition of restaurants, lounges and specialty food items served through the concession stand continues to make movie theatres an appealing place to gather in the company of friends and family. Park once and enjoy. It’s no longer dinner and a movie, it’s dinner at a movie – and it keeps getting better. Next time you’re at the Big Screen Bistro at the Majestic, check out its new menu that includes prime rib wraps, jambalaya pasta, Asian salad along with burgers, appetizers, pizza and desserts. Or visit Zaffiro’s for exquisite thin crust pizza, Kitchen Sink Salad, Guinness Cake or one of their torpedo sandwiches. Who would have thought that going to the movies could be such an epicurean experience?
Question: What is your favorite movie theatre snack? Do you prefer to dine at the theatre, at an outside restaurant or at home?
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