The latest theater chain to throw its hat in the increasingly crowded luxury-moviegoing ring, multiplex titan AMC officially re-opened its Marina 6 branch as a dine-in theater last Monday. Where once this sort of cinematic experience was the sole province of Arclight and Landmark (at least in L.A.), there's now a smattering of competition: not only this new Marina Del Rey venue but also the Sundance Sunset in West Hollywood and, as of sometime in the near future, an outpost of Austin's famed Alamo Drafthouse. As I wrote in my review of the Sundance Sunset, the main rationale behind these theaters -- which feature assigned seating, expanded food/alcohol menus and swanky interiors -- is essentially this: if going to a crummy multiplex already costs upwards of $10, why not shell out a few dollars more for a genuinely nice experience?
Tickets to an evening show at the Marina 6 run $12.50, and unlike any other theater in L.A. they bring your meal right to your plush leather seat -- which includes a connected tray table, call button to page your server and leg rests. At first this all feels almost uncomfortably decadent, but once you settle in it's actually quite pleasing.
The experience is aided greatly by the ultra-friendly staff, one of whom was kind enough to walk me through the entire process before the previews started: you arrive to your assigned seat, look through the menu, and place your order. Your food (in my case, a $10 cheeseburger on a brioche bun with fries) is brought out to you shortly thereafter, even if the movie has already started. The kind folks at the Marina 6 are trained in this sort of thing, you see, and manage to be no more distracting than another patron getting up to go to the restroom, so much space is there between each individual row of seats.
Some 45 minutes into the film, your server will then drop off the bill. (They do this in order to avoid everyone paying at the same time once the movie has ended, which ends up working out pretty well.)
The atmosphere cultivated by all the goings on is relaxed but upscale, and not unlike watching a movie with a few quiet-but-noticeable friends. Some background chatter is unavoidable, but on the whole it's far less bothersome than the person sitting next to you answering the phone -- especially because the entire venue is 21+. There's little reason to attend if you don't specifically plan to order food, but the fact that people come for a more "adult" experience tends to result in everyone being as quiet and respectful as you could hope for.
Having missed the last press screening due to a cold, I took the chance to see Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softly. The Australian filmmaker's followup to his strikingly beautiful The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford wasn't nearly as laid-back as the theater, though it did spell out exactly what it was up to as clearly as my server did. All things considered, it still made for a decent night out at the movies.