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Dallas' Studio Movie Grill Gets No Respect

by Jerome Weeks 5 Jan 2011 10:00 AM

The Wall Street Journal has a sizable feature about this significant new trend in the movie theater business: slapping some food on the menu (and charging more for the movie ticket). Guess who has been one of the pioneers?


The Wall Street Journal has a sizable feature about this significant new trend in the movie theater business: slapping some food on the menu (and charging more for the movie ticket).

Under pressure from viewers as well as movie-industry executives, the country’s theater chains are trying to win back moviegoers—with food. Audiences at a growing number of theaters can order such dishes as chinois chicken salad rolls or limoncello-tossed shrimp. . . .  A few years ago, a handful of such theaters existed in the country. Now, the National Association of Theatre Owners estimates that the U.S. plays home to roughly 300 to 400 cinemas with restaurant service out of roughly 5,750 total theaters. Industry analysts predict that number could double over the next few years.

The article notes that the trend has “previously been the realm chiefly of small independent theaters,” but cites some of the major chains, like AMC and Regal, converting a few of their current facilities — allying this move with 3D movies as a way the theaters are fighting against the streaming-video-at-home trend.

Well, Dallas’ Studio Movie Grill was pretty much a pioneer in this area — way back in 1999. It currently has seven theaters in Dallas, Arlington, Plano, Houston and Atlanta. And it’s never mentioned here. I’m not bringing this up to tout the local guys (Frankly, I’m not a big fan of the whole trying-to-hear-the-dialogue-while-my-neighbor-munches-tortilla-chips experience). But hey, they’ve had nearly 12 years working on this business plan. They might have some wisdom to impart.

  • Heather MacDonald

    Well, I might quibble with the pioneer status. Some of us who were lucky enough to live in the vicinity of Oakland, California in the mid-’90s remember the picture-pub-pizza Parkway Theater, well before 1999. I have fond memories of every movie I saw there, and the beer and pizza wasn’t bad either.

  • Jerome Weeks

    Oh, certainly, you’re absolutely right, there were other efforts (as I wrote, SMG is “a” pioneer in this area, not “the”). But mostly these were one-offs with a single theater owner deciding to serve hamburgers or pizza — in effect, adding a fast food joint to a theater lobby. It was re-considering the whole moviegoing experience from the get-go with the idea of serving food and drinks that has represented a big forward (or backward) step. It’s entailed designing the kinds of tables and seating and layouts, the notifying-button system, all the protocols and even the kinds of foods offered (as the WSJ story indicates, theaters are still experimenting with the menus and bars).

  • John Meyer

    Let’s not forget Alamo Drafthouse down in Austin. They opened doors in 1997 and are going stronger than ever.

  • Kris

    Actually, wasn’t the Granada the first Dallas theater chain to do this? Now, of course, the original one on Greenville does more concerts than movies and other locations have been turned into Studio Movie Grills.

  • Jerome Weeks

    I stand by my hopelessly weak-kneed, repeatedly compromised statement: “a” pioneer, not “the” pioneer.

  • Kris

    I actually appreciate your larger point that Studio Movie Grill has existed for a long time and is being ignored (all of which is still valid, even if it wasn’t the first to start this)

  • Brad Paisley

    Maybe they were the first in Dallas to do something, but Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has been doing it longer and much better in Texas and beyond not only from programming standpoint (showing great films and cool events) but also much better food. Did you know SMG buys its popcorn “pre popped” in huge bags?

  • Tater

    Ahahahahahahaha!!! The Today Show did the same thing today (3-3-12).

    Leave it to New Yorkers to stake a claim on a concept. New Yorkers and Californians have a knack for claiming to have been the first.

    Get this. The Today Show reported on this “new trend” and reported it as if this theatre in NYC is the first to do it. I guess Movie Tavern, Studio Movie Grill & Alamo Draft House serve just snacks!

    We get the same thing from NY’ers in the technical side of commercial real estate. They’re doing “new” things today that we’ve been doing since the 90’s.