Point-Counterpoint: Dine-In Theaters Destroy the Moviegoing Experience

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We had so much fun chucking Chow Bella contributors Ando Muneno and Lauren Saria into the ring over Alton Brown and food trucks, we put them back at it again.

This week's topic: Dine-in movie theaters.

Lauren: A few weeks ago, a friend invited me to a screening of a movie that I would never have paid $9 to see otherwise. "It's free!" she begged, adding, "And besides, it's at one of those fancy theaters where they serve food!"

So I went. And while the movie was actually pretty damn funny, the theater Studio Movie Grill was a nightmare!

While enjoying a meal during a movie sounds great, I found the reality to be far from ideal. First, I was disappointed to find the seating options to be

1. a bar-like row of swivel chairs that reminded me waaaay too much of a college lecture hall or

2. pseudo-armchairs that put you two feet away from your nearest companion.

We opted for the armchair things, and though the little fold-down eating trays were cute, the lights necessary to illuminate everyone's food were completely distracting. Don't even get me started on the servers. Excuse me, but if your name is not in the credits, I don't want to hear you talking to me or anyone else during the film. Please and thank you.

Needless to say, I just don't get it.

Ando: Did we go to the same theater? [Editor's note: They did.] Because I don't remember intrusive servers, bright lights, or disappointing chairs. I only saw our servers three times: Once to take our order, once to unobtrusively deliver the goods and one final time to slip us our check. Aside from the last time, they showed up only when I pushed a button that summoned them. And that's half the fun! It's like being royalty! Where else can you go, slap a button, and have someone materialize out of the darkness to offer you a refill on your beverage?

You say "swivel chairs," but what you really mean is "comfy padded office chairs." I don't know which lectures hall chairs you sat in during college, but none of mine were nearly as comfortable as the ones in that theater. Lauren: Even if I try and accept the seating, I refuse to accept that a $13 rack of ribs is something that should be consumed while watching a movie on the big screen. How is that even enjoyable? How can a person be expected to fully experience a movie while simultaneously chowing down on a cheeseburger or tacos? The whole reason you eat popcorn during a movie is so that you can shovel it shamelessly into your mouth without having to tear your eyes from the screen.

Furthermore, the term is "dinner and a movie," not "dinner at/during the movie." To me, a dine-in movie says, "I'm too lazy and cheap to take you on a real date, so let's just eat our food and not have to talk while we watch things explode."

Ando: I will fully admit that there are some problems with Studio Movie Grill but we need to support their mission if we want to preserve the movie watching experience. Here's the thing: Hollywood has been trying to figure out how to milk more money out of us in the theater for at least a decade. Right now Hollywood's big sell is 3D movies, and let's be real: There have probably been three movies that actually needed to be seen in 3D and two of those movies involved people flying around on dragons. 3D movies are awful, and the sooner they go away the better.

In light of that, I'm happy to pay a buck extra to see a movie and buy some actual freaking food to eat while I watch it. I would gladly do that rather than wear clunky glasses to watch 2D movies poorly translated into 3D. It's win-win: Theaters get more money; I get chicken fingers, a milkshake, and no headache.

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