I will try to quickly get to the facts and the experience that you all are eager to read about. When iPic theaters reached out to me to extend the invitation to come in for an advanced tasting and screening at their new (and only) state of the art theater in New Jersey, I was instantly excited. The fact that I work a full time job with a long commute and carry very busy athletic and social calendars makes it extremely difficult to get to media events to represent Behind the Plates. So when I get an invitation for something that is interesting to me, relevant to the blog and my readers AND on an open day, I do a little happy dance. Ok, time to get down and dirty with the facts on this new theater.
iPic Theaters is a luxury movie theater concept dreamt up by Hamid Hashemi in 2006. There are currently 13 operating locations across the US with its latest location right here in Fort Lee, New Jersey. There are also two New York locations on their way as well! The theaters are built to look like luxury hotels, with each location having their own interior concept, theme motif, and architectural flair. Most have completely different style restaurants as well. I’ll get into how these theaters are keeping it local shortly. The theaters are the pioneers in theater comfort with the creation of seating pods and deliberate comfort touches like personal pillows and blankets at each leather reclining chair. We heard from Mr. Hashemi himself at the event and his passion for the movie experience is apparent. He has thought through every detail from entry to exit.
The first thing to know is that there are two types of seating in the theaters. The first is the premium seats which are slightly cheaper. For these ticketholders the guests order their gourmet goodies and alcoholic beverages outside the theater in a grab and go style and then bring them to their seats for the movie. The other type of seats are the premium plus which allow the movie-goers to enjoy a complete night of luxury with “dining-in-the-dark” full service from their ninja waiters which are at your disposal anytime you press their service call button. To book tickets a guest uses an iphone app or the website which uses Über like technology to buy your tickets and select your seat in advance. Tickets should and must be purchased ahead of time.
I also want to talk a little bit about the food. I was skeptical going into this about the company marketing a culinary experience at the theaters. The concept of dine-in theaters is great but from the AMC dine-in experiences I have had in New Jersey, my expectations were low (to say the least) on the food fare. But, when I saw that the chef heading this project was a three time James Beard Award winner (Chef Sherry Yard) who worked with Wolfgang Puck amongst other credited culinary achievements, it caught my eye. It’s why I was pumped for this event. I wanted to dare the theater world to change my mind. After hearing from Sherri Yard herself and her holding the same reservations about bringing a true culinary experience in a theater forum before signing on, I was even more curious. During the event our tasting plates came with a sampling of her “hands only” menu and I was pleasantly surprised! The whole menu was designed to be eaten without cutlery to not disrupt the viewing experience. Even the texture of the food was taken into account to reduce crunch and clatter during your movie. It was very intriguing to listen to the menu planning process. Everything, and we were assured on this, is made in house and local ingredients have an influence on the experience. I thought the menu choices were fittingly playful, easy to eat, and tasty.
I’ll move on to the award winning mixologist they have on board as well. As a master sommelier, their wine list is extensive for a restaurant let alone a theater. The cocktails are handcrafted along with being fresh, locally influenced, and quite delicious. I had a Norma jean which infused fresh strawberries in with vodka and lemonade. To give you a taste of how local they like to keep their menus the featured drink included Lairds Apple Jack which is small town liquor producer in NJ. They also only stock local craft beers. It was a refreshingly different approach.
All of this dining and theater luxury comes at an affordable price. The menu and drink options are comparable to any other casual service style restaurant out there and I would venture to say this is a bargain for the quality. Movie seats are at a premium but for the time savings of going to dinner before a movie and/or extra gas costs, you’ll make up for it!
Let me quickly walk through the Premium Plus experience that I had to give you one final teaser. As you walk in the lobby of the hotel style building you will see the adjoined City Perch Kitchen + Bar to your left and the grand staircase and escalator bank in front of you. You ascend to a mosaic of art works that are fun to look at. You turn the corner and the Premium food pre-order lines are ready and waiting. But, because I had a premium plus ticket I went straight to my seat. My seating pod had a cubby for my purse and I quickly discovered the easy recline buttons for my chair. After arranging my pillow and blanket to prepare for the show I was approached to order my drink. Once it arrived I pulled down my easy access cup holder that is “no-reach” compared to the table and slipped it in. The quiet server placed my meal and with the buzz of my finger on the call button I was attended to for extra water. I barely noticed or heard the ninja servers as they took orders, served and cleared. I happily tried not to doze off in my comfortable chair during the film. Thankfully, the movie was exciting enough to keep my attention!
Now that the Fort Lee location is officially open I encourage all of you to set up your next date night, girls outing, or guys get together at these theaters. It’s an experience you don’t want to miss!
…all for the love of the dish
Please note these thoughts and opinions are completely my own.