Wednesday, March 20, 2013
First look: New Dallas cinema seriously upgrades dinner-and-a-movie
You can even order sushi in one section of the theater.
DALLAS Cue the movie trailer voice: In a world, where “upscale” has all but lost its meaning, one dinner-and-a-movie concept seeks to inspire the chronically jaded. That brand-new Dallas-based concept is LOOK Cinemas, and it's poised to impress on March 29.
We've heard it before. Some theater chain is installing a new location or revamping an existing one that will "revolutionize" Dallas cinema. But, in reality, many times these updates mean slapping on a new coat of paint or adding pre-packaged and processed "health food" options to the concession menu. Here, quality comes with no compromise.
For adults, prices range from $7 for a matinee to $16 for an evening movie.
LOOK's founders are a powerful combination. Tom Stephenson is a 25-year movie industry veteran who served as CEO of Hollywood Cinemas before founding Rave Cinemas. Brian Mason has founded a number of business projects with an emphasis on advertising, and noted restaurateur Joseph Palladino is best known as co-owner of the Nick & Sam's and Coal Vines group.
On a walkthrough on March 19, we noticed detail and thoughtfulness in the new space. For instance, the building itself looks more like a museum -- in fact, its design evokes a feeling similar to the new Perot Museum -- and it is flanked by new Nick & Sam's Grill and Coal Vines locations, the second of which will open on Memorial Day.
The entire LOOK campus near Preston and Belt Line roads -- which, due to its size might be better described as a "compound" -- is divided into four sections, offering four unique viewing experiences.
- The "sexier" experience suitable for a date is the 21+ Loft Auditoriums designed for an adults-only experience with a full bar, small plates, and high-end sushi.
- General admission theaters are appropriate for youngsters and their families, where no alcohol is served.
- The Dining Auditoriums have a menu boasting Nick & Sam's Grill or Coal Vines items and "pod" seating, which is specially-designed to create a more intimate and private setting, somewhat like a curved restaurant booth.
- And the Evolution Auditoriums, which feature 70-foot curved screens -- the largest in Dallas -- are for cinephiles who are interested in picture and sound quality.
"We spared no expense," said Mason, who installed LOOK's electric, power-reclining chairs in his home theater to ensure they were up to par. "It all comes together to create a cohesive impression of quality that stays with you. You might not think, 'Oh, there's an extra inch between my arm rest and the next chair,' but those little things come together and blend for an overall higher-quality experience."
Palladino called the theater sexy. "It's vibrant. And, there's a lot of energy," he said.
Energy is right. One idea, still in the planning stages, is for a monthly block party where every movie ends at the same time and guests converge in the courtyard area simultaneously. Portable bars, margarita stands, and a DJ will create an impromptu club, where roughly 1,000 patrons leaving the day's final screenings can stick around to mingle, dance, and grab more food at the still-open adjacent restaurants.
Already on the agenda, LOOK will host one night of the Dallas International Film Festival on April 4. On March 30, Radio Disney will be on site for a special kid-geared event and screening of The Croods.
While LOOK will primarily show first-run, mainstream movies, other ideas for "late night classics" screenings or movies during Sunday brunch are being tossed around.
Care for a coney?
While Palladino is primarily the "food guy," Mason lobbied for coneys on the menu, inspired by ones from Coney I-Lander in Tulsa, his hometown, which he used to bring back to Dallas by the cooler-full.
"I like to eat clean, and I made sure there are real options that won't make people feel like they've blown their diet," Palladino said. "But, then we've got the coneys for dudes like [Mason] who worked out two hours this morning."
The theater will also have sushi, and the executive chef from Nobu acted as a consultant.
Still a little over a week from opening, LOOK will open softly on March 28 for a special charity event benefiting the Fort Hood Warrior Transition Brigade. Guests will see G.I. Joe: Retaliation with local military heroes, and all proceeds will go toward funding primary case and case management for U.S. Army soldiers. The soldiers' red carpet arrival is at 6 p.m. and the screening begins at 7 p.m., with tickets for this event, and the entire opening weekend, set at $10.
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