You know what’s crazy? I’ll tell you what’s crazy™
AMC DINE IN MOVIE THEATERS:
“We’re going to be close to the screen,” girlfriend says finalizing our purchase.
“How close?,” I ask.
“pretty close,” she says stuffing her iPhone into her cream colored Kate Spade purse.
“We’re B-4 and B-5. We’re 2 rows from the screen on the floor. Is that OK?”
I quickly imagine lying on the sidewalk in front of the Empire State Building and trying to see the observation deck. I imagine my neck stretched, my eyes straining to see the top of the building while foul mouth New Yorkers shower me with insipid run on sentences.”
“Lookatda mope laying on the sidewalk. Go back to your haystack numb nutz.”
“Is that OK?,” she says again.
I quietly chuckle leaving my New York visage. I gaze into her brown eyes.
We walk into the AMC DINE In Theater.
The movie theater has recently undergone a year long remodel that has transformed this multiplex with standard screens, into a brand new concept.
In addition to the old fashioned, tried and true candy bar, there is also a kitchen and a full, operational bar.
As we walk toward theater 12, I see young movie staffers, carrying electronic scanners and hustling in and out of theaters with trays of food and drinks.
In the center of the hallway, there is a full scale kitchen. It’s a bee hive of energy with people coming and going through a swinging door.
We walk into theater 12. The movie trailers have begun. The aisle is dimly lit by the massive screen before us.
“B-4 and B-5,” Girlfriend shouts as we head toward the front of the theater.
The chairs are luxuriously large and plush. Each seat electronically reclines for optimum cinematic enjoyment.
The rows are 5 feet wide; enough to accommodate reclined movie viewers or a small clown car that might suddenly zoom by.
I get in my seat and push the button.
The leg rest begins to rise while the head rest begins to decline.
As my Lazy Boy recliner turns into a massage table, I wonder if I’m going to watch a film or is something more sensual about to take place.
I stare up at the screen. A trailer for a coming attraction is blaring like a lighthouse fueled by atomic engery.
We are in row B, 2 rows from the screen.
The screen rises 100 feet before. The projection is bright, like staring at a flat sun. I am not yet adjusted to the light and feel like I need sunglasses to protect my eyes from retinal damage.
All I see is luminesce and gigantic pixels of color moving about. It’s as if a massive dandelion, exposed to an electrical storm, has exploded into an irradiated burst of technicolor pollen.
I push my head further back into my head rest. I am literally lying down, completely reclined, staring up at the screen. An actor is speaking. But all I see is a gigantic head. It’s like laying at the base of the Easter Island Monument and staring up a pair of gigantic hairy nostrils.
I hear gunfire and a big movie voice shouts: JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS OK TO GO BACK TO THE MOVIES.
“I want pop-corn and a wine,” girlfriend shouts. The screen is filled with images of a car wreck somewhere on a Himalyan Ox Cart that is 40 stories tall. “You want a beer?”
The AMC Dine In concept is: Why go to dinner and then a movie, when you can go to a movie and have dinner.
The AMC website is alluring. At the top of the page a sizzling hamburger dripping with juice, slathered in cheese and grilled onions. The website says: AMC Dine-In theatres are a movie theatre and restaurant rolled into one! Make a date to enjoy the show with fresh, hand-crafted menu items and a drink from MacGuffins Bar. It’s the perfect way to experience dinner and a movie.
That’s what they promise. But what happens in the dark between bursts of automatic gunfire is another story.
As I will come to learn; AMC Dine IN is the equivalent of driving your car into the Ferris wheel on the pier, having it explode and shower you with glittering shards of glass.
Their slogan should be: Why have a quiet dinner before the movie, when you can enjoy the savory experience of microwaved movie theater meat washed down with thunderbolts of visual LSD.
“You want a beer,” Girlfriend asks again.
“I’d love a beer,” I respond. “What do they have?”
She looks at me blankly. Though I’m sitting less than 6 inches from her, my words evaporate into a sonic burst of movie mayhem. It’s like trying to communicate on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. I really don’t think she hears a word I just said.
I look up at the 500 foot projection screen. I think I see a crater on Tom Cruise’s face. I decide that a 75 foot tall Tom Cruise face is even more handsome.
By the light of a 55 year old action star doing a HALO jump over Dubai, I pick up the menu before me.
I am looking for the beer menu.
The print is small. The words are dark. I am old.
I hold this placard of culinary gibberish toward the screen waiting for a day light scene or an explosion.
By the light of a fiery wreck, I can see the menu. I suddenly realize that I can order a multitude of items from Cheeseburgers to flat bread pizzas.
I am reading the menu quickly, illuminated by the incandescence of a dumpster fire and spinning disco ball on the gigantic screen.
I know darkness is coming and I read faster than a preacher at an Arkansas shot gun wedding.
Suddenly there is a montage of strobing images on the screen. It’s hypnotic and I feel like I am on the verge of having a seizure. Reading the menu is dizzying. My brain is spinning and I’m feeling sea sick. Understanding this menu is like trying to compute Chinese Math while being water boarded by the CIA.
Ultimate Nachos $10.99 I 1640 Cal Spicy queso, jalapeños, black beans, pico de gallo, cilantro, house-made guacamole and cool lime crem
Loaded Brisket Fries $10.29 I 1370 Cal Pulled brisket, sweet and spicy BBQ sauce, rich cheddar cheese sauce, sweet jalapeños and house-made ranch dressing
Crispy Brussels Sprouts $7.99 I 230 Cal Parmesan cheese, chile salt and house spice blend
As I read these words in a sporadic darkness filled with a cacophony of sound, I imagine delectable meals being prepared.
But where? By whom?
I am inside a movie theater in a strip mall. There are newspapers blowing across the parking lot. There is melted gum on the sidewalk waiting to attach to someone’s sandal. Am I really to believe my buttered asparagus is being prepared by a sous chef from the Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute in France?
Before I can further entertain this thought, There is a tremendous Boom! There is Darkness. My reading light disappears into a cinematic vacuum.
I want to know more about Brussel sprouts and linguine with white clam sauce. I long for another solar system exploding and Chewbaca screaming at an Imperial Storm Trooper so I can read the menu more astutely.
I look down the wide aisle as an apparition approaches. I see a teenage girl with blond hair and indistinguishable facial features.
I want to ask her if the chef recommends the crab legs tonight. I will never get that chance.
As she slowly enters this cinematic war zone, I wonder how this is all suppose to work.
How will we communicate in this cannon thunder of loudness?
Fixing a 67 Chevy carburetor during a proctology exam might be easier.
The young girl dressed in a black AMC shirt towers above me. She’s probably 5’5″ tall. But from my reclined hospital bed in the middle of this sinking ship on the Titanic, she is a Waitress God.
I stare at her white face, searching for something familiar. She is bathed in a blue hue and a nescient aura. While I wait for her to instruct me how this process is suppose to work, Samuel L Jackson’s big black skull is floating behind her. “I ain’t going anywhere with you mother fucker,” he bellows.
People in the theater laugh.
Nothing says fine dining like Samuel L Jackson dropping some ill timed F Bombs.
At this moment, during a hurricane and a space ship exploding around her, the 15 year old soft voiced waif says something.
Her words are devoured by the sounds of a machine gun firing inside a church.
Fire and smoke spill billow around the sides of the waitresses’ head as I try to read her lips. I certainly can’t hear her.
I wonder if she knows sign language or Morse Code? How would the fire marshal feel if I sent smoke signals to this young movie food fetcher hovering above me.
It’s so dark, so loud, she is a silloutte in front of a massive trailer for cinematic jumbalya.
I feel like I’m in a hospital bed staring up at my nurse, as I wait for the sedative to slide down the tube. I just want to know.
HOW DOES THIS WORK?
Girlfriend understands the AMC Dine In concept better than me. She is a STUBBS CARD MEMBER. That’s like having a handgun carry permit without the license to kill.
She engages the young waitress, with a firm tone, bordering on shouting.
“We want popcorn. I’m a STUBBS member, so we should be eligible for an upgrade to a large.”
I’ve seen more comprehension on the face of Jelly Fish at the aquarium.
The young girl is a zombie of indecision.
She stares at the scanner device in her hands.
She punches some buttons and pushes her nose closer to the screen. It’s as if she is holding the arc of the covenant and the secrets of humanity are just beyond her grasp.
I watch her puerile face. It is lost in space. Her dull blue eyes are attached to a cerebral cortex floating in a broth of ambivalence.
The theater is awash in the sounds of an F-15 fighter jet blasting off an air craft carrier.
“I want a Pinot Grigio,” Girlfriend shouts, her words mixing with nuclear Armageddon.
Communication is impossible. The noise at a dangerous decibel level. I quietly wonder if the sonic bursts around me will cause sterility.
This restaurant inside a movie theater concept has all the appeal of a hand grenade exploding inside a diving bell. It’s loud and chaotic and border line lethal.
I watch as girlfriend stares at the mute food server. It is uncomfortable as she stands there, ambivalent, lost in her electronic device, praying for answers that will never materialize.
At this point, it would be easier to perform brain surgery on a New York City subway car full of bums shitting in their seats.
The young food fetcher with the lost, distant look from planet Zombie stares at the scanner. She pushes some buttons.
I stare at girlfriend. She has that look that a woman gets when she wants something and she’s not getting it.
From my reclined vantage point, I am watching a corporate business plan go off the tracks. I see a 50 foot tall food fetcher stare into the electronic abyss while steam comes out of girlfriend’s ears.
A business where you can’t communicate or order anything or pay for it.
This can’t end well, I think to myself.
Girlfriend shouts over a baby’s circumcision being performed inside a China Shop. I don’t know what the hell movie that is, but it looks bad.
“Pinot Grigio,” she says forcefully. ” That’s a wine. I want a wine!”
The trailer grows quiet for a moment and for the first time, I hear gigantic waitress girl’s soft voice.
“Oh you want a wine too?”
Girlfriend’s eyes grow cartoon wide. If Wiley Coyote could leap out of her flared nostrils, he’d do it.
“Pinot Grigio is a wine,” she shouts up at the zombie giant.
The food fetcher punches something into her interstellar communicator high above me.
Her eyes turn to me. They are a dull blue.
I know this moment is circling the drain. But I pretend everything is normal, like this is a restaurant and not a nuclear submarine where there’s a fire in the engine compartment.
“I want a beer. What do you have?,” I shout over cartoon dogs licking their own balls because they can.
The skyscraper tall mastodon of indecision stares at me for a moment.
Then she punches a button on her device. Suddenly two red laser beams of penetrating light burst from the scanner. The red rays of pain enter my eyes burning my corneas, stealing my soul.
“Ahhhh,” I shout shielding my eyes from the intense beams of red death emanating from her hand held scanner.
Skyscraper girl quickly lowers her information portal and the beams of soul sucking pain cease.
She stares at me blankly. She is the ring master of confusion, lost in the center circle of indecision.
“I don’t know what kind of beers we have,” she says, her words dissipating like so much steam from a howling teapot.
I feel a burst of rage. I am not proud, but it consumes me from the inside.
During my machine gun staccato attempt to read the menu, I remember something about AMC priding itself on Designer cocktails and Craft Beers.
Yet the answer to my question; “WHAT BEERS DO YOU HAVE?” is met with a gaze as insightful as a wiped blackboard.
I stare at this young girl. I don’t want to be rude. I don’t want to shout at her, not that she would be able to hear me over a Samuel L. Jackson’s Mother Fucker tirade.
“Never mind,” I shout. “I don’t want anything. Just bring pop corn and wine.”
I pause. I think I have offended the gigantic waif. I sense a twinge of emotion behind her pale blue eyes.
“But thank you,” I shout over a baby wailing in a pit of snakes.
“I’m sorry,” she says walking away.
The gigantic food fetcher dressed all in black will quickly disappear into a black void of darkened theater.
“What just happened?,” I exclaim aloud.
Girlfriend is shaking her head. “She has no idea what she is doing.”
The movie begins and the gigantic food fetcher has not returned.
No popcorn. No pinot Grigio. No oysters on the half shell.
I try and watch the movie. The beginning of any story is usually important. You know, plot and characters and what the hell’s going on?
But I can’t help looking around the theater, looking for a skyscraper tall teenager carrying a bucket of popcorn.
“Where the hell is she?,” I say aloud, when I should be watching the film.
I see a blonde girl to the left. Is that my food fetcher, I wonder, eyes straining in the darkness. I decide it’s another person.
I stare back at the massive screen.
John Hamm has said something. He is doing something.
“Whose he?,” I wonder aloud.
How did this eternal game of tag begin? Crap I have missed something vitally important to the plot.
I feel the cauldron of anger simmering inside. I should be enjoying the show and instead my head is a periscope, pivoting 360 degrees looking for a skinny blonde girl with failing mental acuity.
By the 1st plot point, my restlessness cannot be contained.
I lower my leg rest and raise my head rest and stand up. I walk to the exit hoping to find my food fetcher.
Suddenly a blonde girl darts down the row. It’s not my girl, but it is a theater employee. Good enough, I think.
“Hey,” I shout.
Apparently there is a fight scene filling the screen.
She doesn’t hear me as she moves past.
“HEY EXCUSE ME!” I shout so loud people in row D cast an evil glance at me.
The waitress, holding the tray stops and moves toward me.
It is not my food server, but another blonde teenager.
I notice she has something edible on her tray. Somewhere, somehow, other patrons are actually benefitting from this obscene dining experience.
“Hi. We ordered pop corn and wine like 25 minutes ago. I paid for it already. We never got it. Can you please get someone, anyone to bring it to seat B4.”
“Oh I’m so sorry sir,” the young waitress exclaims. It’s an awkward moment. I’m shouting at a teenage girl to be heard over a car chase of noise. It’s barely bright enough to see, and I’m standing in front of a theater full of people, some of whom are staring at me, wondering why I’m engaging the young woman who is suppose to be delivering jumbo prawns to row W.
“Yes sir. We’ll get that right to you.”
“Thanks,” I shout.
I walk back to my seat.
Girlfriend looks at me. Her face is illuminated by a day light scene of people driving down a suburban neighborhood.
I shrug and say “I don’t know,” to a question she never asks.
I watch the film with one eye while peering over my shoulder incessantly.
I am looking for anyone who might be carrying a Pinot Grigio or a wine or a bucket of pop corn.
Who came up with this concept? I’d rather order noodles from North Korea.
In the beginning God created Heaven and Earth. Somewhere in that 7 day plan he also created movie theaters and restaurants.
From the primordial ooze till this moment, he kept movie theaters and restaurants separate. You think God knows something we don’t?
God has a plan. Everything has its place.
Restaurants are before or after the film.
NOT DURING THE FILM!
Somewhere God is mad. He looks at AMC and shakes his mighty ethereal head with the same consternation he feels when man cloned a sheep and named it Dolly.
“CAN’T MY CHILDREN JUST LEAVE WELL ENOUGH ALONE,” The almighty thunders in disapproval.
Almost an hour passes when a young man delivers a bag of popcorn. It is cold and smeared in something that approximates butter. He says nothing and walks away. It is cold and impersonal.
I have given up on the culinary part of this experience. I take the bag and place it on the tray before us.
After a while, I begin to enjoy the film. I have stopped looking for gigantic wait staff and carafes of wine that will never come.
As the movie winds down, the blonde teen approaches. It’s the 1st time I have seen her in almost 2 hours. She has a check for each seat and she is laying down the bills. She is like the wind, blowing in the dark. She lays down the bill on each tray and without a word disappears into the periphery of nothingness.
Girlfriend looks at me, alarmed.
I scan the bill. $8.49
“Don’t tip her,” Girlfriend says.
The thought doesn’t even cross my mind.
I wait for the movie to end and by the light of the credits, I begin to sign my name. I stare at the check and wonder how much a popcorn even costs. Is this even my bill. Does anyone here have a clue?
Just as I am about to sign my name to this fraudulent document, I notice my hand is covered in a dark goo.
In the grainy, hazy light of the credits, I wonder if I am bleeding. Have I been shot? Did I cut my hand on the inner workings of this massage table?
The screen brightens and I see that the ink pen has exploded. My hand is stained with ink from the pen handed to me by the giant blonde.
Like some cruel joke, I am signing a check for food I did not get with a pen that is bleeding ink faster than Apollo 13 venting O2 into space.
“Damn it!,” I shout as people around me continue to leave.
I slam the papers down and stand up. I hold my hand away from body so as not to stain my pants.
I walk into the bathroom. I try and wash the black ink. I am grumbling like an old hobo in a subway tunnel.
I am mad. I should be smiling. The movie was good, a laugh a minute. But the dining experience was horrible, slightly better than chemo therapy.
I find girlfriend in the lobby. She is talking to a manager.
As I walk up I hear her say. “We don’t want to complain, but you need to know, she just needs to be trained. She had no idea what she was doing.”
“I’m so sorry,” the manager says, handing us 2 free passes to whatever movie we want to see next.
“I know we had a new group of servers. I’ll make sure this doesn’t happen again. So sorry for your experience.”
We smile and tell him we don’t want the young girl to get in trouble. We just thought he should know she needs more training.
We walk out of the theater and we both burst out laughing.
As we walk to our car, I can’t help but wonder what else Corporate America is trying to re-invent.
Somewhere God is shaking his head as a pen full of cloned sheep baa incessantly into the night.
Remember the old saying: If it ain’t broke. Don’t fix it.