Whether it’s a hot date, a night out with friends, or a family outing, few will object to dinner and a movie. It’s a combination that appeals to all the senses—the sights and sounds of the film, the smells and taste of the food. And touch? Well, I’ll leave that one up to you.
Studio Movie Grill (SMG), which recently opened in Charlotte’s Epicentre (in the spot formerly occupied by Mez), takes all that we love about this classic combo and mashes them into one in-theater dining concept. The idea is not new to Charlotte, but SMG’s approach is more casual and family-friendly than its predecessor.
SMG movie tickets can be purchased online or at the front desk, and seating is selected at the time of purchase (so there’s no need to rush to the theater to score a good spot). Speaking of the theater seats, these ones are plush and recline slightly, and each seat has a personal-sized swiveling table top, complete with a cup holder and a red “power button” that signals the SMG team you’re ready for service.
While you can still order a giant tub of popcorn, the food at SMG is several steps above your typical movie theater grub. There are pizzas, burgers, salads, and tacos, plus several desserts and cocktails. Though the food is not gourmet, there’s something luxurious about having waiters at your beck and call at the simple press of a button.
Waiters dress in head-to-toe black and simultaneously crouch and walk so as not to obstruct the view of the screen. (The word is out on whether this “technique” is part of their employee training.) Unlike traditional theaters with long continuous rows of seating, seats at SMG are sectioned off into two, three, or four chair groups, so the servers can easily take orders (which they punch into smart phones) and deliver food throughout the movie without bothering other patrons.
Much of the food at SMG is finger food, which I appreciated given patrons eat in the dark. If you’re in the mood to share, the Feature Four sampler platter is the way to go–you get two chicken quesadilla wedges, four hunks of Tuscan bread, a few buffalo wings, and chips and salsa. The Spicy Buffalo Drummettes were surprisingly good, with crisp skin, juicy meat, and medium heat. It was nice eating the wings in the dark–for once, I didn’t have to worry about having sauce all over my face. The Tuscan Bread was my personal favorite—the garlic butter made the hand-pulled bread a bit greasy, but the gooey cheese and marinara dipping sauce made it impossible to resist. The chicken quesadillas were standard fare, and I loved the fire-roasted flavor of the homemade salsa. The sausage pizza was not impressive. It had a peculiar sweet sauce that conflicted with the flavor of the sausage, and the whole pie was dripping with grease. Next time I’ll opt for the BBQ chicken pizza or the thin crust Sun Dried Tomato & Arugula Pizza, both of which I’ve heard positive things about. I tried the Megaplex Burger, and while the meat itself had a nice chargrilled taste, the overall flavor of the burger was boring. I’d recommend the Steak Sandwich instead – it has shaved beef, mozzarella, sautéed onions, peppers, and mushrooms on top of sourdough bread. The sandwiches come with fries (very good!), sweet potato fries, or tortilla chips, or you can sub in salad or fruit for an additional charge.
Of all the food I’ve tried at SMG, my favorites are the desserts. The Rocky Road Cookies and Ice Cream is a show stopper (no pun intended). It comes with three warm cookies and a dollop of Ben & Jerry’s Nougat ice cream. In a close second are the Macadamia Cookies and Ice Cream, served warm with a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. Warm cookies topped with cold ice cream is a hard combination to beat!
SMG has a good-sized drink menu, with many specialty cocktails, margaritas, beer, and wine. The Studio Grande Blue Margarita with Patron Citronge, Margaritaville Tequila, and Blue Curacao is enormous AND delicious, with a great balance between sweet and sour. There are five after-dinner dessert cocktails, including a Guinness Float, Mocha Latte, and Nutter Butter Frozen Cocktail, none of which I’ve tried, though all sound quite appealing. The wine list leaves much to be desired in terms of variety; there are ten white wines, six of which are Chardonnays, and eleven reds, eight of which are Cabernets. A nice option: patrons can drink at their seats or grab something at the lobby bar before or after the flick.
SMG primarily shows first-run movies, but they also have some alternative programming, what they call SMG with a Twist. This will vary from week to week, and includes documentaries, one-night only concert films, film series, sports, comedies, charitable events, and $1 movie classics.
Standard adult tickets are $10 (or $13 for 3D films) plus a $1.50 per ticket booking fee, or $7.50 ($10.50 for 3D) plus the booking fee for matinee showings.
Looking for a less expensive night out? There are several opportunities to save some cash:
Half price house margaritas, frozen or on the rocks.
LADIES DAY TUESDAYS
$5 movie tickets all day
ENDLESS PIZZA WEDNESDAYS
All-you-can-eat pizza for $9.95 per person.
DRAFT BEER THURSDAYS
Half price domestic draft beers.
BREWS N VIEWS
Hand-picked movies for dudes – $1 tickets first Thursday of the month
GIRLS NIGHT OUT
$1 chick flicks, the second Wednesday of each month
CHILDREN’S SUMMER SERIES
Mon-Fri at 11am, $1 child and $2 adult tickets (check dates)
For tickets and show times, check out the Studio Movie Grill Website.
Other than the delicious meal, I was not paid for this review. This blog post and comments within are based on my own, honest opinions.