My reviews of movie theaters started with a trip to Charlotte to visit Studio Movie Grill. I’d like to backtrack a bit and talk about my favorite local movie theater (and we have several good theaters in Asheville) – Carolina Cinemas.
One of the things I love about Carolina Cinemas are all the special events they put on. They have the usual assortment of Fathom events and really expensive opera performances that many big theaters have but they also have a lot of inexpensive and intimate showings as well.
Every Tuesday evening at 8 p.m. upstairs in the cinema lounge, the Asheville Film Society puts on a classic movie for FREE (Membership is not required to attend). Once a month (on a Wednesday), they put on a Budget Big Screen movie. This month is The Shining (April 24th) and next month is Moulin Rouge. The Budget Big Screen movies are $5 for members and $7 for non-members.
Every Thursday evening at 8, there is a Thursday Horror Picture Show upstairs in the cinema lounge. Often on Fridays they will run a marathon of films (again in the cinema lounge) relating to one of the week’s big releases. Currently on Wednesday evenings, they have live music in the lounge.
As if that weren’t enough, they often have giveaways, trivia contests, special coupons via messaging, art shows, and special events. They often have FREE 11×17 movie posters at the counter. On Wednesdays, all regular (non-special event) movies are $5 – $3 if you have student I.D.!
In addition to the standard movie fare of soda, popcorn, candy, hot dogs, and nachos, Carolina Cinemas has a fairly decent kitchen. Their flatbread pizzas (cheese, pepperoni, tomato basil) feed two (three if you have popcorn) and are quite tasty. They also have an assortment of paninis, salads, and snacks (my wife’s favorite is the blue cheese chips). The cookie balls make for an excellent dessert. Soda refills (all sizes) are FREE and, if you have an Asheville Film Society card, refills on popcorn are FREE (all sizes) as well. The popcorn benefit makes the $10 membership worthwhile all by itself.
I’m not much of a drinker so I usually stick to tea or soda. Carolina Cinemas offers fourteen kinds of bottled beer as well as a slew of local beers on tap for $5 a pint. They also carry a decent selection of wines at $6 a glass or $18 a bottle. Sadly they don’t have a full bar (no hard liquor or mixed drinks) but perhaps that is just as well for me. Occasionally they will have a special wine drink like the Dead Man Down cocktail (above) or homemade Sangria.
They have a FREE rewards program (very similar to Regal’s). For every dollar you spend you get a point and you get an award at every 40 points. This rotates through a FREE small popcorn, a FREE small drink, and a FREE movie ticket and then back again. Rewards can be held in their computer indefinitely – no need to hold onto printed tickets.
In the interest of fairness, I feel I must come up with some negatives. Their food, while generally good, has some misfires (not much meat on their sandwiches) and is not as good as Cinebarre’s or Asheville Pizza Company. The sofa cinemas can get uncomfortable with prolonged seating (did no one sit in these before purchasing?) so a small pillow is helpful and the sofa cinemas can fill up before selling out causing irritation. Screen size is nice as is clarity, though not grand and razor sharp as at the Biltmore. Sound is nice but sometimes bleeds through from adjacent theaters during quiet scenes.
In spite of these minor irritations, Carolina Cinemas is the best movie theater and value in the Asheville area. Not only that but for the first three years, they were home to the awesomeness that was ActionFest. Sadly there is no ActionFest this year but they are talking about next year.