Okay time for my first foray into movie theater tourism. My oh-so-patient wife and I drove to Charlotte, NC to try the Studio Movie Grill. SMG is an upscale theater chain with a dozen locations across five states.
First off I have to comment that SMG is downtown (they call it uptown) so right there you have some nerve-wracking driving. We pulled into the parking garage where you have to take a ticket to get the gate to lift. No ticket…hrrm…press button for ticket again…no ticket…press button for assistance…no response…press all available buttons again, this time emphatically…no response. With no way in, my wife had to back out of the parking garage into traffic.
We circled halfway around the block and found an entrance with a guard station. We tried to stop at the guard station to tell them about the other entrance but they waved us through and refused to open their window to hear us. This led me to believe that they were already aware of the issue and didn’t want to hear any more about it.
Strangely we were still in a good mood. Stepping off the elevator, we were greeted by theater employees passing out coupons valid for a $5 movie ticket (half price). After that pleasant surprise, we purchased our tickets to Olympus Has Fallen (don’t judge me! and yes, it was terrible). When purchasing at SMG you get to pick your seat (a la European theater) which is pretty neat. Even though we were very early, many seats were reserved. Apparently you can do that when you purchase your tickets online.
Riding up a rather nice escalator took us to the theater and bar floor. Windows allow you to see food being prepped. We turned in our tickets but were told that they weren’t seating until fifteen minutes prior to movie start. This is fine in an ordinary theater but in a theater where they give you an eight page menu as you enter, this leads to missing the beginning of the movie both from your ordering and the noise of others ordering around you.
Forced to wait in the bar area, there was a plethora of backbreaking furniture to choose from. Chaise lounges designed for discomfort, wooden chairs with rickety back, metal chairs molded to fit buttocks with a front spike. There was a profusion of maroon curtains, blue lighting, metal fixtures, greys, and browns. Without a doubt, this was the ugliest bar I have ever been in. Behind the actual bar was very pretty but somehow it just made the rest look even uglier. As SMG has only been open a month, my guess is that this was all leftover from the previous bar.
Entering the theater we looked for our seats. We found seat numbers E8 and E9 with the service light E7. None of the service light numbers we saw matched the seat numbers. Pressing them did respond in prompt, courteous service. In fact, all of the theater staff were exceedingly courteous. The bathrooms have a button to press to have them serviced. Jenny used that when it took her three tries to find a usable stall.
Sodas are a bargain at $3.50 and refills are FREE. We had soda, chicken tenders (I had coconut and Jenny had buffalo), fries, popcorn with real butter, and we split a Nutter Butter Frozen Cocktail which was absolutely delicious. The food was served fresh out of the fryer and was quite good. Jenny didn’t offer me any of hers as it was VERY buffalo. This made our trip ridiculously expensive and SMG overcharged us – three sodas instead of two. In the dark, I didn’t notice.
The screen was very large and image quality was extra sharp. The sound system was also excellent and shook the seats during deep bass scenes (part of my reasoning for choosing Olympus). Stadium seating was appropriately staggered.
The space between each level of seats was VERY narrow to get through. This would have been quite annoying if the theater were crowded. The food trays attached to the seat worked very well. So did the ubiquitous cupholder. Unfortunately, unless you are skinny, you have to choose which ONE you want to use – engineering FAIL. The seat trays are also paired (left hand seat – left hand tray, right hand seat – right hand tray) to aid couples.
All in all, SMG is a very nice theater albeit with some tragic flaws. Upon exiting, we were given another $5 ticket coupon to bring us back. The shopping center consists primarily of restaurants (including Five Guys and Moe’s). If you go, make sure to get your ticket validated at the theater – parking is FREE if you do, rather expensive if you don’t.