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Salad, steak and cocktails at the movies? LI's 'dine-in' theater offers eat-at-your-seat service

AMC Theatres employee Leo Gomez on his way

AMC Theatres employee Leo Gomez on his way to deliver a customer order on May 21 in Levittown. AMC Theatres has offered a Dine-In option for patrons at a few of their locations across the country. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Dinner and a movie — at the same time?

The concept has been around for decades but only recently made its way to Long Island. Two years ago, the AMC Theatres in Levittown rebranded itself as a “Dine-In” venue, where patrons can have food delivered to their seats. By the end of this year, AMC plans to open another Dine-In at the Huntington Square Mall in East Northport that's now under construction.

Whether in response to streaming services like Netflix or just the increasingly crowded entertainment landscape, eat-at-your-seat theaters are proliferating. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, the big player in this market, has grown from a single Texas theater in 1997 to a nationwide chain with more than 35 locations. The upscale IPIC theater chain, based in Florida, opened its first Manhattan venue in 2016. Brooklyn’s Nitehawk Cinema opened a second location last year. AMC, meanwhile, has more than kept pace, launching 45 Dine-In venues over the past 10 years.

As a film critic, and a supporter of anything that makes movie theaters more attractive, I decided to try out AMC’s Levittown location. I wanted to see how it stacked up against the competition. How was the food? How was the service? Would the experience give me that extra-fancy, special-night-out feeling?

I visited the theater a few weeks ago on a relatively quiet Tuesday. On the outside, there isn’t much to identify the theater as anything unusual. Inside, though, I found a small cocktail lounge — cheekily named MacGuffins — and a concession stand that sells not only popcorn and candy but entrees, salads, side dishes and desserts.

The menu was standard casual-dining fare. Burgers ranged from the Classic with American cheese ($13.99) to the Royal ($14.49), a rather schmancy affair with applewood-smoked bacon and fig jam. The entrees and salads cost about the same, generally, though you could pay as much as $17.49 for the stir-fried Asian Steak & Shrimp Bowl. Dessert options were limited to Chocolate Hazelnut Churros ($6.99 to $9.99), or various candy-blended milkshakes (a somewhat steep $9.49).

Levittown is not one of AMC’s “Full Service” locations, where a button at your seat can summon a server. It offers only “Delivery to Seat.” That means you wait on line at the concession stand, place your order and show the cashier the seat number on your ticket. A server will find you in the auditorium and hand over your meal (yes, even in the dark). The ordering process seemed to go smoothly, and my food arrived quickly, about halfway through the trailers. If I wanted anything more, however — like, say, dessert — I’d have to get off my duff and order it myself.

Another minor disappointment: The staff will not deliver cocktails. Patrons must order a drink at MacGuffins, then carry it into the auditorium. I found MacGuffins a fairly pleasant spot, with tall seats and tables, and a fairly extensive range of beer, wine and spirits. (Prices were reasonable: A frozen margarita, for example, cost $11.99). Don’t expect any dazzling mixology, though. My bartender needed me to tell her the ingredients in a gin and tonic. Still, she was friendly and chatty, as were all the staff members I encountered.

So, how was the food? Actually, pretty good. I ordered the sweet-and-savory Royal burger and found it quite tasty (and easily large enough to share). The fries were also good, with crispy husks and ‘tatery interiors. Granted, I would have preferred a real, ceramic plate over a cardboard tray. I also would have liked someone to whisk away my leftovers, which instead just lingered on my table. (It can be swiveled to one side, at least.) But why complain? I got to enjoy a decent meal in a reclining seat without missing a moment of “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum.”

The total cost of my Dine-In experience: $40.95, including $12.49 for admission (and a dollar tip for the bartender). That isn’t terribly expensive, but it’s not cheap, either. A family of four could be looking at a pretty high price-tag for an evening.

If I rated the Dine-In the way I rate movies, I’d give it 2½ stars out of four — a modest success. The food was vastly superior to a basket of multiplex nachos, that’s for sure. Cocktail connoisseurs will be appalled, but if you just want to enjoy a cold beer while watching a summer blockbuster, this is the place. The service isn’t what you'd call extravagant, but then again it doesn’t claim to be. Overall, the Dine-In adds a few bells and whistles to the otherwise routine experience of moviegoing. If that keeps audiences coming, I’m all for it.

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