AMC Entertainment is giving New Jersey residents the opportunity to combine the date idea of dinner and a movie into a one-stop shop.
The movie theater giant is converting the Essex Green Shopping Center venue, 495 Prospect Ave., West Orange, into New Jersey's first and the nation's fourth entertainment eatery where movie goers can attend a film while eating dinner.
Susan Borg, the township's planning director, said the $5 million project will revamp the theater by November.
"They're reducing the seat capacity by 65 percent and replace the remaining 35 percent into luxurious seating with tables and waiter service," she said.
AMC did not return calls seeking comment, stating in an e-mail they will discuss the project when construction begins. The current West Orange theater will close for about four months, beginning in August, Borg said. She did not know a specific date or when construction will start.
In an AMC Entertainment planning booklet obtained by Patch, the concept of the theater is to "improve guest impression of the movie-going experience; maximize productivity at the theatre; and stem future attendance and revenue losses."
Borg said AMC is not reaching its revenue goal in that location.
"If they don't come up with something different, they would probably leave," she said.
AMC's interdisciplinary team visited the site in September to evaluate the theater in a more profitable way, according to the planning papers.
The other three eat-in theaters are in Atlanta and Kansas City. Atlanta's theater allegedly grew in attendance by 55 percent and one of two Kansas City theaters increased attendance by 8.8 percent, according to the AMC booklet.
The redevelopment will include three separate entertainment options, according to the AMC documents. The first is MacGuffins, a retrofitted concession stand that offers a full-service bar and lounge. The Fork & Screen is the main attraction and features "seat-side wait service at the touch of a button, while viewing new-release films," according to documents. Cinema Suites is similar to Fork & Screen, but these will have large electric recliner, articulating tables and side tables. Other renovations include converting the lobby with soft seating and new restrooms. AMC's planning booklet states there will be nine screens with new seats and tables to accommodate dining.
Additional redevelopment in the form of digital deployment will include 3D technology, digital technology, alternative content capabilities and conversion to, what AMC calls, "in-theatre dining." This digital deployment is estimated to cost $500,000.
The theater's seat reduction is significant, going from accommodating 100 guests in a theater to 35 to 50 guests, depending on theater size. "This allows for greater circulation of servers and guests," according to the documents.
The lighting also will be affected and be 10 to 15 percent brighter than a traditional auditorium, according to the booklet. This is to allow servers and guests to safely deliver and eat food.
An admission policy for the in-theatre dining is 18 and older unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. The Cinema Suites only are for guests 21 or older.
The food served is slated to be similar to that of Applebee's, Chili's and Outback Steakhouse, according to documents.
Borg said AMC will change the types of pictures they show at the theater.
"They plan to have a lot of family oriented pictures, such as 'Toy Story,' for parents to come with children," she said. "They also will have more independent film as seen in Montclair, as well as general pictures that are popular blockbusters."
AMC's documents do not state why West Orange was chosen for this theater project, but Borg said it's likely because of the area's demographics.
"Our demographics are very good, especially in a three-mile radius," she said, citing income levels.
A typical showing, according to AMC's documents, will be as follows: Within five minutes of seating, greet guest and place drink order; within 10 minutes of seating, drink orders are received and food orders are placed; within 15 minutes of food order, prepared food arrives; periodically during the film, consumed food is pre-busssed; within 30 minutes of end of movie, checks are delivered and payment collected; within 15 minutes of end of movie, receipts are delivered to guests.
Borg said this venture by AMC is likely to rival other theater industries. There is no other movie theater in West Orange, with the closest being Montclair or South Orange.
"This is a way of them making their mark in the movie industry and I don't know of any other movie companies that are doing it," she said. "It's a survival with a lot of competition."