Miss the previews, catch dinner at new Aurora cinema

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AURORA | Convenience, cleanliness and a simple cool factor drew Jake Landers to the newly revamped AMC movie theater at the Southlands shopping center.

With 16 screens, 1,244 seats and 55,000 square feet of space, the theater has plenty to offer as far as the traditional movie-going experience. But in the age of Netflix and online movies, it takes more than bigger auditoriums to draw consumers like Landers, a 20-year-old Aurora resident who knows his way around an instant streaming service.

The new AMC complex at Southlands includes a full-service restaurant and bar. The auditoriums feature plush recliners, comfy leather seats complete with a table tray for in-theater meals and buttons to page a server. That combination of food, drink and the latest Hollywood blockbusters was what made Landers leave his computer.

“I usually get most of my movies online or on Netflix. I’d stopped going to theaters,” Landers said, adding that the new theater has become a frequent spot for dates with his girlfriend. “Once they put in the restaurant, it was like, ‘Want to go get some food? Let’s see a movie while we’re
at it.’”

At AMC Southlands, the $9 ticket price is just the beginning. The concept of one-stop shopping for food, drinks and entertainment has become a standard part of AMC’s business model nationwide. The Southlands theater is the first of the chain’s Colorado theaters to feature a restaurant, and the move hints at the company’s future business strategy for the state. The theater chain based in Leawood, Kan., has already renovated Colorado locations like the Flatiron Crossing shopping center in Broomfield with plush seats and a full-service bar. But the expanded Southlands theater that opened in February features more options in terms of food and drinks, and the emphasis here is on speed.

The Aurora location is the first to feature the chain’s new Red Kitchen restaurant brand. The open-kitchen diner’s menu features pizzas, wraps, platters and kids’ meal, all available to order via a tablet computer. That online system allows servers to deliver meals directly to customers’ seats, without the distraction and disturbance of taking orders.

It’s a bid to compete with other dine-in theater chains like
Movie Tavern.

“Red Kitchen is a service platform that’s based on speed and convenience,” said AMC spokesman Ryan Noonan. “You can watch your food get made in an open kitchen. It’s the way restaurants are going these days.”

It’s a model that’s different from the other dine-in options in the metro area. Movie Tavern, an Aurora business that also offers food and flicks, features a more traditional restaurant. The Red Kitchen model is also a shift from AMC’s traditional restaurant models at its other 12 dine-in theaters across the country.

“We’re watching Red Kitchen at Southlands and expanding it to other theaters in the near circuit,” Noonan said.

The new dining model comes along with the full-service bar MacGuffin’s, which features a full beer, wine and cocktail menu. Noonan said that the bar has become a standard feature of every AMC renovation, adding that 20 percent of the chain’s more than 60 locations now feature a bar or a restaurant.

“It’s just become part of our circuit now,” Noonan said. “For us, that’s the way the business
is going.”