My wife and I took nearly a dozen 11-year olds to the movies this weekend to celebrate our son’s birthday. We had heard a lot about AMC Movie Theaters’ progressive, new offering "Fork and Screen" which includes actually eating a ‘gourmet’ dinner while watching the movie. Naturally, everyone was wondering how the set-up, food choices and overall experience would change from what had always been the norm. Here’s my own Siskel and Ebert review on the New AMC experience.
For starters, there’s no doubt that this is a true transformative change to the consumer movie experience.
For those who’ve yet to experience those first theaters that have been altered, AMC recreated its lobby to look more like a swanky bar. And, its theater has been completely redone to feel more like a dark lounge where one might come to listen to Robert Goulet or Burt Bacharach perform their singing acts versus watching an action flick (like the Green Hornet). There is definitely a more positive upbeat vibe about the theater, as well. The seats are much more comfortable leather recliners. Every row has long, black tables in front of them and because they’ve removed probably about forty percent of the seats, there’s enough leg room to make you believe you’re not in a move theater anymore.
Then there’s the menu. That’s the biggest change. Lobster ravioli and steak tips. Fancy drinks and high end beers. And, cheesecakes and mousses for desserts. Of course, they offer run of the mill appetizers (potato skins, wings) and the typical popcorn, candy and soda for everyone who comes to the movies expecting some of the same.
I thought it was all pretty cool. We never tried any of this new fare, but some of the guests near us commented that it beats the Olive Garden. Of course, that comment could be taken many different ways (for the record, we represent T.G.I Friday’s, a competitor in the marketplace). Even the overall price of everything combined was appealing. The movie itself now cost $20-$23 per ticket. That seems awfully expensive. But, it isn’t once you realize that the theater also provides a $10 credit on each ticket for food. Since 11 kids really only ate popcorn, some candy and sodas, I probably saved a little money in the end. My guess is that AMC’s real target here are adults who will eat more substantively and drink numerous alcoholic beverages. That’s probably the money maker for them.
The most bizarre part (because my senses just didn’t expect it) was the waiters delivering pints of beer, margaritas and full entrees throughout the movie to various tables. It didn’t interfere with my movie experience, although I found myself on half a dozen occasions staring at trays, wondering what beverages or foods people were ordering.
The only negative experience we had (and it did take away from the movie) was the service. In the past, it was pretty simple. I bought popcorn and soda in the lobby and then went directly to my seat and started eating during previews and throughout movie. Now, they take your orders when you’re in the seats before the movie starts. First we received our drinks, but that wasn’t until after the previews had ended. Then, everyone was handed popcorn about 10 minutes into the movie. Finally, the kids received their candy approximately 15 minutes after that. Kind of a buzz kill from a desired eating standpoint. And, instead of watching the movie, you’re left staring at the doors wondering when the rest of your food will arrive.
At Peppercom, we’ve started focusing more and more on how our clients’ customers experience their brand and how that may differ from the messages and overall positioning that the client is currently communicating. It’s really fascinating to see how and where break downs typically occur. My guess is that AMC is still in the early stages of tinkering with this new business model. It’s clearly a game changer for the industry. By understanding the good and bad of these first customer experiences, AMC can clearly create a more consistent, appealing and successful consumer offering moving forward. Let’s see if they utilize these comments to improve.
My review so far, two thumbs up.