More than a century later, we still flock, with popcorn and soda in hand, into the cool, dark cavern known as the movie theater -- our eyes riveted on the screen to forget about life for a while.
Once the focal point of nearly every town'?s main street -- and the place to go for a Saturday night date -- movie theaters followed the masses to the suburbs as shopping malls displaced small-town stores and became the staple of retail development in the 1960s.
And, just as malls continue to transform themselves to meet the needs of a different type of retail consumer, the theaters, too, have done their share of changing, adding digital projectors and offering multiple screens with more of an eye toward comfort with roomier stadium-style seats and amenities such as cup holders.
Although big-name entertainment companies, such as Cinemark and Carmike, no longer are building hundreds of new theaters at a time, they continue to invest in
Cinemark, based in
The business isn't so much a theater as it is an entertainment destination, with a bar and grill, luxury bowling lanes, a cigar lounge and 85 interactive video games.
But the piece de resistance is Latitude's Cinegrille, a combination restaurant/movie theater where as many as 85 guests can have a full-service meal while watching a movie.
"All of our guests truly love it because not only can you see a movie at a reasonable price, you can enjoy the luxury seating and tableside service and enjoy your family or use it as a private location for a corporate event because we can stream in movies or a motivational speech," Ms. Gnazzo said.
The Cinegrille shows second-run films -- those that have finished their initial theater release but haven'?t yet been made available on Netflix, pay-per-view or On Demand.
"We can be very selective about the movies we bring in," Ms. Gnazzo said.
"There was definitely a building boom in the suburbs when the multiplexes were growing quickly," Mr. Mendelssohn, the owner, said. "Ours is a very different format. It's much easier to compete because we're not trying to go head-to-head with those theaters. We feel there's room for us in this market."
What makes the theater different? It features classic movies and offers patrons a cold beer while they watch. And the concessions are first rate -- real butter for the popcorn, vegan pastries and bakery-fresh soft pretzels.
Adjacent to the theater is Atlas Bottle Works, where guests can choose from 300 craft and imported brews. Coming soon to the location is the restaurant Smoke Taqueria, which recently closed its Homestead location to move in with Row House Cinema and Atlas Bottle Works.
Mr. Mendelssohn expects to have a similar relationship with Smoke Taqueria owners, offering dinner and movie nights for couples with alcoholic beverages provided by Atlas.
"That'?s the crowd we hope to appeal to," said Mr. Mendelssohn, who worked for two years to design seats with cup holders that could stabilize dinner trays while not crowding people in the 83-seat, single-screen theater. He spent
"We've put in a lot of effort not to cram seats and make the experience ideal from the movie-watching perspective," Mr. Mendelssohn said.
Classic films such as "The Shining," "Pulp Fiction" and "The Big Lebowski," combined with beers has created the perfect movie-going atmosphere, he said.
"It's been fantastic," Mr. Mendelssohn said. "We've had a a lot of sellout shows."
"We've been very creative," Ms. Gnazzo said. "People use it to watch a Penguins game, and mommies have rented it so their kids can play Wii."
The location also features a stage with seating for 245 that can host small concerts and comedy acts, a sports theater that recently showed the World Cup around the clock, and a bar and grill that hosts live musical acts on weekends.
Ms. Gnazzo said she wasn'?t sure whether venues like
"We're very excited to have something like this -- people love it," Ms. Gnazzo said. "Plus it's air conditioned and affordable. Where else can you go and have an affordable family night out?"
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