When Arlington Theaters closed last June, it left the Arlington Town Square shopping district without an anchor and locals without a nearby theater. Now movies have returned to Arlington Heights in style, with the July 5 opening of Star Cinema Grill, the first Illinois location of the Houston-based company that offers dinner and first-run films under one roof.
Motif: You buy your tickets from an outside box office before entering the lobby area, which features plush red chairs, small black tables and a bar with high-backed stools. Arlington Theaters' interior was entirely gutted and rebuilt, decorated with bright-colored oil paintings of famous movie characters including James Bond and Yoda.
Star Cinema Grill53 S. Evergreen Ave., Arlington Heights, (847) 259-7827, chicago.starcinemagrill.net
Hours: Varies depending on showtimes; check website for details
The theaters feature huge aisles that provide plenty of legroom and allow servers to move around easily. The walls are lined with carpeting, which along with the state-of-the-art sound system and speakers, provides a noticeably crisp audio quality, even compared to other high-end theaters. A desk-like table is set in front of every pair of two plush, white leather chairs. Menus and notepads with pencils are tucked into the table so you can just write down your order, keeping you from disturbing other viewers if you want to get another drink or dish once the movie's already started.
Along with first-run movies, (ticket prices are comparable to other movie chains) the six theaters also air big sporting events for free and can be rented for corporate events and private parties, like a recent anniversary bash where a couple hosted a screening of the movie they saw on their first date for their friends and family.
Crowd: Couples and small groups often hang out at the bar to get drinks and appetizers before their film and mingle there afterward to discuss what they just saw. Family movies bring out big crowds who enjoy being able to get a real meal rather than just junk food during their movie night.
Food: The made-to-order menu offers solid Southwest-tinged fare you might otherwise find at a bar, such as crunchy sweet potato fries, macaroni and cheese topped with crispy bread crumbs, and a heaping Southwest salad with lettuce topped with pico de gallo, cheese and tortilla strips. Pizzas and Angus beef burgers are the most popular dishes with families. Of course, if you do want standard theater candy like Sour Patch Kids or Skittles, you can get those, too, nicely presented in a martini glass. Appetizers run from $4 to $10, while entrees are mostly $9 to $11. There's also a kids' menu offering meals from $6 to $6.50.
Liquid consumption: The drink menu offers some local craft brews like Goose Island Green Line along with cocktails named for movies such as the Tropic Thunder, a sweet blend of coconut rum, banana rum, vanilla vodka, orange juice, pineapple juice and grenadine. Unfortunately the beer pours were a bit small and the cocktails a bit week for the price.
Service: Movie watchers press a button on their table to call a server, with a computer program showing exactly how long each customer has been waiting to ensure people are served promptly. Our server was very friendly and able to guide us through her favorites on both the food and drink menu. Even when she couldn't give us personal recommendations because she's under 21, she was able to tell us about drinks based on feedback from co-workers and other customers.
Parking: There are plenty of free spots in the garage below the shopping center.
Overall: Comfortable seats and a great sound system make Star Cinema Grill a perfect place to enjoy the latest movie.