Six places to see a movie and eat dinner at the same time

Published December 11 2017
Updated December 13 2017

Back in my day ...

Go on. Say the words. Apply it to the cost of movies. Once a casual weekend outing, seeing a flick can be an enormously expensive experience in streaming-happy 2017. Tickets can climb upwards of $15 these days, depending on the theater and type of experience (3D, IMAX, rumbling seats, et al).

Going to the movies is also comforting, fun and familiar. The popcorn is salty, fingers slick with orange oil. The Coke is fizzy. The screen is large enough to make us feel small. We need that sometimes, donít we?

This week, movie critic Steve Persall offers his annual holiday movie preview, with suggestions for more than a dozen flicks to catch this season, from The Greatest Showman to I, Tonya to The Post. He also reviewed a little movie called Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Still, (wo)man cannot live on popcorn alone, and if Iím going to go to the movies these days, I lean into it. If I canít find a theater with a restaurant or bar underneath, above or beside (think the AMC at Westshore Plaza in Tampa or the Cobb at Westfield Countryside in Clearwater), Iíll find one where the food comes to your seat.

Cobb Tyrone Luxury 10 in St. Petersburg has Cobbsterís Kitchen and Bar in the lobby, with nachos, tacos, fig and brie flatbread, Cuban sandwiches, bread pudding and more, plus a full bar. Drink and eat in the restaurant, or take your food and libation into the movie. You may be kind enough to pop out for refills, but donít bother getting drinks for the whole crew. Bartenders will only sell alcoholic drinks to one person at a time to stave off funny business.

Itís even fancier at CineBistro, with locations in Hyde Park Village or Wesley Chapel, where lobster rolls, baked goat cheese, grouper sliders and New York strip steaks are among the offerings. Hyde Park has Wine Down Wednesdays, with discounted bottles, and weekends at the Wesley Chapel location feature brunch, mimosas and craft cocktails. You have to be 21 and up for CineBistro, unless itís a special family engagement. Get to the show 30 minutes early for seat service.

Studio Movie Grill has a location near the University of South Florida in Tampa and a new spot in Seminole. Thereís a two for $25 combo menu, with an app and two entrees (think burgers, pasta, chicken). Plus: drink specials and themed drinks, like the Empire Crush for those Jedis.

But even with deals, these places can get pricey fast. Hereís a hot secret: I like the Sunset Point Cinema Bar and Grille in Clearwater every so often for major movie savings. Is it upscale? No. Does it have the same movie selection? No. Can you get a basket of garlicky cheese bread for $3.99? Yes.

One more economical approach to mention: remember DVDs? Those shiny, round discs still exist. See also, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon. Order a pizza and catch up on last yearís holiday movie guide: Jackie, La La Land, Sing, Fences. There are always too many movies to see, but weíll keep trying.