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At second new Riverview movie theater, high-end dinner is the star


Dinner and a movie need no longer mean TV trays, cardboard cartons or balancing a meal on your lap thanks to a new Riverview theater.

Set to open at the end of next month, Riverview 14 GDX will be one of only a handful of cinemas in the nation to include a sit-down restaurant.

Prominently placed on one side of the cinema's lobby will be Features, a gastro pub and restaurant with room for about 120 diners that will serve high-end pub food from a menu developed by TV chef Brian Duffy. That will include gourmet hamburgers, wraps, speciality chicken wings and other dishes freshly prepared that day, said Martin Betz, chief operating officer of Goodrich Quality Theaters.

"This is new territory for us," said Betz. "We want to make sure we get it right."

Ideally, patrons will enjoy a meal or a drink before or after catching a movie, Betz said. But moviegoers who don't want to dine in the restaurant can get their food to go and bring it into the theater.

The cinema has shied away from the in-theater dining service offered in venues like CinéBistro.

"We don't want to see lights go on and servers walking back and forth," he said. "That takes away from the whole cinematic experience."

This approach makes sense for a company that is taking an almost fanatical approach to providing a high-quality viewing experience.

All 14 theaters will include state-of-the-art digital projection and sound systems.

But Betz, who has worked in the movie theater business for almost 40 years, is most proud of the two GDX theaters, which boast 70-by-40-foot screens and Dolby Atmos sound systems for a viewing experience that matches IMAX, he said.

Those two theaters, which will seat about 260, are fitted with over 60 speakers to create a true surround-sound experience that Goodrich has hired sound experts to configure.

The $20 million theater includes soundproofed walls, floors and ceilings. That means the sound-track can be played louder than in many other cinemas where it would could be heard in the adjoining theater, Betz said.

Every seat in the building will be a leather recliner with a movable snack tray so moviegoers don't have to use their laps.

The attention to detail is evident in the lobby, too, with real granite counter tops, and surfaces finished with acid-wiped copper and glass mosaics.

"We've gone above and beyond," Betz said.

That goes some way to explain why the opening of the cinema has been delayed several months, meaning it missed out on the lucrative Christmas period.

It also gave one of its competitors, Xscape Riverview 14, a head start in the Riverview market. That cinema opened in November.

Betz said some of the delay was the result of bad weather but also so the firm could get every detail right.

"If people have a bad experience, why would they come back?" he said. "If we sit and cry about missing one holiday season then we're in the wrong business."

The cineplex, located at 10550 East Bay Road, is working toward an opening day Feb. 28, according to Goodrich. In addition to first-run movies, Riverview 14 GDX will feature occasional special events like broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera and major sport competititons.

Betz remains bullish that his new theater will be competitive with Riverview's other new theater.

"People have seen what they have to offer, let them see what we have to offer and let them choose."

Contact Christopher O'Donnell at or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.