Originally published 2011; last updated May 2018.
We understand the concerns: For some, booze and films don’t mix. No one wants to sit in front of a loud drunk who thinks he’s auditioning for Mystery Science Theater 3000. And then there’s the risk of finishing your second beer and promptly falling asleep during a $14-a-ticket screening. But we’re all adults here, and sometimes, a glass of wine is the perfect warmup to a Woody Allen flick. In order to compete with the coziness of your home theater—where the drinks are free and you can eat pad thai without getting dirty looks—several area cinemas are offering a high-end movie-going experience, including full meals, seat-side service, and craft cocktails. Even the popcorn is classy.
AMC Pacific Place 11
Location: Downtown Seattle
The deal: On the second level of the cineplex, a bartender pours wine and local beers in a roped off area for the 21-and-over crowd. It’s just opposite the concession stand, so you can almost make a meal out of it, if you don’t mind a dinner of hot dogs and Dreyer’s Dibs.
The deal: Tucked away beneath El Gaucho, Big Picture maintains a bit of the decadence of the swank upstairs, with plush armchairs, sofas, and dim lighting giving it a lounge feel—like someone pimped out your grandma's living room. The theater itself is tiny, but bartenders bring drinks to your seat; we highly recommend the sangria and white cheddar truffle butter popcorn, served in champagne buckets no less.
Location: Central District
The deal: One of the the first in the area to add drinking and dining to movie-going, Central Cinema does "dinner theater" properly with tables at your seat and waitstaff taking your order. They also encourage a little rowdiness with frequent sing-along screenings. Cafe Noir lounge is open 5:30–10pm during the week and 1–10pm on weekends.
Location: Mountlake Terrace, Issaquah
The deal: Regal Entertainment launched a line of theaters to compete with iPic Theaters (see below), where servers come to your seat and take your order. The menu’s expansive and full of puns: Mac and Jack’s and Manny’s, 17 wines by the glass, pretzels at Tiffany's, the top bun burger, and milkshakes. Let me repeat: milkshakes.
Location: Denny Regrade
The deal: A Seattle icon since 1963, Cinerama underwent its last round of renovations in 2014, now boasting roomier seats. Even more notable? The smell of chocolate popcorn spills out onto the sidewalk on Fourth Avenue, perfect for those long waits at the box office. Local beers and ciders round out the concessions menu, which also boasts Seattle-made treats like Theo Chocolate candies and Brave Horse Tavern pretzels.
The deal: Let’s start with the fright factor: Tickets cost anywhere from $16–$27. For a movie. But that allows you to choose your seat online, recline in comfy oversized leather chairs, and sample from a menu of chef-prepared meals, plus beer, wine, and cocktails. Premium seats include a pillow and a blanket.
Northwest Film Forum
Location: Capitol Hill
The deal: We rejoiced when the Cap Hill staple got its liquor license back in 2011; now they serve beer and wine with the best of them. A heady brew complements the heady selection of foreign, arthouse, and indie films.
The deal: Nestled up against the Tin Room Bar, the Tin Theater is probably the most affordable boozy spot of the bunch, with tickets ringing in at just $8. The theater embodies the small local vibe, playing second-run movies for a week at a time, but the popcorn portions are anything but tiny. Waiters take drink orders in the theater, delivering them throughout the film so you’re not forced to leave your seat for a second beer. And with a bar right next door, date nights are made easy with pre-movie happy hour specials or dinner entrees like beet salad and carne asada.
Location: Capitol Hill, Lower Queen Anne
The deal: Opting for an artsy flick at any one of SIFF’s theaters means an ample list of local brews and wines: Seattle Cider, Two Beers Brewing, and Chateau Ste. Michelle, to name just a few. Not to mention SIFF’s concessions beat out the usual fare, with Full Tilt ice cream and Molly’s sandwiches on the menu. Organic grub, independent films, and historic buildings—catching a film has never been more hip.
Any that we missed? Let us know in the comments below.