The Cinebistro at Liberty Center: Better than a Broadway play, and more comfortable

I have to say something very positive about Cinebistro at Liberty Center, which is a luxury movie theater near my home.  I was at the soft opening for the James Bond film described below in the Channel 12 clip talking about the food selections available, and I have written about my experience with a positive review.  I have been to movie theaters all over the country over many years and I certainly know good from bad.  I also have been in several home theaters and know the benefits to them as well.  So it should carry some weight to know how much I think of the Cinebistro experience at Liberty Center which is the best way I think there is to see a movie.  I have been to that theater several times now and can report that after several months of operating, the theater is actually better now than when it first opened.  It is a grand palace of mythmaking endeavor and it is worthy of the best praise.

My wife and I went to see The Revenant there.  I had just jumped off the air at WAAM radio as I was guest hosting for my friend Matt Clark while he was on vacation.  We hadn’t had anything to eat yet and we had reservations to see the long-awaited movie at 3 PM.  I fully expected that in the middle of the afternoon between lunch and dinner that the Cinebistro wouldn’t be crowded, but was surprised that the theater was nearly sold out when I made my reservations online at 10 AM, before going on the air at 1600 WAAM.  The moment I signed off at the station we literally got into the car and went to Liberty Center because at Cinebistro if you have a movie start time of 3 PM you need to arrive at 2:30 to get seated and have your food order in.

Entry into the theater is just epic; I never get tired of it.  I was in the mood to be pampered; I had worked very hard all week.  I had done a lot of reading and writing that morning before doing an hour of live radio on a Saturday, so I was tired and ready to see a movie I hoped would be great—which it was.  That is what they do best at Cinebistro as opposed to a home theater or anywhere else, they understand people like me—hard working people who come to the movies for an intellectual experience as opposed to just entertainment.  Nothing for me is ever just fun.  Some people argue that’s not a good way to live, I’d argue the opposite.  Everything I do in my life I do well and I put a lot of effort into it.  I never just waste time.  No time in a 24 hour period is spent wasting time.  If I can’t squeeze multiple meanings out of every instance it’s just not worth doing.  So when I go to the movie theater, Cinebistro gets what I expect out of my investment.

Cinebistro does not skimp on their employees, they do not understaff.  There were a small army of people running the theater.  If you counted all the kitchen staff, which makes everything by scratch, and include the runners, servers and ushers, there are at least five times the amount of people who are typically employed by a theater system like Showcase, Rave, or Regal.  As I looked at all the employees through the lobby, at the bars, concessions, etc, it was quite an impressive operation and not every movie is promised to pack the theater house like The Revenant.  Most movies are typically 30% full, so it baffles me how Cinebistro does it.

The proximity to parking in the back lot and entering the Liberty Center complex through the access tunnel by The Funny Bone Comedy Club essentially meant that we parked, our car on a packed Saturday afternoon and were at the ticket counter within about five minutes where I picked up my reserved tickets and we were upstairs and in our seats at precisely 2:31 PM. My wife and I ordered a couple of hamburgers and some popcorn which lasted the entire two and a half hour movie, along with drink refills just like in a good restaurant.  There were a lot of “yes sirs” from the staff and everyone was very respectful—which is something I expect from other people.  I was able to step into the movie world on a pedestal and view the mythic essence of a good movie without distractions.  For the first time I was able to see what a full house at the Cinebistro looked like.  Even on the soft opening for Spectre it was my group and a few other key groups present, so I didn’t get to see how Cinebistro handled a crowd.  The answer was a very pleasant one.  Every seat was full yet I didn’t notice that anybody was around me. The seats are so big that the people nearest to me were a good distance, more than enough for me to stretch out and relax.

It’s not that I’m claustrophobic or can’t handle crowds; it’s just that I don’t enjoy myself in a crowd.  I don’t like the idea of breathing air that people around me immediately exhumed.  The carbon dioxide that comes out of the bodies of other people need time to mix with fresh oxygen molecules and nitrogen along with other elements to produce good quality air to breathe and that just can’t happen if during an entire two-hour movie someone is right next to you.  So space is important to me.  I typically go to movies when other people don’t for that reason.  At Cinebistro I don’t have to worry about them.  Their air circulation system in the ceiling is very good giving the air quality a feeling of constant replenishing.  With the food, service, spacing and air quality all in tip-top shape, I was able to enjoy my movie without any distractions, which I greatly appreciated-especially with something as mind-boggling epic as The Revenant.

Typically at the end of any film I watch if it was any good, I always stay until the end of the credits.  I read who did what, and where the filming locations were—and any other information that strikes my interest—like how many stuntmen did the film take, who were the visual effect companies, essentially how many jobs were created by the production of the film—because those types of things are also important to me.  I also just like to listen to the music and let the movie slowly roll through my mind.  So it really irritates me when other people sitting next to me want to get up as soon as the picture is done and head for their cars.  You always have to stand up a bit and let them pass in front of you and once they do you can just imagine that they are passing gas and that they likely have full bladders from sitting for so long and that they need to use the restroom.  I don’t enjoy knowing that those kinds of things are so close in proximity to my face, so until the theater empties, it stresses me out and is hard to enjoy the credits.  It’s even worse in regular theaters because teenagers are often present and they almost always stink—they smell like adolescents and cigarette smoke.  They just feel slimy when they bump into your leg.  Typically, you expect it when you go into a public place and I just endure it.  But at Cinebristo I never have to worry about it.  When the movie let out my wife and I could remain in our seats with our chairs reclined and our entire aisle was able to empty without a single person bumping into my feet. I didn’t have to move a muscle to let anybody get up and leave.

When the last of the credits finally ended I was a little surprised to see that the place looked like an entire restaurant had just got up at the same time and left.  It didn’t look bad, but it would take a lot of table clearing to remove all the plates and glasses that were on every table in the theater.  That’s another thing specific to Cinebisto.  Everything they do is restaurant quality including the utensils.  All the soft drinks are actual glasses and there are lots of wine glasses.  There are no paper cups and popcorn bags.  Everything is something that has to be washed in the kitchen.  They do not go cheap on anything, which they could easily justify at only $12 dollars per seat on films before 4 PM.  Night seats are only $14 dollars, not much more than a typical local theater chain.  I couldn’t help but think that nobody was doing any cleaning yet and that it was going to take a while to get the place ready for another showing.  Most of the people had long left and the last people had left several minutes before we did.  We were clearly the last ones out of our seats.  As we walked back out of the theater a manager was there with a little tray of mints which he offered to us with a smile and some polite banter.  I thought that was a nice touch and I told him I appreciated it.  Then we stepped out into the hall and saw about 15 employees ready to enter the theater to clean it.   The manager had made them stand in the hall and wait for us to leave.  I knew they had to be angry at us for staying so long, but the manager refused to let the employees enter to disrupt our movie experience.  That is the kind of place the Cinebistro is.  It’s not going out of its way to be snobby.  They just make a point to elevate the human experience of going to the movies.

So thank you Cinebistro for doing such a great job for one entire business quarter—I hope that everything continues as it has.  It was wonderful to leave that theater and have so many people tell me to have a good day as I passed them back into the large vaulted lobby of the Cobb Theater system. It was also nice to see that the sun had went down and the streets of Liberty Center were lit up nicely completing a nice day for my wife and me.  I was able to see a movie I really wanted to without having to compromise my comfort and standards, and for that I really appreciated it.  The whole experience was what you expect from a luxury theater system and it has lived up to those standards now over several visits which is a great compliment to the hard work obviously on display and in full commitment of the management of Cinebistro.  Going to the movies at Cinebistro has the feel of attending a play at the Aronoff Center or on Broadway—only without the tight seating and the crowded streets of a big city.  It is a unique experience and I’m proud to have one at Liberty Center.

Rich “Cliffhanger” Hoffman


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