Dining in the dark

Remember that scene in Wall-E, where the futuristic humans are strapped into hovering recliners whilst watching TV and gorging on food? Well, there’s a movie theater in Rocklin that feels a like a step toward that type of sedentary civilization. Studio Movie Grill (5140 Commons Drive in Rocklin) provides food service in the middle of watching a movie, the seats are huge and recliner-like, and all you need to do is press a button on your chair to order another margarita. My wife and I heard about it a few months ago and finally made the trek out east to investigate this new dystopia

Surprisingly, the first impression Studio Movie Grill gave us during our Friday date night was one of nostalgia. This stemmed from their outdoor speaker system blasting Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem).” The upbeat, classic club banger seemed at least to be a positive sign that Rocklin isn’t merely longing to return to its Gold Rush glory days anymore—it’s moved all the way into the late ‘90s. But its lyrics were also probably somewhat inappropriate, we thought, given the fact that there were a bunch of kids running around the lobby waiting to watch a couple of PG-rated films dominating the box office recently—including Dreamworks’ Home and Disney’s Cinderella. We were here to see the latter film, after reading several good reviews.

Like Jay-Z’s solid flow, we pressed on only to discover 99 more problems with our date night experience. We got to our seats relatively early, ordered a dinner special (two entrees and an appetizer for $25) and a few $10 drinks. That’s when we realized we were surrounded by kids, and the only adults in sight were either drinking huge fishbowl-sized cocktails or tallboys of PBR. Stuck behind swiveling personal dining tables attached to our armrests, I suddenly felt a terror akin to being trapped on a plane filled mostly with screaming kids headed to Disneyland. We prepared for turbulence, kicking and screaming, dug into our Chevy’s-esque giant margaritas and chicken nacho appetizer, and hoped for the best.

The previews started at about the same time our burgers arrived. I got through about half of my black-bean barbecue burger (with strips of paradoxical bacon) when the film started and the house lights went out on us. Instead of glimpsing into the future, that’s when we realized what it probably felt like to dine in the Gold Rush days. Apparently, before Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, people were left to grope around blindly in candlelight in effort to dip their french fries into ketchup. They must have also had huge laundry bills from constantly spilling barbecue sauce all over their expensive new date-night dress shirts. 

In the end, the kids behaved themselves—for the most part. Plus, the movie was pretty good. Still, we felt that given the ‘90s throwback music and retelling of the Cinderella story, our evening of futuristic nostalgia might have been even more fulfilling if we’d watched 1998's Ever After (starring Drew Barrymore), and smuggled a bottle of wine and some sandwiches into an old-school (and better lit) drive-in movie theater.  

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