New dine-in movie theater opening in Chester, complete with 75-foot screen

Entertainment

CHESTER, Va. (WRIC) — Cinema Cafe, known for its unique dine-in movie theater experience, is opening its newest and largest location Friday in Chester.

The 45,000-square-foot location will have the Virginia theater chain’s biggest screen to date — a 75-foot ImmersiveX format, complete with DolbyAtmos surround sound.

“It’s a full restaurant service throughout the entire movie,” Cinema Cafe Marketing Director Caitlin Walker said. “You sit down, you have an individual table at every seat, and you can order food and drinks — everything from popcorn and candy and soda to burgers and pizza and wings and desserts — all the way through the movie and not have to get up from your seat one time.”

Buttons in between theater seats allow movie-goers to call for a server to take their food order. In addition to American food favorites, Cinema Cafe also offers a premium bar, with selections of beers — including local brews — wines, and a signature cocktail menu.

Seats are reserved online or at the theaters when guests purchase their tickets.

“Every party gets two seats blocked on either side of them to get that social distancing in place,” Walker said. “In addition to that, we have seven feet or more between each row, so there’s plenty of space to relax and get comfortable and make sure that you’re a little bit farther away from other guests than you may have been in previous concepts.”

Stormtroopers guard the entrance above the front doors of Cinema Cafe. (Photo: Olivia Jaquith)

As a member of the national CinemaSafe program, Walker says Cinema Cafe is adhering to coronavirus-related restrictions put in place by Governor Ralph Northam, as well as recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“As a dine-in concept, we are a restaurant, and so we already had robust protocols in place for cleaning and sanitizing between each show and throughout the day, and we have just enhanced that,” she said. “We might have cleaned and swept in the theater between each show; now we’re sanitizing every seat and doing the entire building at the end of every day, as well as checking it when we come in.”

Mask-wearing is also required for anyone age 2 or older when not eating or drinking. Hand sanitizing stations have been placed throughout the building, as well.

Not only are health and safety precautions consistent at each Cinema Cafe location, but the layout and design elements are similar, as well.

The entrance of the Chester Cinema Cafe location is complete with a bar and dine-in seating. (Photo: Olivia Jaquith)

“Our founder and his partners have been fans of movies for a really long time,” Walker said. “At Cinema Cafe, we have been fans of film for a long time. We hire fans of film, and we did want to show that in the design and aesthetic of the buildings that we have put up at this point.”

John Walker is the CEO and a founder of Cinema Cafe. A Virginia Beach native, Walker has opened Cinema Cafe locations throughout the commonwealth, including in Edinburgh and Riverdale.

“The city of Chester and surrounding Chesterfield County have been eagerly awaiting this for over a year,” John Walker said. “The staff is trained, the kitchen is open, the projectors are fired up, and we’re ready to entertain. We know what we’re up against with the pandemic, so we’re easing into this opening slowly and safely.”

Cinema Cafe seats recline, and feature a service call button, a charging port, a cup holder, and tray table. (Photo: Olivia Jaquith)

Premiering Friday will be two new releases — Monster Hunter and Fatale — as well as recent family films and smaller movies that have not yet had a chance to shine on the silver screen.

Caitlin Walker says Cinema Cafe has been bringing in as much new product as is made available to the chain by movie studios, but the owners also hope to bring in holiday classics.

“We have a commitment to making sure that our communities can have a safe place to go and fun place to go, and we’re going to stay open as long as we possibly can to provide that little bit of escape, affordable bit of escape that people can still have during this crazy time,” she said.

Even as other movie theaters shut their doors, Cinema Cafe was committed to opening the new location in Chester. Construction began in July 2019, and the theater was originally supposed to open earlier in 2020.

“The great people of Chester and the surrounding area have been looking forward to this location for almost two years now, and while we had a little bit of a slowdown during all of this, we really wanted to get in here and bring a little bit of entertainment that’s desperately needed right now,” Walker said.

Tickets start at $5.50 each.

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