Photos: A Walking Tour of the New CinéBistro at the Rotunda

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The bar and lounge area inside CinéBistro.

The wait will soon be over: Hampden’s new restaurant-bar-lounge-movie theater, known as CinéBistro, opens tomorrow.

We had the chance to take a tour of the new luxury venue today ahead of its opening. Needless to say, it’s a decadent place to catch a movie and enjoy a cocktail or some quality American fare.

The entrance to CinéBistro.

Upon entering the theater, guests will see a robot (kiosk) to their left that prints tickets, and a staffed concierge desk straight ahead. All seats in the venue’s seven theaters are reserved.

The kiosk to the left.

General manager Derik Farrar said many guests prefer to book tickets online via Fandango or through CinéBistro’s website, particularly on Tuesdays when the theater releases the schedule of movie times so they can reserve their favorite seats.

Those who want time to eat or have a drink must arrive at least 30 minutes early. The lounge to the right of the entrance offers booths, tables, and leather seats, as well as a rectangular bar bordered by brick pillars with shelved film memorabilia inside.

Just to be sure any time spent during meals or drinks outside the theater doesn’t cut into showings, Farrar said the venue gives 30-minute and 5-minute warnings over the PA system and via digital boards around the lounge. Those who just want to come in for the drinks and food are welcome, too.

“We really like to leave the experience up to the guest, whether you’re coming in to…do the whole nine yards with dinner and a movie, or whether you’re just coming to the bar to enjoy a cocktail and snack after work,” Farrar said.

One side of the lounge area.
Another side of the lounge area.

It’s noteworthy that the entire theater is 21-plus only, meaning no children or teenagers allowed. “It’s something that we do in the vast majority of CinéBistros in terms of providing that kind of adult experience for a great date night out,” Farrar said. He also noted that each theater “is here because of our guests” and is open to their feedback on all policies.

From the bar and lounge area, movie-goers will enter one long hallway containing all seven theaters, each of which holds between 70 and 100 people. Unlike in most theaters, the concession window is located in the hallway, rather than the lobby. Guests there can order from the full menu and get a pager notifying them when to come pick up their food at the window.

A look down the hallway containing all of the theaters.
In each theater is a seated host who takes tickets and guides guests to their seats, all of which are made of leather, recline and sport an adjustable headrest — a significant step up from many regular theaters’ chairs. “We don’t like to overlook anything,” Farrar said.
The chairs.

If customers want the full experience of being served, they can place an order with a server at their seat. Servers also refill drinks and popcorn up through the trailers, but “once the feature starts, all of our service ends,” Farrar said. “We want the guest to be able to enjoy the movie that they’ve come to see without those kinds of interruptions of someone coming up and standing or talking.”

The screens themselves are oversized, in a good way. The smaller theaters (around 70-person capacity) have screens suited for theaters that fit around 150 people; the larger ones (around 100-person capacity) have screens used in multiplex theaters made for 300 to 400 people.

“Even though we see ourselves as a restaurant that shows movies, we don’t take anything away from the fact that we really are exhibitors of film and want to ensure that…the quality of the experience is top notch,” Farrar said.

The full kitchen is about 4,000 square feet, with a prep and production kitchen and a service bar to boot. At full capacity, Farrar said kitchen staff makes 70 to 100 dishes, 40 minutes at a time. All items are made from scratch without frozen ingredients, and by professional chefs and line cooks, he said.

Movie posters along the hallway.

Lining the hallways already are posters for new films set to show during opening week. The lineup for tomorrow and the week ahead includes “Collide,” “Fist Fight,” “The Great Wall,” “50 Shades Darker,” “John Wick: Chapter 2” and the evergreen “La La Land.”

Tickets cost $13.50 for matinees (before 4 p.m.) and evenings Monday through Thursday, and $15.75 for Fridays, Saturdays, and Sunday after 4 p.m.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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2 COMMENTS

    • Ethan didn’t taste the food. He was there only to take pictures and give readers a peek inside. I had the food last week and it is good!

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