The interior of the Warehouse cinema Rotunda location, which opened in May 2023. (Handout photo.)

They’ve suffered devastating blows from the coronavirus and competition from streaming services, but, with apologies to Monty Python, movie theaters aren’t dead yet.

Not in Baltimore, at least, where the city’s newest multiplex opened earlier this month, hoping to lure patrons out of their homes and away from their hand-held screens with comfy reclining seats, high-end sound, better-than-average concession fare, and a wall of pour-your-own beverage taps.

Warehouse Cinemas opened its third location in Maryland at the Rotunda in Hampden after completing renovations to the former Cinebistro space.

Your intrepid Baltimore Fishbowl review team stopped by this week for a first-hand experience.

Parking at the high-density Rotunda can be a challenge, and we arrived as families gathered at the plaza for a musician and other events. So the line of vehicles to get into the garage wasn’t moving. Fortunately, a surface spot opened up close to the theater’s front door, and we were soon inside.

We were greeted by friendly staff – and there were a lot of them – who helped us buy our tickets and order food. The lobby was clean and inviting. Our Tuesday visit coincided with the Warehouse’s VIP offer of $7 seats on that weekday – a variable pricing system we were happy to participate in and which generated a solid crowd.

A main feature of the Warehouse is the self-pour tap system, a concept gaining popularity across the country. It allows patrons to load dollars onto a plastic card, which is then used to activate their selection on a row of taps.

The system allows you to get the beer you want in the amount you want, with no waiting. But on this evening, some technical glitches meant that only about three-quarters of the taps were available – and the wine and cocktail choices weren’t operational yet.

Additionally, a staff member inadvertently told us that the $2 we paid for a deposit on the card was non-refundable. That would be annoying if true – but we’ve been told that’s not accurate; you can get the money back.

Our food experience was a little more problematic. We ordered a couple of flatbread pizzas at about 6:35, and were excited at the thought of settling into our comfy seats with beer and pizza for a 7 p.m. start of the latest Guardians of the Galaxy installment.

At the food pickup counter, we waited. And waited. And waited. As did many others. Our buzzer wasn’t buzzing. Nor was anyone else’s. The food was slow in coming out. WAY too slow. A staffer fielding the orders as they came out was offering to bring them into the theaters when they were ready. But most people waited. As did we.

In the end, we missed the start of our movie by several minutes. It really put a damper on things. For now, this is a system that needs fine-tuning.

We pointed out the flaws in our experience to Warehouse president and CEO Rich Daughtridge, who acknowledged that the food and beverage operation got a bit overwhelmed during the rush of Tuesday’s lower-priced ticket night. His aim is to get the wait down to about 8 minutes during peak times – which he said is the timing in their other two locations. He also said that the self-pour system should be fully operating soon.

For now, if you are attracted to the upscale grilled cheeses and other offerings, give yourself plenty of time.

After we settled in to our seats, the movie experience was ideal: amazing reclining comfort and super sound. What we also really liked was that we had several time options for seeing the film – each hour on the hour.

Warehouse offered a much more fun film-viewing experience than the chill of Netfilx on our couch.

The Rotunda location is the third for Warehouse. Their Frederick spot opened in September 2020, with Leitersburg (near Hagerstown) debuting in November 2021.

Daughtridge, the CEO, is scoping out more locations in the region, but admits it may still be dicey to invest in theaters. In 2020, global box office revenue fell by 71% to $12.4 billion, the lowest level since 1992, after the pandemic caused concerns about spending time in crowded indoor settings. Major film releases were delayed or released directly to streaming services during the pandemic, and the industry is still recovering.

“We believe people want to get out of the house and spend time with friends, family members and the community at large,” Daughtridge said in an email to Fishbowl. “Our moviegoing experience is unique, and with Hollywood committing to theatrical movie runs, we’ve had a great 2022 and 2023 so far.”

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