EDINBURG — When The Monitor first reported that an Alamo Drafthouse would be built at Trenton Crossroads Plaza, George W. Bush was still in the White House and YouTube.com had just been founded.
Nearly a decade later, with a new name and face, the Cinemark Movie Bistro opens its first dinner theater location Friday.
It was 2005 when local brokers began conceptualizing an Alamo Drafthouse location in the Rio Grande Valley with an anticipated opening date in March 2007.
In July 2007, amid construction delays, owners moved the date to September. In October, construction was halted as unanticipated costs stalled the project and developers attempted to refinance. Soon after, the building went into foreclosure after the project’s developer, Paul Garza, had borrowed more than $10.2 million against the property, according to Monitor archives.
In 2010, a local attorney who had been making plans to purchase the property opted out of the deal, saying it wasn’t a wise financial decision for him at that point. The empty building languished another three years before any progress was made.
In January of this year, the property was sold to B-Y Properties, the owners of the entire Trenton Crossroads Plaza development. Cinemark leased the property. The theater chain, which operates more than 400 cinemas worldwide, decided to make the Rio Grande Valley a pilot location for their new concept: the Cinemark Movie Bistro.
Some plans for the building have remained the same as when Alamo Drafthouse was set to open: the six-screen theater and full-service restaurant are still in place. But Cinemark Movie Bistro’s marketing director, Bryan Jeffries, said some aspects will set the theater apart.
“One thing … from all the comments we’ve heard, is that our pricing is the same as if you went to a normal theater,” he said. “So you’re going to come in here and get these beautiful, comfortable, oversized seats. You’re going to get the food experience, you’re going to get reserved seating, and you’re not paying any different.”
In addition to traditional concessions like popcorn, candy and soda, moviegoers can purchase from a full menu including burgers, wraps, flatbreads, tacos and more. The location will also serve bottled and draft beers, wine, daiquiris and margaritas.
Patrons will walk up to the indoor box office, where they will purchase tickets and reserve their seats on a touch-screen device that allows them to choose their spot.
“We ask customers to arrive 30 minutes early,” marketing manager Jennifer Fredericks said. “That way, they have time to reserve their seats and purchase their food so it arrives before the film begins.”
Those who arrive just before the film can still purchase food and drinks; they’ll be given a silent buzzer that will alert them when their food is ready to be picked up in the lobby.
“That’s different than what some people are used to, depending on if you’ve been to a Studio Movie Grill or an Alamo Drafthouse,” Jeffries said. “They do something where during the movie you can call and ask for more food or more drinks and we always felt that once the movie starts, that’s the experience they should have, so we don’t want servers to come in and out.”
One of the local patrons who got a sneak peek of the theater, Magda Garcia, said she’d be loyal to the location based on fairly simple criteria.
“I’ll be coming here for those seats alone,” she said. “They are so soft and comfy — I feel like I’m sitting in my easy chair at home.”
Fredericks mentioned that part of the decision to commit to the Edinburg location for a pilot dine-in theater was that some of its “most loyal customers” were here. Jeffries added that the location was ideal in his mind because the Valley market is so family-oriented.
“So I’m excited that we’re kind of making this an opportunity for what is already the habit of the Rio Grande Valley customer, that we are providing a destination for a group of people that are already seeking all-inclusive entertainment,” he said.
“So in a way, we’re the answer to the question: What do you want to do tonight?”