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Dinner and a movie; Night out: A new theater combines the two for an upscale experience without the sticky floors.


The show is over. Time to go, folks.


"It's so comfortable, nobody wants to leave," said Simon Briggs, 31, as the lights went up after the 7: 30 p.m. screening of "Life is Beautiful" Friday at the grand opening of Premium Cinema, adjacent to the Owings Mills 17 cineplex.

Amid empty wine glasses and half-finished Bailey's cheesecakes, Briggs and 30 or so other cinema swingers who had alternately eaten popcorn and popped champagne corks looked more content than your average moviegoer. But then, your average movie experience doesn't include the leisurely bistro dinner, Warbucks-worthy attendants and stellar service Premium offers for $12 a ticket.

"At the movies, there was just one level of service," says Brian Callaghan, director of communications for Premium Cinema, which also has a location in Chicago.

The Owings Mills Premium has three theaters, with 120, 90 and 80 seats, and you must make advance ticket reservations. "This is offering another option for people who like to do things in the most upscale way possible in everything they do."

Callaghan noted that Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke was in attendance Friday to see "Payback."

Premium is dinner and a movie like you've never seen before. Pass the concierge, check your coat and take a seat in the gourmet bistro serving pre-movie meals, which are not included in your $12 admission.

A "Feature Presentation," that is, an entree, ranges in price from $8 chicken sandwiches to $18 prime rib. Those looking for a more intoxicating movie experience can enjoy a $5 glass of Chardonnay or a $148 bottle of Taittinger champagne.

And to think you once shuddered at the thought of $3 bottled water.

Plus, don't forget the "Previews" (appetizers), "Happy Endings" (desserts) and, of course, "the tip" (the tip.)

This built-in restaurant eliminates the pitfalls of desperate McDonald's pit stops or empty-stomach surrenders to $5 Butterfingers.

Though if you do want to munch on common concessions, an attendant will gladly go next door to fetch them for you.

"You don't have to go to dinner first, then to the movie. You're already there," said Tiffany Martin, 18, a server at Premium.

No more straining your neck to see over the NBA-height guy in front of you. No more loathsome toddlers kicking your seat and shrieking in your ear (you have to be 21 to get in.) No more shoe baptisms in stale soda.

"[The cost] is not much more than you'd pay in New York for a sticky-floor theater," said Joe Cabetti, a 40-year-old New Yorker.

After dinner, the staff escorts you into the theater, which has the feel of a private screening room. Luxurious and spacious, with stadium-style seating, it's replete with reclining leather chairs, tray tables and booths.

"It looks like business class on a plane," said Briggs, a teacher from Cockeysville. "I don't want to go back to another cinema after this."

Before the film begins, waiters continue to serve food and drink inside the theater. But the last delicacies are delivered and bills are settled up before the main attraction commences. Distractions are not an option at Premium.

As soon as it starts, it's lights, camera, luxury.

"The only thing you heard was me pouring champagne and my ice cubes tinkling," said Cabetti, who was sitting in the theater's uppermost level, featuring swiveling executive-type chairs behind a long table. He and his friends defined "high" class as they lounged like wine-swilling Supreme Court justices.

The opportunity to savor the flick and their food free of a movie theater's characteristic cacophony was also appreciated by those in less impressive seats.

"You could really lose yourself without having to worry about anything," said Dominic Catalfamo, 30.

But feel free to explore, as long as you make a discreet exit. Visit the well-stocked bar and pore over the wine list. You'll find nearly 20 wines and champagnes, including selections from the vineyards of cinema stars Francis Ford Coppola and Danny Glover.

"We're going to see the Mel Gibson movie, we should have a glass of the Danny Glover wine," said Bill Gleason, 43, apparently an admirer of the pair's inexhaustible "Lethal Weapon" series.

His date, Susan Shavano, 47, said the art deco-style restaurant, with its gracious wait staff and sophisticated menu, generated a comfortably glamorous vibe.

"I feel like we're back in the '30s," the Towson resident said. "Kind of like Hollywood, but not too flashy."

The entrance to Premium is discreet and unlabeled, suggesting a movie supper club. There are no bouncers, however. Guests came dressed in slacks, dress shirts and other variations on casual chic to absorb the elegant experience.

Those on hand for the opening liked the refreshingly refined atmosphere, sans snobbiness. The marriage of a night at the movies and a night at the opera was more offbeat than off-putting.

"It's kind of like a yuppie movie experience; popcorn and latte," Briggs suggested.

Some patrons, though, offered ideas for additional amenities. One mentioned a foot massage; another, beds. And how about a remote control?

"You couldn't pause [the movie] to go to the bathroom," said Thomas McGlyn, 26, after the movie. "If you could do that in a movie theater, I'd be happy."

Still, according to his next-seat neighbor, Elizabeth McGlyn 33, Thomas had no immediate plans to retire from his Premium recliner.

"He actually asked what time breakfast was being served."

Pub Date: 2/08/99

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