In the mood for pizza, dessert or coffee while at the movies?
Those are now among the options at the Cape Cinema in Dennis, which has started offering hot slabs of Firestarter Pizza, whoopie pies from Kender & Sisters Kitchen and Coffee, and some pick-me-up cold brews from Snowy Owl Coffee Roasters.
Expanding the food and beverage menu at the historic arthouse movie theater by collaborating with nearby businesses was a main focus for Josh Mason when he became executive director there early this year and when the theater reopened for the summer.
“I view this as being mutually beneficial and a win-win situation for customers and businesses involved alike,” he said.
More than a movie — a whole experience
Besides expanding, Cape Cinema has also brought back some favorites since it started serving alcoholic drinks in early 2019, such as locally brewed beer from Devil’s Purse Brewing Company in South Dennis and Cape Cod Beer in Hyannis.
When people want to go out, Mason said, it’s less about just watching a movie and more about the whole experience.
“You’ve got to give them something more than what they can do at home,” he said.
Before being shut down for more than a year because of the pandemic, Cape Cinema only served the usual movie theater fare of popcorn, candy and soda. There was a small selection of wines, beers and a minimal list of liquor. Occasionally they had cookies.
New this summer are the roasts and cold brews from Snowy Owl. Besides whoopie pies, Kender & Sisters has been providing cookies and banana pudding, and plans to add in other items staffers may test out or have as specials.
During the weekends, the cinema serves cheese or pepperoni slabs from Firestarter Pizza, which take about 10 minutes to heat up, so if you’re thinking about getting one, stop in early.
The concession stand also offers beer and wine, and has a small wet bar. They serve themed cocktails with their Throwback Thursday movie series, including recent White Russians with “The Big Lebowski” and The Rummy Mummy (a mix of coconut rum, vanilla vodka, hazelnut liquor and half-and-half) with “The Mummy.”
Mason said he is hoping to bring in some more craft beers and to expand their bar program with more offerings.
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‘Trying to be carbon neutral’
“There’s always room for growth and we’re always looking to sort of evolve because we see the future of being an exhibitor to bridging the experience between food and the visual and audio aspect of things,” Mason said.
The cinema will also be rolling out merchandise such as T-shirts and hats, as well as reusable popcorn containers and cups. Customers who purchase the containers and bring them back in to use can get a discount.
“We are trying to be carbon neutral,” Mason said. “We have also partnered with Boxed Water. As someone who advocated for the local bottle ban, I’m thrilled. I’m very environmentally conscious with every decision made.”
And there are more ideas to enhance the moviegoing experience at the more than 90-year-old theater known for its 6,400-square-foot art deco ceiling mural designed by Rockwell Kent.
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One possibility: “Rather than just screening movies, we want to also bring in kind of like a wine tasting, where you … pair a nice Cabernet with a steak,” Mason said. “We figured we would pair an experience with food with whatever film we’re showing.”
As for pairing with local businesses, Mason said this decision was easy to make. He has relationships with a lot of those places and owners, watching them grow, and both sides see partnering as a mutually beneficial opportunity. The food and drink can attract more business to the cinema while increasing awareness of and revenue for the neighboring companies.
Officials at Cape Cinema “are extremely supportive of local business, small business, and we just want to help each other out,” Mason said.
The local aspect sets the concessions at Cape Cinema apart from food served at other movie theaters, he said, and “people have been very receptive.” The usual concessions of popcorn and candy are available at other indoor theaters, but not much extra this summer.
What are other cinemas offering?
The Chatham Orpheum movie theater previously had a cafe attached, but that has not yet reopened. The Falmouth Cinema Pub previously had a menu of burgers, meals and appetizers, but a message on its website says that due to a kitchen staff shortage, they have a limited menu that features candy, popcorn and non-alcoholic beverages as well as hard seltzer, wine and draft, canned and bottled beer. Calls from the Times for more details were not returned.
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Dinner, though, is often part of the outdoor experience at the seasonal Wellfleet Drive-In, where owner John Vincent said they serve an extended food menu that includes burgers, chicken fingers, hot dogs and French fries. He said he’s considering adding food items and alcoholic drinks to the adjacent indoor theaters in the future.
For a typical night out, Mason said, patrons of Cape Cinema formerly might have gotten dinner, with a cocktail and an appetizer, before they came to the movies. Now, they can just come directly to the movie , maybe a little early, and have something to eat, have a drink and make the visit more of an immersive experience.
“They can enjoy it all in one space,” Mason said. “We’ve sort of consolidated it, made it easier and more experience-driven to the consumer.”
Mason said he wants customers to know that Cape Cinema will continue to evolve with the industry now that the theater is open again.
“We’re trying to stay on the cutting edge and forefront of where things are going and certainly we want to just offer the best possible experience for our customers,” he said. “We appreciate all the support that we get from the community.”
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