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New theater to offer dinner and a movie

The Embassy 6 Cinema Grill, with various genres of films and a large food selection, is set to open in the fall.

Published September 16, 2003

PORT RICHEY - Imagine sipping chardonnay while watching a foreign movie, or downing a brewski and a New York-style pizza while enjoying the Super Bowl or a Florida Gators game, all on a full-sized movie screen with surround sound and a handy dining table at your elbow.

And you won't even have to cook beforehand or clean up after the show is over.

That's the idea behind the Embassy 6 Cinema Grill, an unusual concept in movie theater design being brought to west Pasco's Embassy Plaza by National Entertainment Developers Inc., a relatively new company headed by former Pasco resident and TCI Cablevision marketing director Dale Obracay.

As the name implies, Cinema Grill will be housed in the former Embassy 6, a small theater complex that closed several years ago. It's expected to open late this fall.

"We're putting about a half million dollars into this project," Obracay said Monday from his Fort Myers headquarters.

That's in addition to the $2-million the plaza's developers already have invested for remodeling the whole center, according to Mary Katz, with North American Property Investment Corp., managers of the plaza.

Obracay came up with the idea of a combined movie and diner when he saw smaller movie complexes being closed. Why not turn them into neighborhood-type theaters, with lower ticket prices and lots of services that conventional, chain theaters don't offer?

"We'll show first- and second-run, "move-over' movies," he said. That means the day the movie closes at the big complexes with their $7.50 tickets, it will "move over" to Cinema Grill with a $2.50 to $3 ticket, he said.

Obracay's company also plans to offer foreign films, independent films (such as those shown at the Sundance Film Festival) and "boutique," limited interest films on one or two of its screens.

"We're going to study the demographics and ask around to see what people want to see," he said. "We're going to be a real neighborhood theater."

Obracay's company is reconfiguring each of the six 160-seat auditoriums to be multipurpose.

"The front half will be conventional theater seating," he said. The back half will be for diners. One section will have a counter with seats, sort of like a bar. The rest will be widely spaced rows of two regular theater seats separated by a table, for those who want to share a pizza, popcorn, pretzels or wings or have some place to park their subs, hot dogs or other fare.

The theaters will keep the slightly slanted floors. "We looked into stadium seating, but it's not as comfy when people are carrying food and drinks," he said.

Besides, the floors in the smaller theaters have enough rake to provide adequate sight lines, he said.

The renovations are expected to be complete by mid November, in time for the seasonal rush that starts around Thanksgiving, he said.

"We're working with Sysco Foods to develop our own pizza, New York style and thin crust," Obracay said. "We'll have whole milk cheese - it's not going to be cut-the-corners - but it will be moderately priced."

Those who want food with their movies will go through a cafeteria-type line, get their food and enjoy the show.

"We'll have limited table service during the feature to bring more drinks," Obracay said.

The theater will also offer some unique packages.

"People who want to see films from India, Greece, Italy or where ever can arrange to show them in one of our theaters," Obracay said.

He learned the movie business during 14 years with TCI, where he worked with HBO and other movie channels, he said.

The auditoriums will also be outfitted with equipment for meetings, conferences, parties or conventions, he said.

"It will be priced as a package," he said. The client chooses the movie and food, Obracay contacts the studio to rent the movie, and his on-site cooks will prepare the food.

His theater in Orlando rents one of its auditoriums to a church group that is building a new facility, he said. He's also hosted Amway sales rallies there.

"The challenge to fill a theater is Mondays through Thursdays and evenings," he said. "So we're going to offer lots of specials." That includes group rates and special-interest movies.

"But no triple-X," he laughed.

[Last modified September 16, 2003, 03:59:55]

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