Cinema Theater reopens Friday with a full bar, fine dining and no cats | News
A renovated cinema is set to reopen on Friday with a first catering service in Rochester during its screenings.
Regulars of the old Cinema will hardly recognize the new interior. Guests are greeted at the entrance with a full bar stocked with beer, wine, cocktails, and mocktails, as well as more traditional theater sweets and treats. On their way to the theater, they’ll find a concession that serves more upscale versions of the theater’s staple snacks.
The theater layout is unlike any other in the Rochester area. Seating is black leather rolling office chairs set in front of long shared bar table tops. About every two feet is a small lamp, allowing moviegoers to gently illuminate their food and drink in the dark. Above the head are large squares fitted with points of white light, mimicking a night sky.
“It’s been a process,” said theater co-operator Kristina Dinino-Jeffords, who took over theater operations alongside her husband, Damon Jeffords, last year. “It’s been a full year of trying to put it all together.
The Cinema Theater, located at the intersection of South Clinton Avenue and South Goodman Street, has been a pink Rochester staple for generations. It opened in 1914 as The Clinton and featured a dirt floor and banquettes. In 1949 it was renamed The Cinema and introduced its distinctive art deco interior. At one point, its exterior was painted bright pink.
The theater was popular for its cheap prices for second-run movies and the house cats prowling the aisles. The cats belonged to the former theater operators.
With the renovations comes a brand change. The theater will primarily show first-run blockbusters at $11.50 per ticket. The first film, scheduled for this Friday, will be “Top Gun: Maverick”. Due to the catering service, the cats are no longer.
Dinino-Jeffords, who also owns the Mad Hatter Restaurant and Bakery with her husband, said the theater also plans to hold special events but is unlikely to screen indie or low-budget films, noting that the Little Theater has already staked out this market in Rochester. CITY is a member of the WXXI Public Media family, which also owns The Little.
She hopes that a revamped cinematic draw will be her novel – at least locally – bar-restaurant-theater structure. In an invitation-only soft-opening on Tuesday, the theater served a variety of three cocktails, a mocktail, two kinds of flatbreads, raised hot dogs wrapped in pastry with queso, pork sandwiches shredded and a mix of sweet and savory popcorn.
Vegan options will also be offered through a partnership with Monroe Avenue vegan butcher Grass Fed, Dinino-Jeffords said.
A crowd favorite was the Junior Mint Grasshopper, a milky white concoction infused with chocolate bitters and crème de menthe.
All of these features add up to a cinema that’s very different from years past. Jim Lewis has been working in film since 1987, doing what he describes as just about everything from screening to concessions. He recently offered to help get the theater up and running ahead of Tuesday’s screening.
He sees the changes in cinema as a breath of fresh air in the century-old institution.
“I’m excited, I think they’ve really transformed it, reinvented it,” Lewis said. “As much affection as I had for the previous company, it had to happen.”
Gino Fanelli is a staff writer at CITY. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or [email protected]