LOU'S VIEWS/DINING: Studio Movie Grill makes reel changes to moviegoing experience

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Lou HarryDining - A&E

As a rule, I don’t do much eating in movie theaters.

Oh, I’ll sometimes share a bucket of popcorn and inevitably sneak in a few pieces of candy, but I’ve never quite gotten the reasoning behind eating the skimpy nachos or the overpriced hot dog served up at the refreshment counter. My preference, if I’m that hungry, has always been to grab something on the way to the multiplex or hold off until I head home.

ae-mainpic--cinemagrille03-15col.jpg The Studio Movie Grill offers some of the roomiest and most comfy seating in the industry. That's needed when you have to navigate a full pizza during a movie. (IBJ Photos/ Aaron P. Bernstein)

Price is, of course, a factor (my being cheap), but pleasure is also part of it. If I’m going to pay for it, I want to also pay attention to it.

That didn’t stop me from enjoying downtown Indy’s late, lamented Hollywood Bar & Filmworks or 86th Street’s equally missed Cinema Grill. And it didn’t stop me from being excited when I heard that the troubled former AMC/Loews complex at West 86th Street and Michigan Road—most recently something called Movie Buff—would get an extensive makeover to be part of the Studio Movie Grill chain.


Since it’s selling itself as both an entertainment venue and a dining spot (you can, if you want, order food at the bar without actually going to a movie), I thought I’d take its lead and combine my A&E and dining columns this week.

Let’s take the A&E first.

The first thing you might notice that makes Studio Movie Grill different is that it offers reserved seating. That means whether you order online (with a surcharge, alas) or buy at the box office, you pick from the available seats. If your first choice of a movie is crowded and you don’t want to sit up front or far in the back, you have the option before buying your tickets to see if another film is available.

The second thing that might catch your eye is the bar, in the lobby, where you can order a drink before or after the show. Whereas the time between final credits and finding your car in the parking lot at most theaters is minimal (except, perhaps, at Keystone Art Cinema), here you are encouraged to linger and chat. Just, please, don’t spoil the film for those waiting to go in.

Another difference: On many nights—and at some matinees—there are choices beyond the expected first-run features. The SMG Toons! Series offers weekend screenings of kids’ movies for $2. A guy-focused Brews-N-Views series, a Girls’ Night Out series and a gender-neutral Dollar Movie Classics series, each at only $1. (Coming up, “The Hangover” and “Die Hard,” “The American President” and “The Holiday,” and “Swingers” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” respectively.)

Warning: Don’t get too excited about the SMG Music Series documentaries announced on the website. Some of these aren’t part of the Indianapolis offerings. However, the new College Park location is participating in Special Needs screenings, where the lights are kept up and the sound down a bit. Next up: The animated film “Freebirds” on Nov. 9.

Speaking of kids, a huge plus here is Studio Movie Grill’s policy of restricting kids 2 and under from PG-13 and R-rated films screened at 6 p.m. or later. I’d prefer the age bumped up to 5 or 6 with a complete ban for R films, but it’s a start.

If I seem to be promotional rather than critical, so be it. The reality is that there are many places to see first-run movies. When I checked out “Gravity” and (forgive me) “Escape Plan,” the sound and picture quality were more than satisfying, the seating comfy, and the prices in line with elsewhere ($10.25 for adult peak evenings and midnight shows, going down to $6 for Monday to Thursday matinees). SMG can’t be blamed for the idiocy of “Escape Plan”—which, to be honest, I kind of enjoyed until Schwarzenegger showed up.

The difference here, of course, is the food, which brings us to part two of this review.

Unless you plan to just order popcorn and a drink, I’d recommend being seated at least 20 minutes before showtime. This gives you the time to peruse the too-extensive, multi-page menu you are handed on your way into the theater. Once you make your selection, a button at your seat brings a member of the wait staff—all of whose backs I worry about, given how they have to Quasimodo themselves down the aisles to avoid blocking the screen once the flick starts.

I immediately ruled out Cheese Fries, Hummus, the Steak and Gravy Sandwich, Mahi-Mahi Tacos and other selections likely to end up on my shirt were I to eat them in the dark. Instead, my guest and I went with the two-for-$25 Combo Meal, which included a shared appetizer and two entrees.

The former options include the expected popcorn and the unexpected edamame. We went with what proved to be a lackluster small order of Chicken Nachos, which I thought would be devoured while the lights were still up. I was wrong, but with minimal chicken they didn’t prove difficult to manage.

We did better with our entrées. Coconut Tenders—one of four chicken tender options—had the right amount of flavorful crunch in its combo of hand-breaded panko breadcrumbs and coconut flakes surrounding sizable pieces of chicken. I even dared dip some into the accompanying honey mustard.

The Margherita Pizza isn’t likely to make Studio Movie Grill a destination pizzeria, but with a crispy crunch, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, and just enough basil, it satisfied even when the last slices were eaten well into the movie. If you were thinking about going to an Applebee’s before the show, you shouldn’t be disappointed in the quality you find here.

In addition to the usual fountain sodas (a sticker-shock $3.50 if this were anywhere but a movie theater), there’s a full bar offering cocktails, including Tito’s Handmade 007 Martini—one of the few menu nods to the movies. The Adult Milk Shake menu includes a Frosty Thin Mint ($8) that I found heavy on the ice cream and short on mint.

A Brownie Sundae (which was supposed to be $5 with the Combo Meal but which I later realized was billed at the $6.95 rack rate) came bathed in vanilla and chocolate ice cream, Ghirardelli caramel and chocolate sauces, with cinnamon chips parked alongside for dipping.

Service was attentive and as unobtrusive as could be expected. Whereas I’m usually the guy shushing those around me in theaters, I forced myself to accept that some murmuring comes with the territory here.•


This week’s Dining Column is the last in a month-long series of reviews of restaurants in recently rehabbed spaces. Lou’s Views appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com.


  • Love it!
    As someone still lamenting the demise of Cinema Grill (which was our "neighborhood theatre"), I was delighted to discover Studio Movie Grill had set sights on Indy. My husband & I met friends there last Sat evening, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The food was good (my husband did order the Steak 'n Gravy Sandwich, which was consumed - to my surprise - without mishap), sound in the auditorium was very good, seats comfortable, service non-intrusive, and love that we were able to pinpoint the exact seat location we wanted when we purchased our tickets at the counter. We definitely will return - SMG is a terrific addition to Indy's movie scene.
  • Nope. Not gonna go there.
    I actually loved the Movie Buff Theatre -- no obnoxious crowds, great prices, good daytime schedule. I do NOT go to the movies to eat, or worse yet find myself elbow to jowl with someone fatter than I am slurping down a bad pizza and burping his/her way through the movie. OMG I can't stand it. No wonder the premium channels and VOD and Netflix are doing so well.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Good Day I am Mr (Victoria Wright) from United state of America, i stayed in NEW YORK, and i have a broke up business, until i found this company email who help me to gain a loan for business,, and now i want to used this short medium to congratulate the below company for the fast and safe money they loan to me without any form of collateral, i loan 500,000USD from the company to save my business and lots more, i saw their mail on the internet, everyone always give testimony for what they did, so i quickly contacted them and they all did everything for me without stress and my money was sent to my account just 3 days later, i was surprise and i feel so glad, now i have a standard business control agent who help me, now i will advice those who need urgent loan to contact him at the bellow email:zenithfirm12@gmail.com

  2. NOTICE:This is to inform the general public that Vampires are real. My name is James Franklyn.,am an agent of vampire,am here to introduce our new world trend to you,a world of vampire where life get easier,we have made so many persons vampires and have turned them rich,you will be assured long life and prosperity,you shall be made to be very sensitive to mental alertness,stronger and also very fast,you will not be restricted to walking at night only even at the very middle of broad day light you will be made to walk.In case you are wildly oppressed by some unscrupulous persons we can still help you fight them.Your protection is assured immediately you join.Just contact the bellow email if you are interested we are here to attend to you anytime you want us. Contact the bellow email for more details. Email:vampirescreed@hotmail.com Sincerely: James Franklyn.

  3. Bravo! Someone else that is willing to speak the truth! Bravo!_____NBCSN is available in almost 2 MILLION more homes than just a few years ago, but Indycar STILL gets less total viewers than it did just a few years ago when NBC took over Versus. Attendance and ratings cratered with the end of season races (just when the title battle got "interesting" HAH!__________And now...new race in Basilia, where Miles celebrated the "rich history" of Indycar racing there. Rich history? What, 7 events in the 100 years of AOW? Yep, some history. Well, at least its an oval. It's not??? Are you kidding me??? Gosh darn road racin furriners.

  4. PURITY RAY LOAN OFFER........ Have you been denied by your banks,or are you in need of of an urgent loan to pay of your bills we are capable of giving loans @ cheaper rate to interested individuals, student, companies and members of the public in need of finance to settle bills, we do offer considerable loans which you can count on. For more information on our various types of loan,then you will have to contact PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM, to help you achieve your desire LOAN APPLICATION FORM TO BE FILLED BORROWERS INFORMATION * Full name:………………………. * SEX * ……………………………. * Country………………………….. * State:……………………………. * Land:…………………………….. * Occupation:…………………….. * phone number:…………………. * Telephone: ………………………….. * Age:………………………………. * Amount needed as loan:……… * Loan Duration:………………….. * Propose of Loan:……………….. * Annual revenue:………………… * Monthly Income:……………….. * Guarantee:………………………. * Payment: monthly or annually Email.....purityrayloanfirm@gmail.com Thank you and God bless Mr Purity Ray PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM we tend to serve you better

  5. Problem: most of the people responding to this article don't know about this service AT ALL! Why? Lack of awareness. This isn't IndyGo. This is CIRTA: might as well be the mattress company because they are asleep at the wheel - something like 3 directors over the last year? Playing with federal grant money is great! This "region" wants commuter rail service, has spent MILLIONS on Transportation studies yet can't even support a commuter bus line? This is largely for suburban riders to get to downtown - not for "service people to work in our hotels and restaurants" ! Get your head out of your backside!! These are professionals, students etc. that don't want to fight traffic, save some money on parking, gas, stress.... if CIRTA would put their federal money into widely promoting the sevive to Greenwood, Fishers & Carmel instead of finding directors and studies - this would be a successful service. Our family uses(d) it daily for the last several years - but the recent uncertainty & now unreliability due to cuts from Carmel has been a problem. Now, costs us an additional $350/month for gas & parking ( $4200/year) plus vehicle wear, service, environmental impact ... YES - this REGION needs this this type of service in order to keep growing and getting the people it needs to fill skilled positions in downtown Indianapolis. Think outside of your own car !!!