The neighborhood movie theater may be making a comeback in a new combination of theaters and upscale restaurant under one roof.
Standees-The Entertaining Eatery will open to the public May 24 in the Village shopping center in Prairie Village. The owners hope to expand to other markets in the Kansas City area and the region.
“It is a restaurant first and foremost. It is also a movie theater,” said Frank Rash, president and chief executive officer of Dineplex International, the developer of Standees. “Then there are those who want to do both: combine an evening out with dinner and a movie.”
As customers enter the Standees lobby, they have a choice — the 211-seat dining room and bar, or the movie theater with three small auditoriums offering stadium-style seating.
The centerpiece of the restaurant is a 70-foot horseshoe-shape bar with a “digital film strip” playing 14 double-sided images overhead — clips from sports, CNN, classic films, movie trailers, cooking shows and Standees menu items. The images also can be customized with personal messages during private events.
The bar is surrounded by plush booths and banquette seating where customers can get a glimpse of the open kitchen in back or look out large windows to the Village shops. Standees also will have 30 seats on its outdoor patio.
Patrick McDonnell, senior partner with McDonnell Kinder Associates, a Kansas City-based international consulting firm that works with such companies as P.F. Chang’s Chinese Bistro, spent about 14 months developing the Standees menu.
During a test run Thursday benefiting a local charity, burgers were the breakout item, including the Big Kahuna Steak Burger (house-ground blend of Kansas chuck and short rib, grilled pineapple, Bibb lettuce, beefsteak tomatoes, Colby Jack cheese, teriyaki glaze and sweet Hawaiian bun).
The menu also includes sandwiches such as the chicken and prosciutto salad, club steak, egg BLT and “the Stanwich” grilled cheese (in homage to AMC’s founder Stan Durwood). Entrees include the boneless rack of lamb, cold-water sea scallops, shrimp scampi and rib-eye steaks.
Moviegoers can select one of three theaters that average 80 seats and have state-of-the-art sound, high-tech projection, 3D technology and “rocking back” seats.
The concession stand will offer traditional theater snacks, including soft drinks, popcorn and candy, but customers also can also place orders there for the restaurant’s appetizers, desserts, cocktails, wine and beer to take into the theaters. If they dine in the restaurant first, they also can order the items to take into the theater with them.
Plans are to play first-run commercial movies, along with independent productions, live concerts and recorded performances. Standees’ target demographic is the over-40 market, but it expects to attract people 21 and older from a three- to four-mile radius.
Ticket prices will be $6.75 before 6 p.m. daily and $8.75 after 6 p.m. The first three movies scheduled are “The Great Gatsby,” “The English Teacher” and “Mud.”
Rash, a former senior vice president of strategic development at AMC, is working with Peter Brown, a former chairman and chief executive officer of AMC. Brown now runs the Grassmere Partners investment firm. The two decided on the name Standees to honor Durwood and as a nod to the past when theaters sold special tickets for “standees” who stood in the back of the auditorium.
In early December, they began gutting the Prairie Village space at 3935 W. 69th Terrace. The restaurant is in the former Macy’s home store. One of the three movie theaters is in the former Einstein Bros Bagels space.
“It will be great for the community, like a neighborhood theater,” said Brian Mossman, vice president and co-owner of the Fine Arts Theatre Group, which owns and operates several area theaters.
But Mossman said small theaters were limited in what they could gross, and older moviegoers want comfortable seating and easy accessibility, which may be a problem with some stadium-style seating.
Some tenants at the shopping center expect Standees’ “destination entertainment” to bring in more traffic in the evenings and weekends. Still, some retailers and restaurants are concerned about parking. Standees customers who eat and go to a movie could tie up 100 or more parking spaces for several hours on a busy night.
“We do take that into consideration when we consider restaurants,” said Tom O’Leary, broker with Lane4 Property Group, leasing agent for the Village shopping center. “But at night, when a lot of shops are closed, we thought it would be a unique thing for the nighttime crowd. There’s plenty of parking there then.”