There isn’t even a close second in my opinion; my first movie experience at Liberty Center’s Cinebistro was the best I’ve ever had in my long movie going history. It was fabulous on all fronts. Couple that experience with the opening of one of the most wonderful James Bond intros—a several minute tracking shot from what had to be a really sophisticated drone camera system involving thousands of extras in and out-of-doors in one take and I have to thank the filmmakers and Cinebistro for the most memorable theater experience that I’ve ever had 47 years. I’ve written on these pages before of my love of the Newport on the Levee theaters by AMC. I’ve went on about the Regal in Mason. I’ve described the IMAX screen at Springdale as the best in the city of Cincinnati. I enjoy little things from all those places, so I was eager to see just how good the Cobb group was in putting together a theater experience in my hometown, and I can only say it was a stunning example of everything I’ve ever dreamed of regarding a journey out to the movies—which is a favorite pastime of mine. So that you dear reader can experience it for yourself let me describe how it works coupled with a bit of background for context.
I have lived in the area of Liberty Township most of my life. I’ve traveled and lived in other places, but I stayed in Liberty Township because I consider it one of the best locations in the United States. I get involved in the politics of the area to some extent to protect my investment both fiscally, and philosophically. Forty years ago when I was a kid in the area the best place to see a movie was the Showcase Cinemas in Springdale. I considered it a luxury experience to go to the Dayton Mall which had a movie theater inside the mall. I also years later thought it was a luxury to see a movie inside the Kenwood Mall. Going to the movies was always and continues to be an exciting thing to do in my life. I enjoy it most of the time. Around the country there is a really nice movie theater I like at Cocoa Beach inside the mall there. One of the neatest that I’ve seen was at the Americana complex in Glendale, California which caters to the wealthy in and around the television industry which shoots a lot of footage nearby on a daily basis. It is not uncommon to see movie stars and television stars seeking downtime at the Americana, it’s where they go to get away from the public and the movie theater is naturally nice. Another great movie theater is the one at Universal Studios in Florida at the City Walk. So it is within the context of those exotic destinations that I can say that Liberty Center and the Cinebistro within it are among the best that I have ever seen—anywhere. I could go so far to say that Cinebistro is the best movie theater currently in the state of Ohio—and yes that includes theaters in Columbus and Cleveland. It was the best—here’s why, and how it works.
Cinebistro is actually a separate theater experience from the Cobb Luxury theaters. It has its own little section off to the left of the main entrance at the top of the escalator. Tickets for both theaters are bought in the downstairs, street level ticket booth. Simply take the escalator up into the main auditorium and the Luxury theaters are off to the right with the Cinebistro off to the left. Ahead is Cobbster’s kitchen which services the Luxury theaters. Behind, to the right is the bar and restaurant which by itself is a great experience. It has a fantastic view up the street into the heart of Liberty Center from a nice balcony that protrudes off the building. It’s all very dramatic and wonderful. But things really get cool when you step into the doors to the Cinebistro. The tickets themselves look like they are for a high-class affair; they are not your normal movie ticket. When they are purchased downstairs you pick your seats for the presentation. So when you step into the doors of Cinebistro you are good to go. You should arrive about 45 minutes before your feature, but 30 minutes are recommended. At 30 minutes until the feature they call your showing and you proceed inside just as you would a normal theater, only an usher will take you to your seat the way a hostess would at a restaurant complete with a full menu of their offerings.
The reason you should arrive an additional 15 minutes to the recommended 30 minutes early is so that you can relax in their lounge which is very nice and has also its own balcony overlooking the square outside. At the bar a striking young woman was very knowledgeable about drinks and provided an assortment of exotic beers, wines and just about every other drink on the market. I brought along some of my family so we had a group of four and relaxed for a moment with some drinks. I listened to the bartender take additional orders from other customers and her manner was what you would expect at the bar of a very nice hotel. She was very professional and competent speaking without any slang—fully prepared to deal with people who are used to speaking with proper grammar and complete sentences. She and I spoke a bit about a suggestion she had on that cold November night in Ohio for a fire pit outside on the balcony for her guests to warm up next to, similar to what the Kona Grill had across the square in full few of the bar. The view was quite nice outside the windows and I couldn’t help but think of some prime location in a downtown area anywhere in the country. I actually forgot that I was in my hometown—because it felt like being on vacation someplace very expensive.
The prices however weren’t that expensive. The ticket prices for a primetime film were around $14.50 and the beers and martinis weren’t all that expensive, reasonably priced in fact. The balcony was very inviting so we spent some time there sipping drinks and looking down the street toward the other end of Liberty Center where they were assembling a Christmas Tree for their Holiday exhibit. It was very comfortable and premier. The entire staff obviously received the memo that guests were to be treated with great attention because it wasn’t just that bartender who behaved with a level of competency. When our movie was called the people working the information desk, the ticket taker, our usher, our server, and the runners were all very respectful, which was refreshing for a change. You have to be over 21 to even go to the Cinebistro so you can forget about kids of any kind. They aren’t even admitted. That might be rough if you have a family with young kids, but for them, the other theater is the best option. Cinebistro is off limits—its adults only. The biggest downside to other regional movie theaters is the kids and teenagers. Nobody wants to around a bunch of teenage kids in a movie theater, especially on a Friday and Saturday night. They are loud, they are always on their cell phones, and they are entitled. At Cinebistro, you don’t have to worry about them in any way. That was wonderful.
When you step into the theater it’s like stepping into another world. The theaters really look like the screen rooms of a Hollywood studio. They are extremely well done and the seats are known for their comfort. I’ve personally only sat in a seat that comfortable at Brookstone or in a private home theater done with extreme luxury in mind. The Cinebistro theaters are a bit smaller than average not built to pack as many people in a theater as possible, but to make those people as comfortable as they can, even down to tiny details like pairing them up couple specific. For instance my daughter and her husband couldn’t see my face, only my wife could because the seats were arranged in a way to provide a zone of privacy for couples. That really impressed me.
Just like in a restaurant a server comes to your seat to take your order after you’ve had a few minutes to look over the menu. That’s when you notice how much space there is between rows. The seats are arranged in a way that allow for the waitress to walk down the aisle even if the seat’s footrest is fully extended into the reclined position. If you wanted you could recline the seats back enough to sleep in. But the distance between rows of seats is more than enough for servers to attend you without having difficulty. It was a surprising distance that I’ve never seen in any movie theater, even private ones. Your server takes your order during that 30 minute seating period. The objective for them is to get all the orders into the kitchen so that the food can be delivered to a table which folds out over your seat by the time the previews start. Preview times are set at 18 minutes. The runners bring your food from the kitchen to your seat during this time. They do not want to be standing in your way when the movie starts, that is why they need to get your order as soon as possible once you sit down. It takes just a bit of planning on your part, but it is well worth it.
Gone from the Cinebistro are those stupid ads that show on the screen before a movie’s previews begin—while people are sitting. Cinebistro is like watching on the screen a fine novel as opposed to the classifieds in a newspaper. Both actions fall under the heading of “reading” but one is certainly better than the other. At Cinebistro during our film they were showing IMAX images of nature films that are available on DVD. But there was no narration, only nice sound effects of nature elements and some mild music that played continuously during the entire 30 minutes of seating, ordering, and awaiting for its arrival. When the previews began, the food started to come out. I was in the mood for a hamburger so I tried their Bistro Burger, which was very fresh and along the lines of something from the Rusty Bucket or Red Robin. They advertise that everything is made fresh each day, and from my perspective it was. My wife had the veggie burger. My daughter had a more refined taste as she had the Shrimp Mac and Cheese which was really a nice looking dish for $17. My son-in-law had the Smoked Pork Chop at $20.50. It looked like it came from Jags—which in Cincinnati is one of the premier steak houses in the Tri State. That impressed me. He ordered another martini, and my wife a beer. I had a Coke so we had a nice sampling of all their various food options at degrees of etiquette and all were quite immaculate. If I was impressed with everything up to that point, which I was, the food really put it over the top. It actually far exceeded my expectations. I assumed it would be a bit gimmicky, but it was genuinely extremely good.
Thank goodness the movie itself was really good as well, because it just put a period at the end of that sentence for the night. The sound system was fabulous. The visual quality of the picture was what you’d expect from a high-end place—everything was top shelf—which I’m finding is a theme at Liberty Center. I’m sure there are issues somewhere with all the new establishments coming on-line with all the new hires, but so far my experiences have been wonderful. I have been very happy with the Rodizio at the other end of Liberty Center—they are an extremely good dining option. Of course I had high hopes for the Cinebistro so it is not often when reality actually exceeds high hopes, but they did in this case. By the time the James Bond movie was over and we all looked at each other after the movie, we realized that it was the best film going experience we had ever had—which is saying a lot. We’ve had some good times at movies, but never anything like what we had at the Cinebistro.
On the way out the staff was as friendly as they were on the way in. All in all, we spent $207 on four people for a prime time first run movie and a really good meal. The tip is set at 17% and is added to your bill automatically. So you don’t have to worry about leaving one at the end of the film. We could have spent a lot more, and we could have spent less, especially if we hadn’t had any alcohol. You don’t have to get food, but it’s almost impossible not to because the atmosphere begs for it. So I thought of it as a bargain. The couple next to my wife and I ordered a bottle of wine halfway through the film. If you want something refreshed once the movie starts there is a concession area right outside the theater that you can go to for additional items. They do that so servers don’t bother you while watching the movie. The serving team every 30 minutes travels from theater to theater which is why they have their movies timed the way they do. It’s a very slick operation. But if you want more, they have those options too. Next to us the couple sipped on wine after their dinner and were enjoying themselves quite a lot. It was a bizarre experience to me. I had to remind myself that in my wildest dreams when I was a kid that something as nice as the Cinebistro would be built on ground I used to play on. Back then all the nice, fancy stuff was downtown in Cincinnati or Dayton. Most of the time it was out-of-state. Now Liberty Township was an instant tourist destination which was fine with me. It still has many of the things I have always loved about it. But now it has some things that I used to only get while traveling to far away places. After the Cinebistro experience it became clear to me that now people would be coming from thousands of miles away to come here—and that gave me a bit of pride in my hometown that is always under the surface, but was easier for me to access.
On the way out I spoke to the bartender again and we talked about her idea for the fire pits. She was right, that was the only thing that could really improve Cinebistro. From down below on the street it would look like a temple of exotic paradise. Above it would provide warmth to romantic couples waiting for their movie while having a nice drink and enjoying the weather no matter how cold it was. It’s really the only thing that could be done to improve the place. Because otherwise, it was exquisite, extremely memorable, and much more affordable than you’d think. I’m already looking for a good excuse to see another movie just to experience the whole thing again. My only hesitation was that Spectre was so good that another movie might take away from my memory too soon.
Rich “Cliffhanger” Hoffman