Loveland, Colorado’s MetroLux Dine-In Theatres had only been open for a few months—since August 2019—when the onset of Covid-19 disrupted its first year in business. Part of the 16-theater, family-owned Metropolitan Theatres chain, the MetroLux’s companion restaurant, Scripted, continued to offer to-go orders. But it was only on June 17 that the MetroLux theater and dine-in area could reopen to the public—and it did so with a revamped menu specifically designed for the comfort patrons have been missing during uncertain times.
The MetroLux is the first of Metropolitan Theatres’ four Colorado locations to reopen its doors since mid-March. Among its reopening protocols, the cinema has adopted social distancing measures, required masks for staff and patrons at all times except when eating, and increased frequency of sanitation procedures throughout the site. A strict 50 percent capacity is enforced in the restaurant as well as the seven auditoriums, something that manager Mercedes White explains is not too difficult to accommodate. “Since it’s reserved seating, we were able to automatically separate the seats,” she says. “But it’s been hard [without] new movies.” Since reopening, MetroLux has compensated for a lack of new Hollywood releases by showing independent films, such as IFC Films’ Relic, as well as classics like The Matrix and Beetlejuice. White notes that customers have enjoyed the older screenings, which allow them to show their children the movies they remember from their youth.
As Covid-19 temporarily put a halt to MetroLux’s normal operations, executive chef Jennifer Rigdon set upon the task of creating a whole new menu, pairing options for dine-in customers at the theater’s elegant restaurant with in-auditorium theater fare.
When MetroLux reopened in June, they wanted to be responsive to the community’s needs. Rigdon came upon the idea of comfort food to put people at ease and make them feel at home in the theater. A recent transplant from Manhattan to Colorado, Rigdon was until recently a complete outsider to the culture and cuisine of her new state; but she paid attention to the food trends and came up with a menu pulling from a variety of inspirations. She wanted a menu that would pair a variety of American foods—like Southern cuisine, found on the menu in the form of chili, buffalo, and ranch—along with Colorado staples like hatch green chili and bison. “I noticed a lot of people eat green chilis out here,” says Rigdon. “So, in my spicy queso I definitely have green chilies and certain sauces, so we add that Colorado flair.”
Rigdon discussed her inspiration behind the food: “I just put in my East Coast influences and flavors. Because I feel like no one’s had these flavors before, and I wanted to try to do something. That’s pretty much where I went with that. I wanted to make something completely different [that] you couldn’t get anywhere else. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that Ravioli Slider”—which pairs a fried ricotta ravioli with a tossed garlic bun, marinara, and mozzarella—”on anybody’s menu. And everything we make is by hand. I have my pasta machines. I roll out my dough. I make the filling, pipe it, and then we bread them, and that’s what we use for sliders.”
MetroLux is involved and intertwined with the Loveland community—consisting largely of students, retired professionals, and blue-collar workers—and their understanding of their audience allows them to provide a menu catered to their customer base. The menu’s most popular items include the Lavacado Burger, a grilled chicken breast with guacamole, bacon, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion, and homemade hot sauce. The Good Morning Burger—consisting of a beef patty, brioche bun, fried egg, bacon, and cheddar—is another popular item. A movie-themed custom cocktail menu offers drinks like Scarface and The Big Lebowski; desserts include banana bread pudding and Neapolitan funnel cake. MetroLux appeals to food restrictions by providing gluten free (GF), vegan, and vegetarian options, catering to the culinary preferences of many within Loveland.
Rigdon is passionate about the presentation of her food and insists that certain menu items never be served in the theater directly. Items like the Quesadilla Burger and Caprese salad are just as important to see as they are to eat. The food that MetroLux provides in Scripted differs from traditional ready-to-eat concessions; it was important to Rigdon that customers understand the engineering and thoughtfulness put into the food and how it pairs with their theater-going experience. To that end, MetroLux’s monster nachos are made with extra toppings, including house-made beans and queso, that allow them to be less crunchy and therefore more movie theater-friendly. The restaurant still offers classic movie theater food staples like milkshakes and popcorn.
The launch of the new menu has gotten positive feedback from MetroLux’s customer base, encouraging Rigdon’s plans to switch up the menu seasonally, thus keeping the customer base excited for new items. Staples will remain as the menu evolves. White and Rigdon are optimistic that their customers will continue to be loyal and appreciate the depth of their menu. White even likes coming in on her days off: “You can come and have a good meal and then watch the movie. You get a little bit of both worlds. It’s basically an entertainment destination. Adds Rigdon: “Customers can enjoy the comfort of food with a movie, or they can also come in and just eat if they don’t want to watch a movie. We want this to be a restaurant, not just a hangout lounge while waiting for your movie.”