Look out Dobbs Ferry! There’s a new cinema in town and, as far as its owner is concerned, it’s here to stay. LOOK Dine-In Cinemas has opened its very first New York location in Dobbs Ferry at the previously vacant 1 Hamilton Street. The new, 32,000-square-foot, high-tech cinema aims to combine the luxury dining experience of a restaurant with the comfort and affordability of a community cinema.
The impressively large cinema, which can hold a total of about 849 people, is divided across eight separate auditoriums. LOOK’s auditoriums have comfortable leather recliners as standard seating, with the added option of “premium leather seating,” which occupies a single row closer to the screen. The front row’s seats are comprised of leather chaise loungers – making LOOK the perfect spot for date nights in Westchester.
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Under head chef Erik Hall, LOOK’s dining menu has developed a clear focus on using high-quality ingredients in dishes that locals will be excited to eat. The theater’s current Phase One menu has a bit of something for everyone, from cinema classics like pretzel bites and popcorn to comfort food favorites like crispy wings, cheeseburger sliders, pepperoni pizzas, and loaded cheese fries. To keep guests of all diets both full and satisfied, LOOK has also included vegetarian options (Hummus appetizer, Margherita pizza, avocado toast, and Impossible sliders, just to name a few) and even has a cauliflower crust substitute for guests who want to keep their pizzas gluten-free. For guests who may be unfamiliar with a particular menu item, dietary information on each item can be found through the LOOK Cinemas app – which supplies guests with “tags” that define items as vegan, gluten-free, pescatarian, keto-friendly, etc.
For founder and CEO Brian Schultz, LOOK’s success is a direct result of its core philosophy of putting the community first. Schultz, who pioneered the dine-in theater industry just under 30 years ago when he launched Studio Movie Grill and was one of the founding members behind the Conscious Capitalist movement, has always strived to take local communities’ needs into account when constructing a business model for new locations. According to Schultz, this new location represents the manifestation of the philosophy he’s been a proponent of for nearly three decades.
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“We consider ourselves to be community theater. We built the theater for the purpose of the local community,” Schultz explains, “Our pricing is a lot more value-oriented…We don’t want to be kind of a special event. We actually want to be the place that you come all the time to watch great content with friends. We like movie-going, and we think everyone should be able to go frequently, so I think pricing is very important…We want people to come in and have a great experience.”
“The idea is we really love smaller business owners,” Schultz notes of his willingness to work with local businesses. “And if we’re going to come into a community, we could do it as a big corporate outsider, or we could actually come in, build a really, really great foundation for the community to enjoy, whether that’s for their nonprofit events, for their parties just for a gathering place, or for local businesspeople. Whether that’s buying Greyston [Bakery] brownies for our desserts or [working] with local breweries and whiskey distilleries, we try to keep in that local economic community as much as possible.”
Nowhere does LOOK’s focus on community shine through more than in the lobby. Unlike other cinemas that have sparse lobbies with the occasional tired concession stand, LOOK’s lobby is first and foremost a communal space to be shared with friends. The 2,500-square-foot space is complete with plenty of tables, comfortable seats, seventeen different television screens, and a full-service bar with a resident mixologist and extensive drink menu. This makes it ideal for early birds who arrive with friends well before the movie starts. The space is also perfect for finding a comfy place to debate films over drinks after the credits have rolled.
“We want to provide a place for people to meet up and have some food and a beverage together before the movie or after because this is a communal experience,” Schultz explains. “We have a lot of folks that are on dates, or with their family, and it’s their time out together. We don’t want them to be rushed in, sit down, watch the movie, and then leave. We actually like our guests to come early and stay late.”
Dobbs Ferry locals will likely be familiar with IPic, a dine-in theater that previously occupied the same space at 1 Hamilton St until its closure in 2019. Although the two share a lot in common, with their inclusion of seat-side food and a full drink menu, Schultz points out that there will be a few differences that will make LOOK stand out from its predecessor.
“I think IPic did a really nice job, and I’m very complimentary of what they bring to the table. But it’s kind of based on the idea of cinemas as exclusive experiences…It’s just a different positioning. I don’t look at it as good or bad, I just look at it as different,” Schultz observes.
“We have a culture that’s very different of hospitality, and higher level of service, and even a higher focus on projection found in diversity…I think what the guest is going to experience is much fresher food, warmer hospitality, and stronger diversity of content in a very comfortable environment – all at a price that you can actually come every week,” Schultz explains.
With the first phase of opening ending soon, there will be plenty of new features that will be instituted at LOOK in the coming months. Schultz projects that, by summer, the full menu will be in effect, with new items asked for by guests, along with a takeout option for locals who want to enjoy LOOK’s food on movie night from the comfort of their couches. He also plans to include several beers from local breweries to solidify the focus on keeping things as local as possible.