Streaming movies from the comfort of home has undoubtedly surged in recent years — and only ramped up more in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, at least one local movie theater is trying to change this behavioral shift, by cultivating unique entertainment experiences not found from your sofa.
After a six-monthlong makeover totaling upwards of $6 million, Grove Theater, Bistro and Entertainment is ready for action — reopening with 50% capacity on Feb. 19, at 6333 Wesley Grove Blvd., in Wesley Chapel.
Billed as a movie theater of the future, the two-story, 85,000-square-foot complex takes a swiss army knife approach to amusement.
Formerly called the Cobb Grove 16 Theatre, the newly updated space has a little bit of everything.
Anchored by 12 movie theaters (some with fully reclining seats), the complex also features the following amenities:
- Upscale bistro restaurant and bar with in-movie dining
- Sushi bar
- Spin bike room
- Comedy club
- Acting studio
- 40-plus game arcade
- Supervised children’s playroom
- Birthday party room
Additional cinema add-ons include private movie theater rentals, where friends, families or corporate gatherings can reserve a room for $300. There’s also upper-deck level VIP sections for ages 21 and up at six theaters, for those seeking a more quiet, peaceful and luxurious atmosphere.
As part of the renovations, the building underwent a complete overhaul to allow for a modernized open-concept lobby, updated dining space, new color scheme, floors, carpet, décor and light fixtures.
Various COVID-19-related safety precautions also were implemented as part of the new digs, including automatic temperature checks at entrance, UV light sanitation technology, fog machines to disinfect theaters between showings, hand sanitizer stations, required face coverings, and limited capacity with checkerboard and reserved seating.
The reimagined cinema is just one piece of the campus’ transformation.
An event stage, splash pad water park, 18-hole miniature golf course and shipping container park also are in the works just outside the building’s confines.
The wholesale renovation has come under the watch of Mishorim Gold Properties and developer and landlord Mark Gold, who originally purchased the entire 250-acre Grove at Wesley Chapel property in September 2019 for $64 million. The site also features existing traditional box stores and a quaint village shopping center.
With an array of activities, Grove Theater figures to be a family destination beyond a place to simply catch a movie then return home, Gold explained during a Feb. 17 media tour of the facility.
Rather, families can grab a bite to eat, play some games and watch a movie all in one place, however they see fit.
“It’s the solution for a family to go out today,” he said. “This is the future of the movie theater today, because people are not going to only stay two hours for a movie, people are going to stay four or five hours.”
At least one distinctive amenity generating quite a buzz is a spin bike studio — titled Cycle Cinema.
With exercise classes housed inside one of the former first-floor theater rooms, a surround sound, projector screen and stadium layout offers “a one-of-a-kind, fully immersive experience you won’t find anywhere else when it comes to cycling and indoor classes,” said Nick Walton, a managing partner in the Cycle Cinema venture.
The room normally would accommodate up to 45 spin bikes, but has been pared to 16 spaced out stations due to the coronavirus.
Scheduled classes range from live instructor-led to virtual reality options, taking fitness enthusiasts through the Swiss Alps and other digitally created places to the tune of upbeat music.
There’s even an option to spin while viewing a full-length feature film on the big screen “so if you’re up for it, if you want to spin for two hours, come on in,” Walton said.
The bike room is still undergoing test runs, with three-day free trials being offered to the public.
Grove Theater also partnered with Side Splitters Comedy Club and The Acting Studio to bring other added showbiz frills to the facility — each getting a dedicated first-floor auditorium room of their own. Side Splitters will host nationally recognized comedians, while The Acting Studio will host plays, shows and acting classes, for children and adults alike.
As questions linger about the survival and adaptability of cinemas across the country, the Grove Theater strives to stand out as a box office hit.
“Watching a movie at home and watching a movie on the screen, it’s not the same, we all know this,” said Grove Theater vice president of operations Matheus Gold.
“We want to go out, we want to enjoy, we want to be able to have a movie session with our friends and not just sit at home, and here you feel even more comfortable with that. You can have a VIP dining experience, you have games, you have a comedy club, you can have different types of drinks, all sorts of stuff that you can’t find at your own home, and at the same time feel comfortable and feeling safe.”
And, while the pandemic remains a concern for many, Matheus feels the venue is opening at a time where people are eager to find something to do.
He observed: “I feel like people have been staying home for a long time, and they want to go out, they want to have fun, they want to enjoy, but I also know that a lot of people are scared to go out, so that’s why we’re taking so many precautions and why we invested so much money into making sure that this is a safe space for everyone; we’re trying to provide that comfort for everyone.”
Further underscoring the theater’s unique features, Matheus quipped: “Have you ever seen a sushi bar inside of a movie theater? I haven’t…”
Grove Theater, Bistro and Entertainment will be open Fridays through Sundays, from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tickets can be reserved at GroveTheater.com.
Grove Theater, Bistro and Entertainment, 6333 Wesley Grove Blvd., in Wesley Chapel:
- 12 movie theaters (some with fully reclining seats and VIP access)
- Upscale bistro restaurant, sushi restaurant and full bar with in-movie dining
- Arcade with 40-plus games for children and adults
- Cycle Cinema, a fitness experience where riders can take spin classes to the tune of an instructor, virtual reality settings, and full-length feature films
- Side Splitters Comedy Club will host nationally touring comedians.
- Kids Play Place, a supervised space for children to play that will feature slides and ball pits, to allow adults to catch a movie, comedy show or play
- The Acting Studio will host plays, shows and acting classes, for children and adults alike.
Published February 24, 2021