It’s cold outside in Charlotte, and whenever that’s the case, countless Charlotteans will flock to movie theaters to escape the chilly weather by sitting silently in heavily air-conditioned theaters for hours at a time. Don’t try and reason with that logic, just read this completely fact-based and totally objective ranking of the top five movie-going experiences in Charlotte that don’t involve Netflix or bootlegged flea market DVDs.

(5) Regal Stonecrest at Piper Glen Stadium 22 & IMAX

Crowd: Everyone who has ever grown up in or around South Charlotte’s many different neighborhoods or subdivisions know that this is THE place to be for weekend fun (loitering). That tradition continues on even today.

Price: Standard ticket prices. Prices start at $6 most weeknights and $10 weekends.*

Food and beverage: Food and beverage are also pretty standard, which is somewhat surprising considering the limited allowance of many patrons.

Comfort: The seats are pretty stiff and the viewing lines aren’t anything special but if you’re into lapses of teenage nostalgia and arcades I suppose you could do worse.

7824 Rea Road

(4) AMC Carolina Pavilion 22

Crowd: Carolina Pavilion gets a little bit of all the different traditional movie-goers and legitimately gives off the sense that everyone in line is going to a “true” movie-viewing experience. This theater is one of the older ones remaining and its diverse crowd represents this.

Price: Prices start at $10.*

Food and beverage: The food is nothing to write home about but the beverages, on the other hand, are a revelation. Trying to enjoy a healthy buzz while watching “Arrival”? The theater now sells alcohol! Want to mix seven different kinds of soda into one giant bucket called a “cup”? You can make your own drinks! Ever feel like just crushing Slushees while watching Harry Potter movies? Look no further than Carolina Pavilion.

Comfort: The seating is spacious and comfortable, providing for an especially enjoyable experience.

9541 South Blvd.

(3) Cinebarre Arboretum 11

Crowd: Cinebarre has had an uphill battle from the start after adopting a younger crowd from the previous Arboretum location operating there. Fortunately, the emphasis on higher-brow entertainment has not reduced the size of the crowd enjoying movies here, just the focus.

Price: Surprisingly affordable for the environment and the experience! Prices start at $6 most weeknights and $10 weekends.*

Food and beverage: A refreshingly well-rounded menu of both food and drinks that aren’t too much more expensive than you’d find at your standard restaurant and delivered right to your seats.

Comfort: Let’s just say that I’ve considered just buying an afternoon matinee ticket and napping in the seats while some 1:30 p.m. Tyler Perry movie plays. That’s not weird at all.

8008 Providence Road

(2) Regal Manor Twin

Crowd: Hipster Ariel meets a dedicated community of long-time arts benefactors from around the community. So….it’s eclectic.

Price: Standard prices make for a particularly good deal with this movie-going experience. Prices start at $10.*

Food and beverage: Manor eschews the need for fine dining or libations at their establishment, instead offering a charming if limited menu of traditional movie treats that are more than satisfying!

Comfort: There’s something to be said for the comfort of watching a movie in what feels like a real, tried and true theater. In this regard, Manor cannot be topped…..even though the seats are pretty spartan.

609 Providence Road

(1) Regal Phillips Place Stadium 10

Crowd: An invigorating mix of people who generally come out to the area for a fun night out on the town beforehand or after at some of the restaurants and nightlife establishments within walking distance.

Price: Affordable and their specials for veterans and children are added perks too! Prices start at $6 most week nights and $10 weekends.*

Food and beverage: Traditional fare goes a long way here as the moment visitors walk in they are greeted by concession stands on either side of them, not unlike what you’d see in the mid-20th century theatres. The food is hot, the drinks are cold and the lines are never too long.

Comfort: The comfort of walking into a theater that appears to have Art-Deco design qualities and a charmingly lit location may seem a bit pretentious but it honestly adds to the experience here at Phillips Place. In addition to this, the seats, while not La-Z-Boys, more than do the trick for a night of comfortable movie viewing.

6911 Phillips Pl. Ct.

*Prices can be checked at Fandango.com.

Photo: John D. Simmons/Charlotte Observer

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13 COMMENTS

  1. I was hoping to see your review and thoughts about Studio Movie Grill in Uptown Charlotte. Since your list included Cinebarre Arboretum 11 I would have thought SMG would have been one of your top picks as well. They offer $5 tuesday tickets and the food is actually pretty good (Or at least better than any other local theater I have opted to dine in at). I tend to always get the coconut chicken tenders with sweet potato fries. Also their sound system Is quite good and they validate parking for up to 4 hours leaving you plenty of time to enjoy a movie.

  2. How is the “UFO Theater” in Ballantyne not on this list? I know folks like to dump on Ballantyne as generic, and that is deserved… BUT that is the best theater for movie lovers hands down. Lots of limited releases and art films end up there and nowhere else in the area. I don’t disagree with the five on this list, but you for sure missed this one.

  3. Did you look at any theaters other than South Charlotte & they didn’t make the list or you didn’t bother because your title says completely biased?

  4. I was really surprised not to see the Cinemark Bistro on Monroe Rd. Awesome reclining loungers!! Beer and Wine – along with a nice menu. I guess it’s discounted because it’s not in a “cool” hood. Too bad – this theater is by far the best in town to watch a movie.

  5. Agree with Mark above about Cinemark Movie Bistro at Crownpoint on Monroe & Sardis Rd North. By a landslide the BEST movie experience and theater out there. Those leather electric recliners & loveseats are insanely comfy! Menu is top notch for movie food – all locally sourced from local bakeries and offering gluten-free, organic options as well. Not your usual popcorn & candy – this is real food – appetizers and entrees. Not to mention their beer wall selection features many local Charlotte breweries and they have both red & white wine by the tap.

  6. I’ll go:

    Hon. mention: Park Road
    (on the off-chance that it’s showing a limited-release film not available at Manor Twin or Ballantyne)

    5. Cinemark Bistro
    4. Regal Starlight (or other nearby Regal with recliners)
    3. Regal Ballantyne
    2. SMG
    1. Regal Manor Twin

    Nothing against AMC. They’re perfectly serviceable for the latest popcorn flick. But there are more interesting places

  7. Honestly the Sun Valley theater is the “first choice”. Fair prices, typical concession prices, but the seats are comfy, lines are short and managed well, and the staff has always been friendly.

  8. Its right off 485 the exit before 85 to go to the Mills.
    Regal Starlight Cinemas.
    Its definitely not about the service,since its mostly 18 or old college kids who,because of texting, rarely look up and have no idea how to carry a conversation.
    It is about the great popcorn,free refills with large. Also AARP.
    What its really about is the completely electric reclining chairs. Tray tables and sooooo much leg room. You chose your seat so best to buy at home or on your phone so you can reserve a good seat.

    Its not like the swanky South Charlotte. places,but you can’t beat those recline seats!

  9. I haven’t been to nearly enough of the theater options in Charlotte, but so far the Regal Phillips Place Stadium 10 is last my list. The lobby is too small and short even if there are two sides and the state of the theater was embarrassing for the area it’s in. The seats were uncomfortable and my armrests had torn upholstery. I will say the concessions weren’t bad though, but I’m not too picky so long as there’s popcorn and Coca Cola. I also did like that they salt and butter the popcorn for you – which you do yourself most everywhere else these days.

    I LOVE the AMC 22 and Cinemark Movie Bistro. They were my first introduction to reserved and reclined seating and I’ll never go back. Gone are the days of waiting in line to only find out your movie is sold out. Or getting to the theater and standing at the bottom wondering where to sit.

    The AMC is closer, so I love using their app to purchase my tickets ahead of time and pick up my ticket at the kiosk. You can even have them scan the virtual ticket inside and skip the line all together, but I like to keep/collect my tickets. I’m also a member of their rewards program so all my monthly movie trips give me a free showing every 4 movies.

    The food choices are definitely top notch at the Cinemark though, and they used to play movie soundtracks as their background/lobby music which was awesome (I don’t know if they still do). If it wasn’t all the way in Matthews I’d go there more often.

  10. Cinemark Movie Bistro on Monroe (formerly Crownpoint) is the best theater in Charlotte and it’s not even close. Phillips Place is not even in the top 10!

    Oh and by the way, if you’re going to the movies and getting anything but popcorn, candy or soda, you’re a fool. A movie is not lunch or dinner time. Get a bucket of popcorn and a Coke and enjoy!

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