Anticipation is already high for the opening of Studio Movie Grill on Thursday. But for the chain offering a first-run, in-theater dining experience, they had to up the ante.

Movie-goers checking out the new theater in northwest Bakersfield will be able to purchase $5 movie tickets, with a code they receive for signing up for the newsletter. (Sign up at studiomoviegrill.com/Bakersfield.) Those heading out on Tuesdays will also be able to take advantage of a ongoing $5 ticket deal, according to general manager Teejay Scharf.

"On a small-income family, that's tough," Scharf said of being able to splurge on a family movie night.

But guests will want to splurge on this new theater-going experience, which allows people to order from a full menu of appetizers, entrees and desserts as well as cocktails and an assortment of beer and wine. 

"We're the new kids on the block, and summertime is coming," said Thomas Heinicke, the executive chef of Studio Movie Grill in Scottsdale, Ariz., who also helps roll out menus in new SMG locations.

And it's quite a menu. Studio Movie Grill has a full kitchen like any restaurant, helping serve its 10 auditoriums — ranging from 46 to 150 seats — and lounge in the lobby. Led by executive chef Michael Castaneda, the staff will execute a variety of entrees, appetizers and desserts including items new to the chain. Those include:

Boxes and bowls ($14): Guests can choose from the steak and blue cheese lunch box (chargrilled sirloin steak sandwich with caramelized onions, heirloom tomatoes and Danish blue cheese; with chips and an arugula, olive, pepper and feta salad), or an Asian bento box (California roll, edamame hummus, crispy wontons, red cabbage slaw, Thai carrots and cucumbers and wasabi peas). Heinicke said these were added to the menu as a quick option that the kitchen can prepare for the day and have ready for hungry guests who don't want to wait.

On the bowl side, SMG Bakersfield is offering a sesame-seared ahi tuna bowl, served with edamame, green mango, red radish slaw, forbidden rice and a red chili vinaigrette; and Mediterranean tabbouleh bowl with chargrilled chicken breast, heirloom tomatoes, couscous, olives, quinoa tabbouleh, feta cheese, mint and avocado.

Not so classic chopped wedge ($13): All that you love about a wedge salad — hickory-smoked bacon, tomatoes, scallions and Danish blue cheese crumbles and dressing — chopped into an easy-to-eat-in-the-dark salad also served with chargrilled fajita chicken.

South of the border fajita chicken salad ($13): Chicken is the star of all the salads and this fajita version is tossed with greens, charred corn, black beans, corn tortilla strips, avocado and chipotle ranch dressing.

Classic chicken caesar ($13): This salad staple has been on other SMG menus but now the dish is tossed, mixing the chargrilled chicken, romaine, Parmesan, garlic croutons and Caesar dressing before serving. (If you substitute another dressing, you've got to mix it yourself.)

A new spicy orange marmalade sauce has been added and can be served with the popular coconut chicken tender ($13) or coconut jumbo shrimp meals ($14).

Along with new menu items, SMG Bakersfield has daily specials: $5 house margaritas (Mondays); $5 draft beer (Tuesdays); $12 all-you-can-eat pizza and $5 glasses of Canyon Road, Josh and SMG Cellars wines (Wednesdays);$5 desserts or swirl 'ritas (Thursdays); 25 percent off all wine bottles (Fridays and Saturdays); and $5 ice cream sundaes and 25 percent off all wine bottles (Sundays).

Kids menu items ($10) — chicken tenders, cheese or pepperoni pizza, mini cheeseburgers or mac and cheese — are served with a juice box and cookie, a first for the chain rolled out at the Bakersfield location.

This is the sixth California location for the Dallas-based chain and the first for Bakersfield. It is the second in town to serve alcohol, along with AMC Bakersfield 6 on California Avenue. The theater offers a full assortment of wines and craft and domestic beers. Its cocktails — including the motion picture paloma, XL Long Island iced tea and maple tap — range from $11-$15. Their line of 'ritas start at $10, with a pitcher of the house 'rita, available frozen or on the rocks, costing $27/$33 (depending on the tequila).

The 46,037-square-foot establishment encompassing 10 screens and 1,350 luxury seats not only offers fine dining but an enhanced movie-going experience with the latest in laser technology, Dolby 3D and Q-SYS custom sound systems. Each theater will feature VIP custom-made luxury recliners by Inorca, plush leather lounge chairs with individual dining tables and push-for-service call buttons.

Studio Movie Grill Bakersfield opens Thursday at 2733 Calloway Drive with showings of "Rampage," the Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson action-adventure (PG-13), and the thriller "Blumhouse's Truth or Dare" (PG-13).

The whole family can roll out on Friday when the lineup expands to include the PG, kid-friendly "Sherlock Gnomes" and "The Miracle Season," as well as "Isle of Dogs," "A Quiet Place," "Blockers" and "Ready Player One."

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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