There are two places I know of in Salem where it's possible to watch a movie and have dinner at the same time. Even though this is the "second-run" theater, and even though it's older and smaller, my family agrees that this is the better of the two options.
We came to Northern Lights for a Saturday matinee of a kids/family movie. There were several other people there, but we moved through the line very quickly. We bought our tickets at the box office just inside the door. Then we ordered the food we wanted at the concession stand. They offered the standard popcorn and candy, but we were there for lunch. We placed our order with a server who was nice but more efficient than friendly (no complaints from me there--that's just the way she did her work). What I liked most about that process was the menu. They had a large menu on the wall behind the concession counter, a poster-sized menu on a stand near the end of the queuing area, and several folded paper menus. Three different ways to figure out what we wanted made it much easier to decide before getting to the front of the line.
Inside the theater, we quickly found some suitable seats. In front of each row of seats are some tables that are just the right height but just a little too far away from the seats to reach without leaning forward. Still, we had plenty of room, and the chairs were comfortable. The theater itself (and the whole building, really) was obviously not new. It was well used and a little worn in some places. The staff obviously does clean up after each show (and probably at the end of each day) but that the business is busy enough that they don't have time to give the place a thorough scrubbing. It was undoubtedly clean and sanitary--just not spotlessly shiny. Bonus points: I didn't encounter sticky floors or popcorn debris.
Our food arrived about fifteen minutes into the show (including just two previews). We barely noticed the server come and go. I had a wrap that was quite tasty, if a little messy. My three-year-old son had mini hot dogs and apple slices, and he finished all but a quarter of one hot dog and a bit of apple, so I know he liked it. My wife had a tasty panini with some slightly bland pasta salad. I suppose my only complaint would be that we would have had to leave the theater if we wanted more food or drinks, but we were too engrossed in the movie to do that anyway.
I couldn't determine whether (or when) they had closed-captioned showings, which we would have liked, but I did notice that they offer something called a Sensory Sensitive Showing. (I hope I got the term right.) It looked like a special option for patrons with special needs. It sounded to me like they showed the movie at a lower volume and perhaps with some lights left on. Parents traveling with children who have autism, epilepsy, or other sensory-related problems might want to call and ask for details about these showings.
Was this an amazing experience that I think everyone should go out of his or her way to try? No. Was it a good family outing that we'd be willing to repeat? Definitely yes. I spent $31 for three people to enjoy lunch and a movie in a family-friendly environment. Yeah, we'll be back. The showtimes are limited and don't always fit well with my personal schedule, but with only three screens, I understand.
(Northern Lights also offers alcoholic beverages for adults and restricts some theaters to adults-only at certain times of the day. They also have special events such as live comedy, plays, sporting events, and so on. We did not try these options, so I can't provide an opinion about them, but I know that they are available.)
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