Limelight: Plaza Cinema Café: Take 2

Downtown Orlando’s 12-screen theater opened to mixed reviews. So what’s the deal there now?

Has it really been a year since the Plaza Cinema Café opened in downtown Orlando? Actually, it’s closer to 13 months.

After many delays and miscues, the 12-screen theater debuted last year on May 29 with a stated goal of attracting 500,000 to 600,000 customers during its first 12 months. The final tally turned out to be 420,000, according to the theater.

Here at Orlando magazine, we reviewed the Plaza soon after it opened and that review was definitely mixed. Now that a year or so has passed—during which, significantly, the theater’s management changed—we figured it was time to reassess.

Parking is still a problem; in fact, it’s actually worse. The garage is still the same “labyrinth of twisting turns and tight spaces” that it was last year. But at that time parking was free. Now it’s $2 for three hours, on top of your ticket price.

Speaking of ticket prices, there’s some bad news there, too. Admission is $10 at night and $6.50 for a matinee, up from last year’s $9.50 and $4.75. By way of compensation, though, the theater now shows a wider range of films and, unlike before, those films are strictly first-run.

The Plaza is still, as I’d previously noted, the most elegant moviehouse in Central Florida, with its Art Deco touches, ultra-comfortable seating and extra-wide armrests. If it no longer looks pristine, well, that’s what a year of city life will do to you. (Marketing director Kim Ellis says new carpeting should be in place by the time you read this.) On a recent visit to watch Iron Man 2, I found that the sound and picture quality were still first-rate—as was the film, BTW.

If the food is somewhat less ambitious than it had been, at least the theater isn’t working so hard to get your hopes up about it. (Sorry, Zsa Zsa, no more caviar.) The Cuban sandwich I sampled was on the level of typical movie-theater fare and resembled in no significant way a respectable Cuban sandwich. It came with a salad pre-doused with dressing—or, rather, pre-drenched to the point of being inedible.

What’s improved the most is the website, It now features a list of movies with show times and links to additional info that includes MPAA ratings. And the phone number on the website now takes you to recorded messages with show times and other info, or to an actual person, depending on which extension you choose, instead of to a fax machine, which had been the case.

So, once again, the Plaza Cinema Café gets a mixed, if somewhat more positive, review. Enjoy the show, if not the sandwich.

 Lighting Up Again

Perched in the basket of a hot-air balloon that’s coming to rest on a bed of leaves and flowers, Tinker Bell waves her wand while waving her hand at visitors to the Magic Kingdom.

Peter Pan’s pulchritudinous pixie is leading the Main Street Electrical Parade, which is back at the park (through Aug. 14) for the first time in nearly a decade. It’s part of what Disney is calling, with characteristic restraint, Summer Nightastic!

Actually, the parade is pretty Nightastic!, what with its half-million lights and 23 floats featuring classic cartoon characters (including the Cheshire Cat and his illuminated smile, which doesn’t vanish when he does). As the parade moves along, its jaunty synthesized theme song (“Baroque Hoedown”) blends nicely with musical Disney themes for an overall effect that’s like a front-lawn Christmas-lights display come improbably to secular life.

Also as part of Summer Nightastic!, there’s the imaginative Fireworks Spectacular, best viewed from in front of Cinderella’s castle, that tells the story of Captain Hook’s attempt to storm that castle. Tinker Bell, presumably refreshed from the parade, shows up at the end to save the day (or, rather, night): It’s an actual person who flies from the castle to Walt-knows-where on a high wire. Totally Tink-tastic!