Dinner and a Movie

You knew it had to happen: When the Tinseltown and AMC 30 movie megaplexes sprang up complete with in-house coffee bars and pizza joints, it couldn't be long before someone thought to house film and restaurant-quality food under one roof. In fact, someone already had, with New York City's art-house dessert-and-coffee Angelika Film Center. And now, in cooperation with Cafe Elysee honcho Perry Podaras of Houston, the Angelika people are set to open a spinoff, Angelika Film Center and Cafe, at Bayou Place this Thursday.

The official grand opening isn't until January 8, but in the meantime, the theater's eight screens begin operations on Christmas Day. The initial lineup includes Steven Spielberg's Amistad, Sean Mathias's Bent (adapted from the Martin Sherman play of the same name), indie Larry Fessenden's vampire flick Habit, Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown and the obligatory foreign film, the English-language Canadian drama The Sweet Hereafter. For an art-film center, the mix is heavily weighted toward Hollywood -- Spielberg and Tarantino are hardly unknowns, and Bent comes from Goldwyn Entertainment. The January grand-opening night will bring the area premiere of Fox Searchlight Pictures' Oscar and Lucinda.

What the Angelika's opening bodes for Houston's longtime art houses, the Landmark theaters, remains to be seen. Only the Greenway Theatre will show the same movies as the Angelika; the River Oaks 3 will stick to exclusive arrangements.

But though the Angelika's current movie fare may be nothing new to Houston, its other amenities aren't to be sneezed at. As with the rest of Bayou Place, the designers have spared no opportunity for flash and bang -- the lobby sports hardwood floors, long, glass-topped tables and a neon-accented chandelier. Chef Hays Buttry's menu also reaches for the trendy, ranging from calamari Caesar salad to "monster sandwiches" to smoked salmon eggs Benedict. And -- make note -- the cafe will be open 24 hours a day on weekends.

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