MANCHESTER, NH – In just about three weeks, Chunky’s Cinema Pub will open its doors on Huse Road, bringing first-run movies back to Manchester after several years of theater drought in the Queen City.
With the arrival of Chunky’s, people will be getting more than just a place to catch a new release, says marketing director Michael Mannetta, who on this day is also doubling as tour guide. Chunky’s is known for offering a unique movie-and a-meal-experience, served family style at long tables with repurposed Lincoln Town Car seating. You choose your eats from a full movie-themed menu, including beer and cocktails, and they’re delivered to you while you watch.
Capacity at the new 10-screen theater is 1,238, although Mannetta says they will likely “open the floodgates slowly” and build up to capacity, just to make sure everything’s running smoothly. They will continue to hire through the summer, expecting to have about 160-170 employees by then.
Putting customer experience first is second nature for Mannetta, who got his start 18 years ago with the company as a cook at the Pelham Chunky’s. He says a lot of brainstorming went into the features and design of the new theater, located in the former Lowe’s building on Huse Road.
Attention to detail, like making sure the huge industrial kitchen is closer to the theaters so that food service is faster, and adding an assembly-line drink station to make things go smoother for servers, are just two of the many considerations.
Another new perk – perhaps the most anticipated – is a Manchester-only exclusive.
“That’s a full-service bar,” says Mannetta, pointing out a large rectangular structure in progress at the front of the building. He explains that the bar and soft-seating area in the front lobby will allow movie-goers to come early and relax before their showing, or stay afterwards, to unwind – or eat more food. You will still be able to get beer or wine inside the theater, and about eight signature cocktails – like Tequila Mockingbird, and The Dude (a white Russian with an Oreo rim) but now you can also have a gin-and-tonic while catching a Celtics game, Mannetta says. The idea is that it’s possible to extend date night, all under one roof.
He’s also excited about their partnership with Henniker Brewing Company, which is working on a signature brew for Chunky’s, The Only Way IPA – capitalizing on Chunky’s slogan, which promotes the fact that “it’s the only way to watch a movie.”
There will also be an arcade area for the kids, ample parking and non-movie offerings that range from live music to comedy nights. Theaters are also available for birthday party gatherings and other special events.
“Another interesting feature is that there are no more projection rooms. We just don’t need them anymore,” Mannetta says. “The digital equipment is so state-of-the-art – that’s how come our screen size is so large. We only need to go up there to the projection area if a bulb goes out. We can do everything, like adjusting volume, from stations at the back of each theater.”
Another unique-to-Chunky’s feature has been their Lincoln Town Car seating. For the Manchester theater, they’ve been custom made.
“These are built to be just like what you see at the other theaters, but if you notice they’re on a swivel. At the other Chunky’s theaters, they’re on a square base, so if you want to turn you have to move the whole base. And they still recline, but the swivel is completely new. I think the customers are gonna love that,” Mannetta says, taking one for a spin.
He’s also stoked about the decor, including cinematic art pieces.
“This is going to be such a premiere movie experience, compared to our other locations,” Mannetta says. “There’s going to be a huge acrylic film reel here, and coming out of it will be film ribbon going all the way down this wall, and each ribbon will have a classic movie scene, like from ‘Jaws,’ and it will say, ‘You’re gonna need a bigger boat,’ in a really cool font. It’s all ready to go.”
Another feature bringing the “wow” factor is a 30-by-20-foot glass facade at the front of the building that will be illuminated, featuring a black-and-white matte finish with hundreds of iconic movie characters, surrounding the Chunky’s logo.
The most important part of the process is training the wait staff to be prepared to keep up the pace at Chunky’s.
“Chunky’s is a tough nut to crack. It’s not your traditional restaurant. There are so many moving pieces. You’re up against the clock because you have this service window, where you want to get people their food, but you need to get out checks before the movie ends, because once people get up, it’s chaos. So there’s a lot of pressure, and there’s a lot of training involved,” Mannetta says.
From the outside, things still look a little rough – there are construction trailers and fences, holes in the asphalt, cranes extended toward the sky and workers on the ground, measuring sidewalks. But it’s a small army of hands-on labor, and in the world of construction, this is the home stretch.
Of all the finishing touches in motion, with only weeks until they open for business, Mannetta says the one thing he’s most excited about is seeing everything come together.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing customers’ reaction to the sound and visual quality of the movies. It’s so good it’s ridiculous,” Mannetta says.
“The theater experience is going to be top-notch, and aside from that, I’m excited to see how people utilize the lobby and soft seating. I’m wondering on a night when the Celtics are playing, will the bar be full? It’s a completely different piece to the business. I mean, we could do open mic out there in the lobby,” Mannetta says. “I guess I’m really just excited for Manchester, to have a place where they can go for a craft beer, dinner and a movie, be wowed by how it looks, how big the screen is, how good the sound is – the whole experience.”
Keep checking back with Manchester Ink Link for opening date information, and be sure to follow Chunky’s Cinema Pub Manchester on Facebook.