Let the Good Times Roll

Dinner and a Movie

There's nothing better than scarfing down a plate of french fries while watching Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz yuk it up on the screen. No longer do moviegoers have to wait for their favorite flick to come out on video--at the restaurant franchise Cinema Grill, they can sit back in their booths and munch while watching new classics like There's Something About Mary.

Jody and Lori Wiedenhoeft, 30 and 28, respectively, were living in Minneapolis when they first discovered Cinema Grill. The dinner-and-a-movie concept wasn't new--but dinner and a movie as a singular special event was.

They started thinking about opening a Cinema Grill of their own in 1995, when they were both working as accountants. And though they didn't know the restaurant or movie theatre business, they decided to take that leap in 1997 within a franchise setting, where they could find support and structure yet still be entrepreneurs. Jody and Lori have fun deciding which flicks they're going to show. Generally, date movies, romantic comedies and fun films work the best. Mary was one of their biggest draws last year, along with Notting Hill and Big Daddy. Says Jody, "I really get into entertainment [publications] and track how movies are doing and what movie stars are hot [at the box office]." Their Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Cinema Grill usually shows movies about eight to 12 weeks after their theatrical release.

And selling their fair share of cinematic ambience in 1999, the Wiedenhoefts know the show must and will go on.

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This article was originally published in the April 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Let the Good Times Roll.

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