by Viki Papadakis
In the early 1950s, Swanson found themselves with one of the most revolutionary and popular products of--what we now think of as--“lazy” America: the TV dinner. The content of these original TV dinners was simple: turkey, sweet potatoes, and frozen peas--the perfect combination for an American public that was already starch-hungry and sluggish. The TV dinner quickly found itself warming the laps of middle-class Americans, who were much too preoccupied watching the latest episode of “I Love Lucy” to notice the frozen pea that missed their mouth roll between the cushions of their couch. Rooted in this sense of laziness and obsession with media we Americans seem to possess comes quite possibly the most exciting and incredible form of the TV dinner: iPic Theaters. iPic, ultimately, is a giant TV dinner. iPic’s locations, currently, are quite limited; there is one location in Florida, two locations in Illinois, one location in Wisconsin, one location in Washington, two locations in Texas, one location in California (Pasadena, unfortunately for all of us), and one location in Scottsdale, Arizona, which is the venue that I attended.
Rooted in this sense of laziness and obsession with media we Americans seem to possess comes quite possibly the most exciting and incredible form of the TV dinner: iPic Theaters.
The overall ambiance of the iPic theatre can be described as “elegant”, strangely enough. Outside the actual theatre, in the “reception” area, if you will, were beautiful decorations that seemed to accentuate the overall sense of elegance iPic attempts to bring to its patrons. The lights were dim and almost everyone had a glass of wine, cocktail, or beer in their hand. Although I didn’t make the reservations, it appeared as though you reserved your actual seat, in addition to the show and show time. For “premium” seating, members pay $12, and non-members pay $18.50. For “premium plus” seating, which I experienced, members pay $17, while non-members pay $23. The movie ticket includes free popcorn, which was a nice touch, as it can be quite expensive on its own in regular movie theatres.
When you step inside the actual theatre at iPic, it is unlike any other movie theatre you may have ever experienced. Your shoe will not make a “popcorn” squeak with each step you take, as iPic is much too clean for a customer to experience stepping on a day-old piece of popcorn that inevitably seems to get stuck onto the bottom of your shoe at other movie theatres. It is impossible to feel cramped or uncomfortable with your own, personal mini-couch that is spacious, plush, and--did I mention--fully reclining? While you are cuddled up with your provided blanket and pillow, you don’t even have to worry about that antsy child behind you kicking your chair--you’re lying down on a sofa bed. On the side of the seat, iPic customers will find an adjustable tray--the “container” of this special TV dinner, if you will. The container can be put upright and to the side, where it remains unnoticed throughout the remainder of the movie. It can also be placed in front of the iPic guest, horizontal and prepared to hold for them the most developed and exquisite form of the TV dinner yet: the iPic Theatres dinner.
Before the showing of the movie commences, iPic customers will be approached by their very own movie theatre waiters. While one would imagine that the typical movie theatre waiter would be a sassy, gum-chewing high schooler, the waiters at iPic are anything but. In my personal experience, the waiter that served me at iPic was one of the best I’ve ever encountered. He was very helpful, attentive, and considerate of other people in the theatre while he was taking orders and delivering food--to the agreement of the other members of my group. Despite our waiter delivering food and taking orders during the actual movie, his extreme care and awareness when speaking to customers and moving around the perfectly sloped theater made him able to attend to customers completely unnoticed by other patrons of iPic. On the “iPic Premium Plus In-Theater Menu”, there were over thirty menu options, all categorized either as a starter, salad, slider, flatbread, specialty, side, or dessert. After peering through the menu and asking for our waiter’s recommendation, I finally decided on the “Roasted Portobello Slider Trio” ($14), described by the menu as: “Balsamic marinated Portobello Mushrooms, Roasted Red Peppers, Goat Cheese, Crisp Arugula Roasted Garlic Aioli on a lightly Toasted Garlic Brioche Roll”. Some of the other appetizing-sounding treats on the menu, along with their descriptions were:
“Loaded House Baked Potato Chips ($11)
Crispy Potato chips covered in a rich Sharp Cheddar Cheese sauce and Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Flash baked, topped with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Sour Cream and chopped Scallions
Blackened Mahi Mahi [Slider] Trio ($15)
Tender Mahi Mahi crusted in Blackening spice, with Jalapeno Pepper Jelly and fresh
Cantaloupe on a lightly toasted Hawaiian roll
Four Cheese [Flatbread] ($13)
Provolone, Goat, Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheeses with Basil Pesto, lightly brushed with Garlic Oil
Smoked Turkey, Brie and Apple Butter Panini ($13)
Sliced Smoked Turkey Breast, Brie Cheese, Apple Butter on toasted Sourdough
Grilled Lemon Chicken Satay ($13)
Grilled Citrus marinated Chicken skewers with Asparagus and Garlic Aioli
Fajita Quesadilla ($14)
Choice of Chicken or Steak, Caramelized Onions, Sliced Bell Peppers, Jack Cheese
Sour cream, Pico de Gallo, and Guacamole
Tater Tots ($8)
Lightly fried and served with bacon ketchup
Death by Chocolate ($9)
Moist Chocolate Cake, Caramel Sauce and Whipped cream
Red Velvet Bread Pudding ($10)
Decadent Bread Pudding made with moist red velvet cake and cream cheese custard”
While these are just some of the options on a very extensive menu, the menu asserts that there is also an assortment of “gourmet” popcorns and candy available--just in case you weren’t quite satisfied by the most high-quality TV dinner yet.
Because iPic is so unique, it is difficult to compare it to any other restaurant, movie theatre, or simple TV dinner. However, I will assert that at iPic, the food variety and quality closely resemble these features of an upscale restaurant, the overall ambiance is that of an elegant bar or club, and, dare I say, the overall experience at iPic is much, much better than Swanson’s original formula for the classic American TV dinner. As a country, the technology and level of what we can achieve and expect have evolved with such great speed and degree that now, we can’t appreciate the simple TV dinner that Swanson provided the country in the early 1950s. However, as Americans, we continue to accommodate our desire for mindless escapes from our usually busy lives through the simultaneous mixture of entertainment and food. At iPic, this strong desire is satisfied, fulfilled, and exceeded.
Here you can find all of our articles up to 2018.