Reel People columnists celebrate 14th anniversary

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Reel People, Ron and Leigh Martel, recently celebrated their 14th year as weekly movie review columnists for The Friday Flyer. Since 2004, they have been regular patrons of Reading Cinemas at Cal Oaks Plaza in Murrieta. In 2004, the theater was owned and operated by The Movie Experience. When Ron saw an ad in The Friday Flyer for movie reviewers, he submitted a review of “Cellular,” the movie they had just seen, and it was published.

Then editor, Carolyn Knight, sought to make an arrangement with the theater management for movie passes in exchange for advertising space next to the column. Ron and Leigh thought of their good friend, Bruce Sanborn, from Laguna Niguel, with daughters that grew up with their own, knowing he was involved in the theater business.

When Ron called for advice, Bruce informed Ron that he owned the Cal Oaks Theater and would be delighted to partner with The Friday Flyer. After eight years, Reading International acquired the theater from the Sanborns. Fortunately, General Manager Dolly Woodland, a fixture at the location since it opened in 1997, assured the Martel’s she would honor the prior arrangement. The theater listing has now appeared next to the Reel People movie review over 700 times.

Earlier this year, the theater “reimagined” their seventeen-theater megaplex with a multimillion-dollar makeover. It included transforming each theater with plush luxury recliner seating, as well as a bright new elegant lobby, trendy bar, relaxing lounge, updated craft food and drink services, and a friendly reception desk replacing the outside box office.

Every auditorium now has luxury power recliners, two of the auditoriums have the TITAN LUXE immersive Dolby Atmos sound and six of the auditoriums feature Spotlight, where theater guests are escorted to their seats by a waiter, who takes their order, and delivers food and drinks before the film begins.

Chef Santos Loo, former Food Network food-stylist, has designed a freshly prepared food menu. So, whether ordering with a Spotlight waiter or at the counter, wines, craft beers, cocktails, gourmet coffee, teas and handcrafted desserts complement the menu. Chef Loo’s delightful menu was inspired by his grandparents’ Chinese-Peruvian fusion restaurant. “Thankfully, no more stale and overpriced theater food,” said Leigh Martel.

Over the last 14 years, the Ron and Leigh have enjoyed their weekly outing with dinner at a local restaurant, to talk about how their upcoming movie review would include both their perspectives. Now, they look forward to a remarkable meal in their luxury lounger. Chef Loos’ pleasure has been to modify the concept of “dinner and a movie” to “dinner with your movie.”

The new menu includes dozens of items, but so far, in addition to popcorn, the Martel favorites are Turkey Club Sandwich, Chicken Ranch Salad, Flatbread Pizza; BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger, Avocado Toast, Bacon Egg and Cheese Sandwich, Beer Battered Sweet Onion Rings and Chocolate Cake à la Mode. “I now look forward to the dining experience in our comfy chairs as much as the movie,” said Ron.

“Our sleek bar and lounge areas provide patrons a comfortable place to gather,” said Dolly Woodland, who over the years has become good friends with Ron and Leigh. “The lobby lounge has quickly become a trendy spot to relax and enjoy coffee and dessert before or after the film.”

Reading also offers special value programs for avid movie fans, young families and seniors, as well as group events for employee outings or private parties. For tickets, event reservations or more information, contact caloaks.readingcinemasus.com/caloaks. For more information on Reel People Ron and Leigh, visit their website at reelpeoplemovies.org.

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