Proving Des Moines is NOT boring

Cheap Date Night Guide: Fleur Cinema & Cafe

I don’t go to many movies anymore, because I have kids. It costs my wife and me $50 just to leave the house. Going to a movie takes too long and is too big of a risk – what if the movie turns out to be lousy? We can’t risk wasting 3 hours and a babysitter on an underwhelming movie.

For example: I recently watched “Man of Steel.” (I went with one of my guy friends, so I didn’t have to pay for childcare.) “Man of Steel” was…OK. It wasn’t terrible. But it wasn’t great. The first 30 minutes were good, but then there were too many long, monotonous fight scenes with indestructible superheroes and indestructible supervillains noisily beating on each other without inflicting any actual damage. For the most part, it was just more visually dazzling but emotionally impactless CGI action figures at play, with no real sense of danger or stakes.

Fleur CinemaI went home feeling kind of let down by “Man of Steel.” I know it’s stupid for a 33-year-old man with a wife and kids and a mortgage to expect some kind of profound, viscerally affecting entertainment from a summer movie about a heavily muscled alien in a red cape, but I was disappointed. And I thought to myself, “Thank God I didn’t pay $50 for child care to see that movie.” If I had spent $80 on child care and movie tickets, just for my wife and I to be mildly semi-entertained by “Man of Steel,” I would have felt like a chump.

So next time, instead of shelling out big money for overpriced movie tickets to an overrated “blockbuster,” here’s a new idea for a Cheap Date: go to the Fleur Cinema & Cafe.

I love the Fleur Cinema & Cafe. A few weeks ago, my wife and I went to the Fleur to see a movie called “Kon-Tiki” (based on the true story of a team of explorers from Norway in 1947 who sailed across the Pacific Ocean on a balsa wood raft). We realized, to our chagrin, that we hadn’t been to the Fleur since 2007. (This is what happens when you have kids. You somehow end up not getting to go to your favorite movie theater for six years.)

Here’s why the Fleur Cinema & Cafe is an ideal place for a Cheap Date:

Booze! Unlike most other theaters, the Fleur Cinema & Cafe serves wine and beer. How great is that? God, I love that place. Booze and movies, together at last! You can also buy tasty snacks like sandwiches, brownies, and peanut butter rice krispie treats to go with your traditional movie theater popcorn. Although soon the Fleur Cinema Cafe won’t be the only theater in town to sell alcohol – Merle Hay Mall is planning to add a dine-in theater called Flix Brewhouse. Because apparently Americans are no longer capable of going 2 hours without eating a full meal.

Matinees! The Fleur offers discount tickets on afternoon and morning matinees starting as early as 10:50 a.m. We finished watching our morning matinee of “Kon-Tiki” and walked out of the dark theater into the brilliant sunshine, and it was glorious. Going to a movie before noon makes me feel so productive, like I’m finally accomplishing something worthwhile during the early morning hours. (I am not a morning person.)

Short Previews! One of the things I despise about going to a typical movie theater is how they make you sit through a bunch of commercials before the movie starts. I’m paying $12 for this movie ticket, and you still make me watch commercials? All of that blatant product placement in the movie wasn’t enough advertising already? Fortunately, the Fleur Cinema Cafe is different – there are no commercials, and only a couple of previews – and the previews are all for smart, sophisticated, artsy and/or foreign films, so you vicariously get to feel like a better person just for sitting through them. Going to the Fleur Cinema Cafe is like giving money to NPR. Does the Fleur sell tote bags? Because I would totally buy one.

In conclusion: SPOILER ALERT – my least favorite part of “Man of Steel” was right at the end, when Superman goes “undercover” as Clark Kent and takes a job as a reporter at the Daily Planet. So…Superman is invincible, has super strength, and is presumably a lot smarter than the average person….and yet he decides to get a job at a newspaper. Great career choice, Superman. Just what every super hero would do – take a desk job as an ink-stained wretch in one of America’s fastest-declining industries. Seriously, is there anything sadder than those guys at the grocery store who try to give away free copies of the Des Moines Register? They might as well be offering free harpsichord lessons, or free bottles of whale oil.

It’s 2013. Instead of working at a newspaper, Superman needs to get a job where the action is – like working as a venture capitalist, or a tech startup founder, or a lobbyist, or a bouncer at a high-class strip club. Hmmm, maybe that should be the name of the sequel: “Stripperman.”

Ben Gran is a Des Moines writer and comedian. His superpower is “being able to parallel park really well.” Follow Ben Gran on Facebook.