“Reel to Real”
An Interview with Katie Livezey-Buckholt
Cinépolis, National Beverage Manager
By Lisa Gmur, CSW
raise a glass
Cinépolis is a Mexican and international movie theater chain with 854 theatres worldwide and 29 in the United States. Its name means “City of Cinema” and its slogan is “La Capital del Cine “which translates to “the Capital of Cinema.”
Not familiar with CinépolisUSA? Well, it’s a movie theatre chain originally headquartered in California. But when they bought Texas based Moviehouse and Eatery in 2019, they not only expanded their territory, they relocated their headquarters from Los Angeles to Dallas. Today they have theatres in states across the country from Texas to Florida, California, Ohio, Maryland New York, New Jersey, even Connecticut. Unfortunately, there is not a one in Colorado, at least not yet.
Cinépolis has three versions of its theater. The VIP luxury theater offers guest a dine-in experience complete with leather reclining chairs, a full menu, full bar, and wait-staff which is my favorite, of course. It also has a premium version of its theaters where customers pick up food and beverage to take to their seats. They also have their traditional theaters which are more like mainstream cinemas. Most have a full coffee bar.
We talked with Katie Livezey-Buckholt, National Beverage Manager for Cinépolis about everything from wine trends to anything (everything) bubbly.
Pictured Left: Katie Livezey-Buckholt, Cinépolis, National Beverage Manager
So how long have you been with the company?
I have been with Cinépolis for 3 years. I was brought in to merge two theater concepts onto the same beverage platform and create a national program.
Yes. The Cinépolis concept with Moviehouse and Eatery. So cool. What experience did you bring with you to this awesome job?
Having spent 20 years in the hospitality and service industry, I have acquired a great deal of knowledge working in several different roles. Everything from a short order cook to a bartender, to now a buyer.
What’s the most important part of your job now that you are a “boss lady”?
Being in a leadership role, I never forget where I came from. Everywhere I go I keep the front of house staff in mind.
The most important people are the ones who are truly executing and selling the products I choose.
I will never let myself forget what it is to be an hourly team member and it is the number one thing I have in mind when I plan strategy, menus, and execution.
Love your humility. And I know exactly what you mean. I started as a busgirl in a very busy restaurant, and I thoroughly appreciate everyone from the dishwasher on up. Now, lets talk wine! How do you decide which wines are best for Cinépolis?
I am always looking at trends and sales while also looking at gaps in varietals. Then we ask the question, am I missing a sweet wine? What are the guests looking for right now? The answer changes all the time.
What about screw cap closures? Does this help sell a wine?
Good wine is good wine. I appreciate the benefits of a screw cap, but the option of a screw cap vs cork does not influence my decision for a placement.
What’s one thing you know about your customers that we should know?
Unlike a casual dining restaurant where the clientele tends to be the same over time, our clientele changes with each new movie release.
The guests that come to see “John Wick” are different than those that come to see “80 For Brady”.
We need to be appeal to a wide variety of demographics each week.
Does this dictate your beverage decision making?
Dune versus Hocus Pocus. I get that. Do you find that people order different wines in different cities? Different regions?
Not really. The top sellers in all regions are consistently the same, it’s the price point per varietal that changes. In some regions, it’s the value wine that sells most and in others the mid or high tier wines will dominate.
Cinépolis (Victory Park, Dallas)
Laguna Niguel versus Dayton, Ohio. Get that too. How are trends faring?
When guests come to enjoy a great movie experience, they tend to order what they are familiar with, we are not necessarily a destination for trying new wines. Our goal is to provide our guests with some great, approachable wines that will enhance their overall movie experience.
How often do you change your wine list?
We refresh our menu twice a year. I like to use seasonal LTO’s to test new wines or to promote an unusual varietal to see how well it performs.
You have to love LTO’s for that! How do you engage your staff? Do you have any kind of wine education program?
For now, we teach wine basics, training our staff on each wine’s flavor profile and a few key talking points. We are working on a more extensive training program to take the staff knowledge one step further.
A lot of folks are way more wine savvy than they were say five or ten years ago. Has this changed the focus of your wine program at all?
Yes, it does seem that consumers are more wine savvy then they were 10 years ago. I am excited that they are open to exploring new varietals and trying new experiences. There are so many more great wines to try other than Chardonnay! Not that there is anything wrong with Chardonnay.
Ha! Exactly. I vividly remember thinking/hoping Viognier or Pecorino would be a force but yeah Chardonnay still reigns Queen. How about wine cocktails. They seem to be all the rage.
I see nontraditional wine cocktails are selling now more than ever. I notice that using wine as a modifying ingredient, not necessarily the base of a cocktail, is gathering interest in the customers flavor profile. Spritzers are on fire, but Sangrias are declining and losing share on the menu.
Sayonara Sangria. What percent of your beverage business is wine sales?
Wine is about 30% of our beverage mix. This shifts slightly seasonally and greatly depends on what types of movies are out.
It definitely keeps you on your toes! How about pricing? What tier wines sell the best?
For Cinepolis, it is mid to high tier.
Cinépolis (San Mateo Lobby)
What’s your favorite part of your job?
It’s all about making an experience for someone else. That’s what this job is all about. I love to create a menu, promotion or an LTO that tells a story and gives our guests a great experience, so much so that they will share with others.
Storytelling. The same as the movies they are there to watch. Love that. Did you always want to work in the beverage industry? Or did you dream about being an actress? Or maybe President?
My oldest cousin growing up was a bartender and I just thought it was the coolest thing. When I became of working age, I knew I wanted to work in a restaurant. I fell in love with bartending, the creativity, and relationships you make along the way.
Exactly. I kinda grew up in a bar. My dad owned a nightclub when I was young. What’s your first memory of wine?
Does Arbor Mist Blackberry Merlot count? I have to say my palate has developed over the years after trying new things. We all start with an initiation of cheap wine, beer, or spirits.
I’m pretty sure not many people have had a well-respected wine or real craft cocktail as their first drink.
Well actually... wine was a thing in my house but it was not for everyone else I knew. The whole nightclub thing.
Wine was not what my family had around, but I definitely grew up with adult beverages in the house at gatherings.
I was not sheltered or shielded from alcoholic drinks and my parents always let me try when my curiosity got the best of me, taking a sip here, and a taste there.
I really think it helped me admire the category and treat it with respect in my adult years.
Do you have a favorite restaurant experience from your childhood?
There are too many to count. I can pinpoint dozens of memories of food and drink.
I was never a child that would only eat safe foods, I always experimented and tried new things.
I wanted to try it all at least once, nothing ever scared me off. The motto in my house; Try it, you just might like it.
Like Mikie in the old LIFE Cereal commercials!
“Try it. You’ll Like it!”
Do you have a favorite food & wine pairing?
Champagne and anything. Bubbles enhance everything. My personal favorite is sparkling wine and a crawfish boil.
I also really enjoy recommendations from other people.
It lets you see into someone else’s mind and what they are feeling, you can visualize and taste the emotions of a different perspective.
My license plate; Bubbly1. So I completely concur on the fact that bubbles go with anything and everything. Thank you so much!
It was really fun. Thank you.